Today marks the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere; the official first day of spring. It’s warmer, the countryside feels a bit more spring-like and chiffchaffs sing, but spring is late this year. After a decade or so of early springs, this one has come as quite a shock. Yellows are finally winning through, daffodils and celandines are in full bloom, and marsh marigolds are beginning to flower under sheltered willows in Oxwich Marsh.
It’s very likely that grey herons and kingfishers will have suffered from the hard winter. I climb the fence into the mature wet alder wood. The familiar raucous calls of the herons are muted, and only a few birds bring sticks to nests. Last winter’s long freeze must have had a heavy toll, and they may struggle to bring off more than a handful of young this year. This old heronry has a long history and is part of the fabric of Penrice Estate. The demise of elms forced the herons from an island in the great lake to this new spot decades ago, but their numbers have never really recovered. Little egrets have thought about breeding here during the last few years, but have yet to succeed. They too will have had a bad winter and maybe won’t show up at all this summer.
On north Gower, above the slope of a small valley, a pair of buzzards play effortlessly with the thermals, watched by a pair of interested ravens on nearby North Hill Tor. A distant skylark, not even a dot in the sky, celebrates the turn of the seasons, and a much nearer meadow pipit parachutes down to an isolated hawthorn by the edge of the salt marsh. There’s a feeling of nascent energy craving for release. We will surely and finally get our just rewards for this long winter in the next couple of weeks.