Spring is definitely in the air ... but it is still early days yet


The arrival of March sees the start of the garden moth trapping season for me and after a blank weekend to begin with, last Friday night’s session yielded my first of the year.

Many moths are similar in shape and brown in colour, but this one is relatively easy to identify as it has a wing marking which is unique. On each wing is a white spot with two smaller spots either side, looking like a tiny planet with two minute orbiting moons, giving the moth its name – the satellite. It is a fairly common moth in much of Britain, though more scattered in Scotland.

The adults emerge in September, and can be encountered any time throughout the winter until April, in suitably mild conditions.

The larvae feed on a number of deciduous trees, and also have a carnivorous tendency towards things like aphids and the larvae of other moths, as they near maturity.

On a cool damp morning, I set out for a wander round Selkirk Hill on Saturday to see if spring had stalled, or was still slowly progressing.

The only flowers in bloom were on the gorse bushes, which is not surprising as they produce flowers all year round. The birds, however, were taking this spring business much more seriously. I could see rooks carrying nesting material and lots of smaller birds were in full song. Easy to identify were song thrush, robin, wren, blue tit and goldfinch, but there was one which always catches me out. The great tit’s regular song is similar to the noise of someone bouncing up and down on a wire fence, but occasionally it veers off into a wide variety of other sounds, which usually need the help of binoculars to get a positive identification.

The old skating pond, which nestles in the midst of the Hill was busy with splashing ducks. It seemed to be either bath time for the resident mallards and teal, or it was the drakes sprucing themselves up for the breeding season. Whatever the reason, it gave me the chance to have good look at our smallest – and in my opinion one of the most attractive ducks – the teal. Normally very nervous and flighty, it was good to get the opportunity to see the amazing pristine breeding plumage of the males. Their heads are chestnut brown with a broad, buff-edged green stripe and they have a prominent yellow patch under their tail. Other than their obvious diminutive size, their strange whistling call is an easy aid to identification.

Yes, spring is definitely in the air, but it is still very early days.