| Today the brimstones are out, careering up and down the rides|
|It feels as if our snowy winter has finally broken. The sun is out and, despite the blasting wind, the bite in the air has departed. After a delay of a month the energy is now bursting out and Titchmarsh Wood is springing into life. Among the small oaks, blossoming sallow and hazel coppice, great tits, chiffchaffs, bullfinches, redpoll, and many other small birds urgently broadcast their individual churrs, cheeps and twitters. The recent weather must have been immensely trying for the resident birds; many will have perished as they struggled to maintain body heat on intermittent invertebrate food supplies. The survivors, joined by recent arrivals from transcontinental travels, sound like they are making up for lost time.|
Splashes of primroses colour the verges but the trees are still in bud. Only the most sheltered blackthorn bushes are in bud burst; blossom and leaves breaking out at the same moment. The bluebells and patches of wild garlic are in leaf but nowhere near being in flower. For weeks I have been scanning for brimstone butterflies, the little fluttering yellow flags that would signal the end of the reign of white. Today the brimstones are out, careering up and down the rides. Peacocks and small tortoiseshells are also active, some feeding on yellow puffs of sallow blossom. Portly queen bumblebees pipe up sallow nectar and burn off the sugar flying low over the ground, hunting for suitable small mammal burrows in which to establish their nests. The insects are back, the numbers are perhaps low, but after their long hibernation it is good to see and hear them again.
The ground is waterlogged and the path churned; overhead are the plaintive cries of a pair of buzzards and a pair of red kites. The soaring, diving and banking birds of prey wheel in the sky as if acting out an aerial dogfight. As with the finches, warblers and tits, the race is on to secure the choicest nesting spots and feeding territories. The lines for another breeding season are being drawn.