The best places to see spring wildlife in Derbyshire

Blackcap Photo: Janet Packham

Blackcap Photo: Janet Packham - Credit: Archant

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Julia Gow suggests some of the best places to visit for some spring wildlife watching

Lesser Celandine Photo: Richard Burkmar

Lesser Celandine Photo: Richard Burkmar - Credit: Archant

t’s starting to feel as if spring might be just around the corner as bright spots of colour start to appear underfoot and overhead. It’s a great time of year to start documenting the awakening wildlife, so grab your camera and visit some of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves to make the most of this month.

Wye Valley Reserves, south-east of Buxton:

In early March the days are getting noticeably longer and occasionally feel warmer. Take a walk along any of our reserves along the beautiful River Wye to really blow the cobwebs away. Rightly famous for their summer wildflowers, these reserves are still fascinating in the spring. With fewer visitors about, you stand a better chance of seeing dippers and grey wagtails as they fly up and down the river during the day. Later in the month look out for birds like the blackcap (known as the northern nightingale for its pretty song) and chiffchaff gathering materials as they start to think about nesting.

Great Crested Grebes at Staunton Harold Reservoir Photo: Scott Jarvis

Great Crested Grebes at Staunton Harold Reservoir Photo: Scott Jarvis - Credit: Archant

In addition to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s reserves, which go from Deep Dale in the west to Chee Dale, Miller’s Dale, Priestcliffe Lees and Cramside Wood, organisations such as Natural England and the Peak District National Park also care for areas along the beautiful Wye Valley. Re-opening the tunnels on the Monsal Trail created the peaceful 8½ mile trail from Bakewell to Buxton.

Sunnydale Park (grid ref SK 336 332):

This nature reserve south-west of Derby, near Littleover and Normanton, is the perfect place to experience urban wildlife at its best with a network of paths that makes it especially access-friendly. As the early signs of spring are showing themselves it is time to get out and hear the birds singing. In March you will see the trees budding into life and on warmer days if you look around you may see early lesser celandines peaking up at you with their yellow dandelion-like flowers. These are deep-rooted successful colonisers and if the weather turns cold they will close those flowers up. Frogs will be getting amorous in preparation for the next lot of egg-laying but will stay in the water until it gets warmer in April.

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Hilton Gravel Pits SSSI (grid ref SK 249 315):

The combination of lakes and ponds, woodland and sheltered sunny areas makes the former gravel pits at Hilton, near Derby, a haven for wildlife. The reserve supports species that are fast declining in this country including the great crested newt and black poplar, the most endangered native timber tree in Britain. The ponds and lakes attract many species of waterfowl, including the elegant great crested grebe. This time of year gives you a very good chance to see them rising and weaving out of the water in a spectacular synchronised mating dance