It is very quiet at Lowes today,the sky is laden with cloud and snow is falling softly and steadily straight down through bare, grey branches, gathering on the icy twigs and woodland floor. After a mild spell last week, temperatures have plummeted and, as I write, the water in Loch of the Lowes lies beneath a solid sheet of snow covered ice.
Through this frozen scene comes a vibrant sign of Spring: the loud drumming of several great spotted woodpeckers!
From now until April, you have a good chance to witness woodpeckers staking claims on their territories. Instead of using their voice (chik chik) they hammer their exceptionally strong beaks into tree trunks, creating a sound akin to volleys of gun fire. Watching one of these dramatic black, white and red birds rapidly battering its head against a tree, you would imagine they would suffer brain damage, concussion or at least, a very bad headache. There’s no need to worry, their skulls are formed by a special spongey bone to ‘cushion’ their brains.
Are you hearing woodpeckers in your area? Or owls hooting at night? Foxes barking? Have you seen snowdrops raising their little white heads and green shoots beginning to show among trees and climbing plants?
The daylight hours are growing longer, our planet is gently tipping back towards the sun and, as the woodpeckers are telling us, Spring will soon be upon us.