Rachel Shaw of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust writes a monthly column
In the garden outside our office, a great tit is calling.
His loud disyllabic “teacher, teacher, teacher” call stakes his claim to the garden territory and shows off to any females in the vicinity.
It’s a sure sign that spring is on the way. You don’t need to travel anywhere special to see these signs; they are all around us in our gardens and green spaces in cities as well as in the countryside.
Snowdrops are the first to poke their heads above ground, their nectar-rich flowers a vital food source for early flying queen bumblebees emerging from hibernation on warm days. I haven’t seen any bumblebees yet but the window frames of our office are alive with crawling ladybirds as two-spot and the larger Harlequin ladybirds are woken from hibernation by the warmth of the sun on the windows.
Just outside the garden of the Wildlife Trust headquarters a line of tall trees is filled with the raucous activity of rooks renovating their nests from last year and squabbling over twigs.
In woodland or parks, other birds are making their presence known, and great spotted woodpeckers are drumming. Like the great tit, the drumming acts as a territorial defence but in this case both male and female birds drum. They have special shock-absorbent tissue at the base of the skull to cope with making 10-40 strikes per second.
Another bird that may be heard is the tawny owl, well known for its distinctive nocturnal “too-wit too-woo” call. This call is actually a conversation; the female makes the “too-wit” sound and the male answers with “too-woo”. Tawny owls are one of the earliest woodland birds to nest and by the end of the month may already have eggs.
Other birds may not be nesting yet but they are thinking about it and starting to look for suitable sites so now is the time to put up a nest box in your garden. They come in two main types: those with a small round hole and those with an open front. The boxes with the hole on the front will attract birds that like to nest in places like hollow trees. The smaller blue tits and coal tits will use a box with a hole size of 25mm; larger great tits will use a box with a hole size of 32mm. The open fronted boxes are for birds like robins and blackbirds that would typically build their nests among hedge vegetation. There are plenty of nest boxes to buy or make your own – instructions on making bird boxes and where to position them on the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust website www.lincstrust.org.uk/factsheets