Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

From the gradual arrival of migrant birds to the unrolling of bluebell carpets - spring is a great unfolding story when everything seems possible, writes Simon Barnes

Spring is showtime, with the almost ridiculously sumptuous shag-pile carpets of bluebells and the deafening chorus at dawn

In spring we have our beginnings. Life starts again: the early flowers daringly lift their heads above the earth and the birds break into song, getting ready for the task of making more birds.

But spring is not an isolated point in time. It’s a great unfolding story. You can understand this through the migrant birds, as they arrive one after the other and sing. Swifts fly in and send screaming parties across the sky: “They’re back, ” wrote the poet Ted Hughes, “which means the globe’s still working.”

Spring is showtime, with the almost ridiculously sumptuous shag-pile carpets of bluebells and the deafening chorus at dawn. Or try a Maytime night: I remember a nocturnal quintet with nightingale and stone curlew on melody, bittern on bass and nightjar and natterjack toad in the rhythm section.

This is Wild Time in its Hope Mode: when everything seems possible and the next miracle of life is just around the corner: or coming along in the next minute, if only you’ll stop your busy life for a moment and wait for it. Life is teeming all around you: in a hurry to create more life before it’s too late.

With our thanks to the following photographers who have kindly allowed the use of their wonderful images throughout this online guide. Credits: Boxing hares (c) Alex Appleby, great spotted woodpecker © Jon Hawkins, bluebells © Gillian Day, bittern © Jamie Hall, sand martin © Barry Dean, daffodils © Rob Oakley, great crested grebes © Steve Waterhouse, red grouse © Richard Bowler, boxing brown hare © Elliott Neep, tiger beetle ©J Adler, hen harrier © Amy Lewis, natterjack toad © Rose Manby, redstart © Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography, grey heron © Neil Phillips, smooth newt © Natalie Bowers, nightingale © Amy Lewis, early purple orchid © Jim Higham, osprey © John Wright/Leics & Rutland Wildlife Trust, hobby © Amy Lewis, pasque flower © Steve Chilton, water vole © Margaret Holland, snakeshead fritillary © Tom Marshall.

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