Country Diary: Buds unfold as lighter mornings greet the world

A nuthatch descends a tree.
A nuthatch descends a tree.

When spring’s divinest beauty spreads,

And shakes all hearts and turns all heads,

Till winter is a husk one sheds,

And frost a dimming dream.

John Masefield

The wonderful awakening of springtime is the most magical season of the year. With lambs leaping and skipping in the meadows, buds unfolding and temperatures gradually rising to greet lighter mornings, the world rejoices!

Unfortunately, not for some poor creatures. Frogs have hibernated in mud, and toads on land, in much drier places from mid October to mid March. Sadly, on February 28 I discovered on the pavement, a dead frog – only about 30 yards from a pond in a neighbour’s garden. So near to spawning grounds.

Storm Doris and cold spells have endangered lives of many birds. Feeding tables have been desperately sought, as wild food supplies dwindled, such as berries and seeds. We saw a great increase in chaffinches visiting the Forge Valley Bird Feeding Station, and members of the tit family spending longer devouring fat balls. A nuthatch too, surprisingly took more food without hastily disappearing into the trees. This bird, easily recognised by its blue-grey and deep buff plumage, with a conspicuous black eye-stripe, has a habit of running up and down tree trunks. We watched it descend a nearby tree head-downwards. No other bird habitually descends this way.

Lovely walks around Scarborough Castle are usually rewarding, yet few people take advantage of the magnificent views, exhilarating sea breezes, and colonies of wild flowers. Despite glorious sunshine, there was a frosty nip in the air.

The temperature was quite deceptive, yet out of the wind we found a warm spot to sit, with superlative views.

Silence reigned. Only a pair of magpies were observed, unmistakable with black and white plumage and long tail. We haven’t seen as many of them in recent years.

Blackthorn bushes formed dense hedgerows, awaiting white, cherry-like flowers on their bare, thorny twigs very shortly this March. They remain after the oval leaves have expanded. The fruit is a bluish-black berry called a sloe.

Footpath verges were spangled with golden and purple crocuses, and daisies. Yes, I could place my foot over seven daisies, as much used to say this was a sign of spring.

No-one visiting Castle Hill could fail to observe among the scrub, wasteland and path verges, a plant growing in profusion named Alexanders. The Romans introduced the plant as a pot herb from the Mediterranean in the 17th century. Its black seeds were sold as Macedonian parsley, as it originated in Macedonia – the country of Alexander the Great.

Its bright green, glossy leaves sprouted in January. Each main leaf is divided into three toothed leaflets. It grows up to three feet, before producing tiny yellowish-green flowers from April into June. Most of this plant is edible. I’ll give details later.