Best Spring Wildlife Activities in the UK
If you want to visit or go around the United Kingdom, spring is considered as one of the ideal seasons to do this. Flowers are in bloom and several animals are up and about enjoying the warmer weather. Aside from that, other animals come out of hibernation in springtime. Simply put, a lot of plants and animals spring back to life during this season!
Here are some of the wildlife activities you can enjoy around the United Kingdom in the spring:
Spring is an excellent time to go birdwatching in the UK. Many birdwatchers even consider this season an exciting time. The skyline features a wide range of bird species, from the winter birds that are leaving to the summer species that are arriving.
From early to mid-spring, different seabird species start arriving at breeding spots. In case you didn’t know, several seabird colonies are found in various parts of the country. In fact, the largest gannet colony in the world is found in Scotland’s Bass Rock. Meanwhile, the UK’s largest seabird colony is found in Yorkshire. Reports say that almost 300,000 seabirds have made their nesting place. Aside from gannets, this breeding site also has kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins.
Other popular breeding sites are Bempton Cliffs, North Cornish Coast and the Scottish Coastline. Aside from those mentioned above, other seabird species that nest in the UK are fulmars, gulls, shags, chough and guillemots.
Spring is also the best time to look for other migratory birds in the UK. The first to arrive are usually the chiffchaffs which start arriving in March. The best indicator that these birds are back is when you hear a “chiff chaff” sound atop trees. Meanwhile, April signals the arrival other popular visiting birds like swallows and cuckoos.
You can attempt to see these migratory birds in the comforts of your own home. Another option is to visit migration watch points all over the UK like West Midlands, Leicestershire, Shetland, Lancashire, Bardsey, Portland and Skokholm.
Listen to a Dawn Chorus
Watching various avian species is not the only thing bird lovers look forward to during spring. They are also excited to hear dawn choruses.
When spring begins in March, bird songs fill the air early in the morning. Typically, you can start hearing them singing an hour before the sunrise. These choruses can be heard until July.
According to experts, the singing is meant to attract mates and defend their territories. Resident birds like great tits and robins kick-start the singing for the season. They are eventually joined by migrant birds like chiffchaffs. In addition, some of the first songsters of the day are blackbirds, skylarks and robins. Smaller birds like warblers and wrens sing at a later time. Meanwhile, species like blue tits and sparrows commonly take the stage at dusk.
The best time to listen to a dawn chorus is from mid-April to early June. It is also ideal if you listen early, preferably when the early birds sing. In addition, pick a day wherein the weather is good and wind is minimal. To make this activity more enjoyable, join dawn chorus walks in places like Dinefwr Park. These walks are headed by rangers or experienced birders which can be beneficial if you’re a first-timer.
See Hares in a Boxing Match
Getting a good glimpse of the European hares can be difficult to do because of their speed. After all, brown hares are the UK’s fastest land mammal, running at an average speed of 75 kilometres per hour. But spring provides an excellent opportunity to get a better look at these fluffy mammals.
Brown hares rely on tall grasses to elude predators. However, the fields during March, devoid of long or grown crops and grasses, do not provide the cover hares need. Hence, they are more visible during this period. Furthermore, these mammals engage in a mating ritual that looks like a boxing match in March. In what is believed to be an effort to fend off the males, female hares hit or land “punches” on them. Without tall grasses or crops, witnessing this spectacle is easy.
This “boxing” match is an iconic spring event. In fact, when hares are spotted during this activity, it is a clear indicator that spring has arrived.
If you want to witness hares in a boxing match, look for arable fields or open grasslands. The likelihood of watching this spectacle is high early in the morning.
Look for Badgers
During winter, badgers normally stay underground. While they do not hibernate, they sleep longer during the winter and do not go out too much because of the scarcity of food sources. By spring, badgers are much more active especially from April to June.
For badger watching, you need to walk during the day and try to find an active sett. A sett is a network of tunnels which is where badgers live. Large setts can accommodate up to 15 badgers. You can find sett openings on the ground; these may appear like small holes on small hills or sometimes beside tree trunks. Try to check at a distance as your smell can linger in the area and badgers would end up looking for a different opening to pass through. To know if it is active, you can check if the vegetation around the opening is flattened, similar to how tracks are formed by humans but much smaller.
This activity can be extra challenging on your first try since you may not know exactly what to look for or how to act or move in front of these short-legged mammals. Furthermore, badger watching need requires a lot of patience because it involves quietly waiting for quite a while. However, according to experienced badger watchers, the wait is very much worth it.
For your first badger watching adventure, it is highly recommended that you go with an experienced watcher for you to get the guidance you need. Searching for and watching badgers in the UK can be done in numerous places like Gilfach Farm. There are over 60 badger groups all over the country. You may check your local community if there are any in your area.
Seabird colony at Yorkshire photo by timparkinson
Gannet colony in Bass Rock photo by Mary Gillham Archive Project
Brown hare photo by Jean-Jacques Boujot
Badger photo by Peter G Trimming