What you might see on aLocal walkin Spring
While we're all staying at home to help slow the spread of Covid-19, people are finding beauty in their immediate locality. Even the tiniest, commonest spring flower or blue tit hopping on the branches of a tree outside the window feels like a minor miracle during these difficult weeks. What you might see on a local walk in spring depends where you are, but could include wild flowers that grow almost anywhere, on roadside verges and grassy slopes, in parks, woods and fields. Look out for birds, animals and insects too - squirrels and starlings, colourful goldfinches, butterflies or bumblebees. Here are some of the things you might see beside the path on an exercise walk near you in April. And if you can’t access them now – for whatever reason – enjoy the pictures for a virtual spring.
With a bit of patience and practice, a local walk in the UK can become a wildlife safari. Urban foxes, parkland squirrels, herds of deer running over the fields, and tiny shrews scampering into hedgerows are all among common animal sightings in Britain.
- Squirrels These furry-tailed mammals are probably the easiest British animals to spot outdoors on a walk. At home in parks and gardens, squirrels can often be seen running up trees as people approach.
- Hares and rabbits This is the time of year to spot long-eared hares racing over the fields or even “boxing” each other. Easier to spot and smaller, rabbits are common on grassy spaces near towns and villages, where they often come out to graze in the late afternoon and evening sunshine. Look out for small round droppings and close-cropped grass.
- Deer The UK’s largest land animal is the red deer. The stags have distinctive branched antlers for that classic monarch-of-the-glen silhouette. The smaller, brownish roe deer are easily startled and bound over the fields in groups. Fallow deer are the Bambi-style spotty ones and muntjac are tiny, generally under half a meter high, with no antlers and a hunched outline with their rear end higher than the front.
- Foxes are now as likely to be seen in the town as the country. These rust-red furry omnivores are generally only about the size of a house cat and can easily slip through fences and behind dustbins. Look out for foxes particularly after dark.
Birdwatching is one of those things you can still do even if you can’t go outside at all. Common garden birds are now busy outside the window, emboldened by the relative lack of people.
- Blue tit These small birds are (you guessed it!) mainly blue with bits of yellow plus white cheeks with a black eyestripe. The similar great tit is more greenish with a black head and chest stripe.
- Starlings are building their nests right now and often favour house eaves. Unlike blackbirds, which also have yellow beaks, starlings are glossy with white spots.
- House Sparrow You’re quite likely to spot these little brown and grey birds with a distinctive black bib and a grey cap.
- Wood pigeon These plump grey birds with white neck patches can often be heard making soothing cooing noises in the neighbourhood trees.
- Goldfinch These little brightly coloured garden visitors are less common, but very pretty with yellow on their wings and red on their faces.
- Robin The little brown bird with the orange breast is not just confined to Christmas cards. They sing beautifully during the spring breeding season.
- Long-tailed tit (pictured) Doesn’t show up as often as some other garden birds, but always good to see: small and fluffy, black, white and pinkish with a long, black-and-white tail.
- Swallows have started arriving already on the South coast and will soon be swooping overhead with their narrow forked tails.