"Are we nearrrly therrre yet"?

March 02, 2013  •  1 Comment

I was going to blog about the pond that I have dug into our garden in the last week, or the swift box that I've finally drilled into our roof..... but after the wildlife drive I had 'round my local patch this morning, I thought I'd focus this particular blog post on today, tomorrow and the week ahead....

"Are we nearrrrly therrrre yetttt?" is a well-known phrase for parents (and others!) all over the UK - generally uttered by impatient kids on the back seats of cars, being driven cross-country to go and visit (maybe) Great Aunt Brunhilda (or someone similar).

I've been thinking "are we nearly there yet" to myself for a good three weeks now - as my patience with winter and the lack of warmth is starting to wear a bit thin now - especially after the last ten days, when we've sat under miserable lead-coloured skies and biting winds...

This time last year we were baking in pretty-well a month-long heatwave - the start of the errrr.... "drought" *cough*. Don't you remember?

This year though - and we all seem to be waiting..... waiting for spring to spring from the depths of February and get us all positive again about the coming year.


The local barn owls have been living off meagre rations for the past few months - although I have watched one of our local owls catch two voles with remarkable ease over the last two weekends on my dawn drives (I went out as usual pre dawn this morning).

They will want the ground and air to warm up - hunting becomes a lot easier for them when their rodent prey start to move around freely.


The local toads had already moved to their breeding ponds by this time last year (Anna and I help as many as we can each year – ‘though I rather think it will be me on my own in 2013), but this year the vast majority of toads have stayed stubbornly in their woods – waiting for night time temperatures to hit at least 5c (9c is more like it for our gold leaf eyed friends) before they migrate en masse back to their breeding ponds – crossing roads as they go.


The crocuses and daffodils were all but out last year – and attracting multiple species of bumblebee in the warmth of March – I had seen four species of bumblebee by March 2nd 2012 – as I type a year later, I’ve seen one queen buff-tailed bumblebee briefly and one honeybee – with not a crocus or daffodil flower in sight just yet in the garden.


I have seen our first queen wasp of the year however (earlier than last year) – crawling on our 3 month-old son’s window ledge. (I removed it of course); and I have had a few moths visit our outside light – a herald, a chestnut, a dark chestnut, a brindled plume and a dotted border. I should set up the moth trap I guess….?


The grass seed I’ve sown around the landscaped pond is certainly waiting for a bit of warmth – anything over 6c and that’ll begin the germination and growth…. 


There is a little blackthorn blossom out in towns at present – but you have to look very hard to find it – its waiting also…


The robins are certainly getting eager to breed – as are the local goldcrests it seems – I had a pair of very showy goldcrests display to each other in the garden (just feet from me) as I dug the pond into the soil last weekend.

Our lone jay (for 18 months now) has suddenly become a pair for the first time in our garden at least - it does seem like the birds are g....getting r....ready!


Of course the local tawny owls in the wood near the house are impatient little beggars and are already undoubtedly sitting on eggs (as are some local blackbirds intent on having multiple broods this year) – and the feral pigeons sat on our roof are always mating it seems. Every time I look up to the roof (to admire my new swift box)…. Yep. There’s another pair of fornicating doves on the aerial…

The local foxes are bickering their courtship fights behind the garage at the end of the garden but our garden hedgehog hasn't clambered out of its pit yet this year - though I think it might this week (keep reading....!)


It’s still cccc….c…cold though eh?

Even though dawn is (mercifully) getting earlier and earlier, I drove around the patch this morning with the heated seat on full blast (the first time I used the heated car seat I forgetfully thought I’d had “an accident” mid-drive).


Talking of drives, my morning’s (twice-weekly) wildlife drive was possibly the best ever.

Not only was I treated to the sight of one of our local barn owls hunting right by the car again before disappearing back to its diurnal roost at about 06:30am – as I sat watching the barn owl, a lovely hare lollopped across the road in front of me.

Yessss…. I know hares aren’t native to the UK, but they might as well be these days and I hardly ever get to see them round ‘ere.

Such interesting animals – so full of character and all undoubtedly waiting for the first bit of warmth to hit their fields, for then they can begin their mad March hare antics.

I’ve only ever seen one hare before in this neck of the woods – a year ago – at EXACTLY the same spot.

A wee check on the little owls (post-hare) and all seemed well there – though I’m sure the last ten days (compared to the same ten days last year) has meant the pair is a little further behind in their breeding year at present.


A glance across the bare(ish) grey fields and a flock of frenchmen (red-legged partridge) seemed still to be in their winter coveys – waiting for spring to break them up into pairs again to nest and lay their clutches.


A glance across the neighbouring farmland and a treat of four of what I (personally) regard the most beautiful UK mammal to be, roe deer, all standing watching me. Such beautiful, elegant creatures.

One buck with velvety antlers pushing up towards the early March sky, with four does behind him. Lucky fella!


Finally, as I turned a corner to go home – five or six dozen fieldfare – all pointing into the wind on a bush just beginning to bud. The bush is waiting for spring and I got the impression the fieldfare were too…. for their journey back to Scandinavia to breed (in colonies) themselves….


We’re all on hold it seems.

Waiting for spring.

Surely it’ll arrive soon?


The Met Office and most of us think of the beginning of Spring as the 1st of March – but we really have a few weeks to wait before Spring officially starts (on the 21st) ….. or do we???



Someone allegedly reported a swallow over Merseyside yesterday (wishful thinking perhaps?) and I hear on the grapevine that this week is going to be markedly warmer and spring-like than the last two.

Monday looks sunny and mild(ish - half the temperature of the same day last year though - but it's a start) – and the wind is even going to change direction this week – it’ll be a blessed relief eh? to have a warm wind for a change, rather than the bone-aching nor’easterly we’ve endured of late.

Of course, winter can still spring a surprise return and bite us on the backside (remember the April snow of a few years ago)…..


But the answer to the “are we nearrrrrly therrrrre yet?” question is yes, grapple fans. We certainly are!



My advice to anyone reading this blog in the UK, is to take Monday off work (if you can!) wake up nice and early – play yersel a few good rounds of Vivaldi – then head off into the countryside – join the March hares, the migrating toads, the happy owls, the blooming crocuses, the sleepy bees and the sprouting seeds – and be there for the very start of Spring 2013.


Mind if I join you?




Doug Mackenzie Dodds - Images
"Of course, winter can still spring a surprise return and bite us on the backside (remember the April snow of a few years ago)….."

Or the March of this (2013) year.

We've just been bitten hard I think!
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