SPRING is on its way but may take a little longer than usual if the weather forecast of cold conditions is true. However, there are plenty of Lesser Black-backed Gulls around, most of which have travelled north from southern waters.
Also, this is the time to look out for frogs and toads, especially on milder, damp evenings as they head to their spawning grounds where they were born. It is a wee bit sad to see the snowdrops dying back but they are now being replaced by daffodils and crocuses. Even the White Butterbur at the side of the road between Inverkeilor and Montrose is past its best, and it will not be too long before the large rhubarb-like leaves start to appear.
Some of the wading birds which have wintered at the SWT Montrose Basin will be heading up into the glens to take up breeding territories. These include the Common Snipe, Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins, Golden Plovers and Redshanks. Some of you may have noticed skeins of Pink-footed Geese already heading northwards.
If you are travelling from Montrose up to Inverbervie in the coming weeks, look out for the Danish Scurvy-grass growing in abundance at the side of the road. This is a small whitish-purple flower, which is benefiting from the road salt put down in the winter months.
All too soon, the first of our spring butterflies, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks, will be on the wing. You can look out for them now if you wish by checking garden sheds or outhouses where they may be hanging in a torpid state awaiting a little warmth.
Perhaps one of the best signs of spring is birdsong. The Mistle Thrush has been singing since January when Buzzards were noted displaying but in our gardens you should hear Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Collared Doves and Great Tits. Local woodlands have Chaffinches in full song along with the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and some fields have the wonderful song from Skylarks.
You may also note the changes in bird plumages. One of the most obvious is the Black-headed Gull, which in winter has only a dark spot behind the eye but now many of them have the full chocolate-brown heads. Perhaps not so obvious is the cock Chaffinch but its colours do get brighter at this time of the year. This is one of our most colourful and attractive birds albeit one of the commonest. Even the common Starling changes its plumage to become brighter and shinier. A very large percentage of this species will be heading back to continental Europe about now as they only come across here to escape a harsher winter.
Although spring is on the way, I would still recommend feeding the birds. If you want to see the benefit of this, come along to the wildlife centre where there is a very healthy feeding station, which is attracting Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Pheasants. The centre has a large supply of bird-food for sale and, if you are lucky, you may even see the wonderful Kingfisher fishing in one of the ponds.
In fact, the centre is the best place to be if the weather remains inclement as you will be snug and warm with hot drinks plus one of the best viewpoints in all Angus.
Russell G Nisbet