The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Tony Moss captures a selection of native and migratory species for whom spring marks a vital point in the year

As spring temperatures rise and insects become prevalent, the bearded tit's winter diet of seeds will soon revert back to insects once again

Spring in Dorset is a magical time when plant life and insect life starts to re-emerge after the cold, dark and, this year, very wet winter. With this increase in available foodstuffs, the larger fauna of the county start to become more visible too. Whether in the form of native species or those who merely pause, en passant, in order to stock up with food ahead of their return to their summer homes further north, Dorset boasts a broad range of birds and mammals.

From late winter into spring, barn owls may occasionally be seen hunting during daylight hours

The last few months’ weather has done no favours to ground-nesting animals and has been particularly difficult for those that traditionally nest in riverbanks. Whilst summer droughts may be a concern to animals and birds requiring water, the almost Biblical flooding that the county – and the country – has endured has not been great for smaller animals either. The very late on/off cold snap, after months of flooding, has also been very hard on plants and insects that were labouring under the delusion that spring had already arrived.

Over-wintering avocets rest up in preparation to migrate back to their continental breeding grounds

Normally in Dorset, spring is a renaissance, the ground warms, the plants reawaken and the animal life follows it, but this year, with plants that have rotted underwater after weeks of immersion, trees with huge root balls having been blown off kilter by gale force winds, we know this is not a normal spring. However, just as it seems that we haven’t had a dry day since we last had a drought warning, we know that weather is an eminently unpredictable factor in how spring and summer will unfurl.

As spring finally arrives, red squirrels become much more active and will moult out of their winter coats


By spring the redshank's drab winter plumage is replaced with a smarter spring version

What we do know is that, eventually, plants will grow safe from frost, insects will fly, birds and mammals will become more visible and eventually the sun will shine and fruits and seeds will grow and ripen, before we head back into the gloom of winter again; let’s hope that this journey is not as short as the diluvial winter was long. ◗

From the tops of heathland gorse bushes male Dartford warblers sing out to declare their territory to other males

❱ You can see Tony Moss’s shot of a bearded reedling at the annual British Wildlife Photography Awards Exhibition at Moors Valley Country Park Until 8 March, 8.00 Moors Valley Country Park, 01425 470721,

Migrating greenshank, resplendent in breeding plumage, stop-over to feed before continuing north to their breeding grounds


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