When I last wrote in these pages (early April, here) spring had just sprung - the first warblers were back, the early flowers were out, and I was busy prophesising one last sting in the tail at the end of a particularly harsh winter.
Well, if you've been in the UK during the subsequent four weeks you may well have noticed that my prophesy spectacularly failed to come true. What we've mainly had (unless you count a week of cool NE winds as a last hurrah for winter) has been clear blue skies, loads of sunshine and the beginnings of an alarming drought. And while that's not been so great for my allotment (which is now starting to take on an alarming dust-like texture), it's been great for getting outside and seeing / hearing spring unfold into summer.
So while the first warblers had just arrived at the start of April, I've since enjoyed: my first cuckoo calls of the year (Easter weekend in Essex's Hatfield Forest); the purring coo of the turtle dove (just after Easter at a lake near Southam); lapwings wheeling and wailing in courtship above Warwickshire fields (near Ufton, Lighthorne and Warwick); a pair of tawny owls calling to each other and showing well above a caravan in Yorkshire's Goit Stock valley (along with two dipper pairs and breeding grey wagtails nearby); and the return of a full complement of summer species (with only the swift still missing from my usual checklist).
The first orange tip and brimstone butterflies have been joined by peacocks, small tortoiseshells, various whites and other I'm too dull-witted to identify with any safety. The same problem pertains to wild flowers - I'm on safe(ish) ground in early spring with wild garlic, lesser celandine, snowdrops and on to the bluebells. Now that a full array of flora is bursting into life, my limited expertise comes to a shuddering halt. Suffice it to say then that there are a lot of flowers and insects around, as well as the birds!
Bird watching has increasingly become less something I specifically go to and more something I just do. It's not often I head out to a nature reserve or set off anywhere with the express intent of watching birds, but wherever and whenever I am outdoors, whether cycling, fishing, gardening, walking, playing with the family or just sitting, I am bird watching, bird listening and bird enjoying.
And while my life list, year list and the rest are suffering no end, my enjoyment of another unfurling spring most certainly is not.
Bird of the month: Tawny owl (Strix aluco); elusive by virtue of its nocturnal nature, but my fairly regular trips to the Goit Stock in Yorkshire give me great opportunities to hear and see this wonderful creature of the night.