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Spring has arrived in Dorset, bringing along some much needed rain to water our gardens, parks and nature reserves. With the weather looking bright and sunny for the weeks ahead, take the time to really notice what is happening in nature - listen to bird song, watch butterflies fluttering by and enjoy colourful spring flowers.

Now is the time when bluebells will be flowering in local woodlands. There will also be lots of baby animals being born all over the country and other animals start to come out of hibernation.

Here are a few ways that you can connect with nature this springtime, whether you live in Dorset or elsewhere in the country.

Wildlife webcams

A number of our local nature reserves have nesting boxes with webcams so that we can all get a closer look at the natural behaviour of local wildlife.

The Birds of Poole Harbour charity have installed webcams for watching a variety of bird species. They have also built a nest and installed a webcam for recently released Ospreys in the hope a local population is created, 180 years after they went extinct in England. Every weekday you can join the Birds of Poole Harbour live Osprey Q & A on YouTube from 10am to 11am. You can watch the webcams live and also rewind to earlier times in the day.

Osprey, Poole Harbour in Dorset

Dorset Wildlife Trust have 2 webcams on Brownsea Island to view nesting and visiting birds such as Sandwich Tern, Avocet and Oystercatcher on the island lagoon. They also have a seasonal barn owl webcam to watch the latest brood of owls being hatched and reared. It is expected that the first owlet will hatch around early to mid May.

Durlston Country Park’s new high definition cliff camera is keeping an eye on the Guillemots who have returned to nest on the ledges near the country park. Join rangers Katie and Ali for ‘Life on the Edge’.

Spring colour

There are woodlands big and small all over Dorset. Some are filled with the colour blue during this time of year as bluebells are in full flower. Wild garlic and other woodland plants will also be starting to flower, producing food for bees, butterflies and other insects.

Not only are they beautiful to look at they also give a clue to how old the woodland is. As English bluebells take a very long time to spread seeds, the more bluebells you see, the older the woodland is likely to be. Some are known as ancient woods dating back hundreds of years and which are home to some very rare plants and animals.

Bluebell woods, Dorset

Photo credit - Andy Farrer

When you are wandering through your local wood be sure to look out for Gruffalos. Forestry England have some great activity sheets for little ones to get crafty as well as learn about nature.

Wildlife encounters

We’ve seen news all over the world about wildlife starting to reappear in rivers and beaches normally crowded by people. From dolphins being seen in the Venice canals to millions of turtles laying eggs on India’s beaches and hippos swimming off the African coast.

In Dorset it is no different. Although a little less exotic, our wildlife is still beautiful. A seal has been seen enjoying the surf and resting on various beaches along the Dorset and Hampshire coastline, stopping off at beaches in Highcliffe and Christchurch. At this time of year normally these beaches would be busy with people, so with the absence of humans on land and at sea, wildlife now feels safer to come ashore.

Local people taking their daily exercise have seen the seal on various beaches enjoying the peace and quiet.

Seal, Dorset

Photo credit - Anna Hyland

Explore from your door

Now, more than ever, everyone is exploring their local area. Discovering lanes, alleyways and greenspaces they never knew existed or rarely visited before.

Getting outside and taking in the fresh air is so important for our physical and mental wellbeing. With Dorset being such a green county, you can stay local and visit a nearby nature reserve, park or open space within a short walk or cycle ride.

Views of Bridport, Dorset

There are nature reserves all over the country, so even if you don’t live in Dorset, discover where your local Wildlife Trust reserve is. #StayLocal

Explore your garden

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, terrace or balcony and are feeling a bit crafty, check out these brilliant ideas for making a bug hotel or bird bath. Not only will it be great for local wildlife, it will also give you something to watch out for and share on social media when you’re first wildlife visitor arrives.

Sign up to take part in Dorset Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild challenge which you can do at home. Do one ‘wild’ activity each day in June and join with others across the country to make a difference for wildlife. Download an online pack to record your activities, ready to start on Monday 1st June. You will also receive emails containing ideas for wild activities you can get involved with from home.  

It’s not too late to sow some wildflower seeds to benefit bees and butterflies later in the year. You could use large plant pots, bare ground or maybe even dig up a corner of your grass lawn to sow the seeds which can be bought (along with other flower, herb and vegetable seeds) from large supermarkets.

You can also become a citizen scientist and help work out how climate change is affecting butterflies. All you need to do is record what type of butterflies you see in your garden using an App. Find out more on the Butterfly Conservation website.  

Peacock butterfly

Photo credit - Natalija Mislevicha

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