Thanks for checking in with The Long Spring, a series of journeys I'll be making between now and the end of May that will take me from the coast of North Africa to well above the Arctic Circle. Spring is a time of celebration and anticipation throughout the temperate world. The dramatic changes from season to season have shaped our world and our cultures.
It has been a strange winter in my home country of the UK, with the wettest and warmest December and January since records began. More than 600 species of plant were recorded in flower at the turn of the year in the UK. In a normal cold winter, botanists would expect no more than 20 to 30 species to be in flower on New Year’s Day. From my study window in Yorkshire, a gorse bush is a reliable source of winter brightness, but this year, even this far north and at 200 metres, we have red campion in flower and hawthorn bursting into leaf.
The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) undertakes an annual survey on 1 January, and this year, no fewer than 612 species were recorded in flower. Many are summer flowers that simply haven’t shut down for winter; others are spring flowers already bursting forth.
So it remains to be seen what spring will be like this year, and whether we’ll get much of a winter. What we do know, is that across Africa millions of birds are starting to anticipate the new season, and have already begun to head north. A few early arrivals may be poised at the gates of Europe already, so in two days time, I’m heading out there to find out.
Laurence Rose is a conservationist, writer and composer. He has worked for the RSPB since 1983.