25 Mar The Fattening of the Buds

I have been looking for signs that the trees are at last breaking their winter slumber.

A mauve smoke of blackthorn curves along the ditch and the treelines are bones against the sky. It is March and I am desperate to see the landscape greening up. I call it ‘the fattening of the buds’, that moment when the silhouettes of trees seem just that bit bigger; where less sky is revealed through the network of branches. This week, despite the recent gales and cold nights, there are visible signs of stirring in the trees and hedges. It is a subtle shift.

A south facing hedge reveals tentative hawthorn shoots, small lime green buds that were once known as bread-and-cheese; edible leaves that could be nibbled for a taste of spring. There is a sense of things moving and Monday’s equinox surely heralds the start of spring. Chiffchaffs have been calling since 10th March, tossing their insistent notes into the still mornings and a peacock butterfly emerged rather prematurely. A few days ago 300 fieldfare passed through the village in a steady stream, heading north east.

There is now a dawn chorus – it starts at 4.30 with the pheasants but as light levels rise the blackbird, robin and wren all join in. A pair of yellowhammers are frequent visitors and the cherry tree has become a songpost. Around the farm I have found three pairs of yellowhammers singing out their territories. Pied wagtails and goldfinch have been here collecting nesting material.

Looking up this morning trees shivered in an easterly wind and I could see both oak and ash buds had broken and were filling out. As each day lengthens we note all the renewed activity and our spirits rise with the return of life to the earth.