Perhaps it is just because I have been reading a lot about beavers lately but it occurs to me that spring is a bit like water building up behind a dam and eventually bursting through it. It starts with just a tiny trickle of little things that start to appear in the depths of winter but offer the promise that it cannot last for ever. Then as the weeks slip by and January turns to February the momentum begins to build until suddenly March arrives and the countryside changes every day as spring arrives in a rush of unfurling fresh green leaves and birdsong.
Almost as soon as Christmas is over the great tits and robins in the woods start to change their songs. Snowdrops begin to appear like old friends and the little owls in the orchard start calling to one another after many months of silence. After the initial excitement at the appearance of the first grey/green shoots of the ramsons and bluebells, nothing further seems to happen until one day you are walking on your daily route and realise that the whole woodland floor has suddenly become tinged with green. Song thrushes begin singing in the treetops and then there was the day a couple of weeks ago when I awoke to the beautiful sound of a blackbird ringing in the dawn. Since then the dawn chorus has been gradually building every day with a wren greeting me yesterday from the depths of a conifer in our front garden, the first greenfinches wheezing away in the hedgerow along the lane and even the tiny dot of a skylark this morning singing its heart out against the clear blue sky. In spite of the fact that on Monday it snowed for much of the day, spring is already unstoppable, the tiny trickle is turning into a steady stream and will soon burst forth in a babbling, tumbling torrent of daffodils and blackthorn blossom.
Spiders have magically begun to reappear in corners around the house and, somewhat mysteriously, an earthworm appeared on the bathroom windowsill on Saturday morning. Even more surprisingly, later on Saturday as I entered the garage I found a large frog sitting there, apparently waiting for me to open the door and save him the effort of having to go around the back, presumably via the route he had arrived.
This last was the most remarkable not least because of the journey that the frog must have made to have reached our house for the winter. The perhaps somewhat grandly named Ruscombe Lake at the bottom of the valley is the nearest body of water that I am aware of and is located about ¼ of a mile from our house as the crow flies. However I suspect that the frog must have followed the hedgerows and therefore gone a more circuitous route of probably at least half a mile, all uphill through countryside bristling with predators including cats, badgers, foxes, crows, owls, buzzards etc. and including a crossing of a reasonably busy lane. Finally arriving at our house, without the convenience of an open garage door, the frog would have had to ascend a flight of steps to our back garden, pick its way along the back of the garage and descend a further flight of steps to the damp passage at the back of our kitchen which is where I assume that it spent the winter. I assume this because I have in previous years found a toad and a newt in said back passage but had thought in the past that they must have been there by accident rather than design. The presence of the frog in apparently good health at the latter end of winter makes me think that perhaps our singularly unremarkable back passage is in fact a known amphibian winter hangout, the herpetological equivalent of St Moritz. The presence of the frog, largely unfazed by my presence as he made his way towards our front garden and presumably back down the lane, speaks to me of the promise of frogspawn appearing in ponds all around the country and is confirmation that spring is well on the way.