Eight great reasons to enjoy great outdoors in country park

Bumblebees are busy in Cranbrook Country Park

Bumblebees are busy in Cranbrook Country Park - Credit: Cranbrook Town Council

With the days getting longer and gradually getting warmer, spring is in full swing in Cranbrook Country Park.
It’s that time of year when everything in nature starts stirring, from increased colour in the hedgerows to the bustle of animals emerging from their winter slumber. With that in mind, here are eight reasons to get out and explore the Country Park in the spring sunshine.
The emergence of bees. In particular the bumblebee. These furry foragers are coming out of hibernation and so far I’ve spotted buff tail, white tail and early bumblebee queens all on the scout for nectar and nest sites in the hedgerows and tussocky grassland of the Country Park. You’ll likely only spot queen bumblebees at this time of year. They’re much larger than the workers and they’ll be busy finding early sources of nectar in order to build up their energy supplies to start a new colony.
The dawn chorus. You may have noticed the increase in birdsong over the last month. From March to July our feathered alarm clocks sing to defend their territories and attract a mate. This, accompanied with the return of our summer migrants (though I’m yet to spot the return of the first house martin or swallow to Cranbrook), is a treat for the ears!  Whether you’re a night owl or already an early bird, it’s definitely worth getting out for a morning stroll through the park to enjoy this cascade of birdsong.
Awakening animals. Keep your eyes peeled for the emergence of our hibernating residents. I know hedgehogs have already been spotted in several Cranbrook gardens, but look out for our reptiles and amphibians emerging from the many hibernacula found in the park. In these increasingly warm and sunny days we’ve been having lately, you might be lucky enough to spot a grass snake basking in the sun along the riverbanks.
On the subject of amphibians, who’s already spotted the tadpoles bottom feeding in the ponds? These guys have a tough time making it through to adulthood as they are lunch for many a species including dragonfly larvae, water boatmen, grass snakes, birds and hedgehogs. It’s definitely worth getting out soon and taking a closer look in the shallow waters whilst they’re still in abundance.
Wildflowers. You may have already spotted the yellow carpets of lesser celandine now coming to an end, but the beautiful cuckoo flower – a sure sign of spring – has been popping up across the park. The hedgerows also offer an abundance of colour. The likes of greater stitchwort, germander speedwell and periwinkle already delicately adorning the hedges around Cranbrook - definitely worthy of a wander.
It’s not just the wildflowers, things are getting colourful in the trees as well! The orchard trees are blossoming and in particular, the blackthorn in the hedgerows is almost sparkling with its thousands of white flowers. Look closely at the hazel trees along the river and you might still be able to spot their tiny, but bright pink flowers waiting to be pollinated.
Butterflies. The early-emerging species include brimstone, peacock, orange-tip and speckled wood. So far in the Country Park, I’ve only spotted the male brimstone with his distinctive yellow-green underwing. Perhaps you’ve had more luck…
Don’t forget to look up! Not only has the birdsong turned its volume up a notch, but birds are also working hard to build their nests and raise their young. I’ve seen many a blackbird with a twig in hand (beak) preparing a nest for its brood. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a blue tit or a sparrow nesting in your garden? In any case, at this time of year it’s important to keep your bird feeders topped up to help our birds build up their energy stores to successfully raise their broods.
 

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