I broke out into an instant, ecstatic smile. My ears pricked with the familiar call. The unmistakable 'peewit' of a lapwing, returning to my farmland home. Spring has begun.
Winter has left scars this year. It has been a cold one. The most snow I have ever seen in the Highlands, although seasoned highlander's still pronounce this as 'nothing'. This winter, I lost my beloved cat in a tragic accident, at the tender age of 3. The sudden grief of this, quite frankly, destroyed me. Temperatures plummeted even further in the days that followed and the Highlands were a swirl of ice and snow. As if the world was mourning...
Spring has never been more welcome. After some time away to grieve, I am amazed at the transformation in the little world around my caravan. It felt as though the snow would never melt so it was quite a shock to be confronted with green once again. Since my return, the local wildlife have been alive with activity. Birds have shaken off their dozy winter habits, startled by spring's sudden arrival. With the feeling of something unannounced there is frantic activity to catch up. Everywhere I look, birds are cramming as much nesting material as they can hold in their beaks and returning to their impatient, apparent nagging, partners. The dawn chorus has gone from a stubborn robin's call to a myriad of voices, all eager to warm up their vocal chords after a long period of rest.
I let myself become immersed in nature. I returned home recently filled with excitement with the bundle I was clasping. A bird feeder. Feeding the birds was not something that felt right when a cat was prowling. Now, I relished the thought of providing for my local wildlife. After such a hard winter, I was eager to bolster their spring activity. I will admit, I was a tad impatient at first. Within half an hour I was despairing at the lack of activity. One day past. Then another, with no signs of improvement. Just as I was begrudging my neighbour with her well-established feeding station, a blue tit darted in to snaffle a seed. I was delighted. Suddenly, the word seemed to be out and I now have regular visitors as I crouch near my caravan window to watch. Any loneliness dissipated and I felt proud to do the little I can for these wonderful creatures.
My springs are always hectic. Like the birds, I have been caught rather unawares. With the snow melting, I can start my survey season earlier than expected. This week, I have started my capercaillie surveys. I am delighted to greet old friends as I return to familiar forests. From the marvellous wizened scots pine trees to the caterpillars that inevitably crawl across my lap during tea breaks, it feels right to be in my second home once more.
I have never seen as many snowdrops as I have this year. They have surrounded me with their quiet determination. When I read what they symbolised, I understood why. A symbol of sympathy and consolation. But more than this. They are a symbol of hope. The world was ready for this spring. As we gather our courage and power forwards once more we can be fuelled by this season of hope. I know nature will see us through.