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Spring: highlights of the season

This is a magical time to visit your favourite Trust places, as our coasts, islands, mountains and moorlands all spring back to life.

Puffins arrive to nest

In April, puffins start to arrive on Dun Mor, the chunky sea stack south of Canna and Sanday. Around 350 pairs breed here, laying their eggs in burrows during May and June. The eggs are incubated for about 40 days and each pair hatches just one young puffling a year, which is fed by the parents for around 50 days until it’s ready to set off into the Atlantic. With their colourful beaks and charming waddle, puffins are known as the ‘clowns of the sea’, and a group is known collectively as a circus. Puffins often mate for life.

Also at: St Kilda, Staffa

The colourful puffin | Duncan JM Fraser/Shutterstock

Singing as the sun rises

The spring dawn chorus starts an hour or so before sunrise, when the first male songbirds burst into song. Choose a day with clear, calm weather and head out to enjoy the music. For adventurous walkers, upland areas like Ben Lomond and Mar Lodge Estate are wonderful places to hear the piping call of the meadow pipit or the complex song of the skylark. Or head to Killiecrankie, or the Hermitage near Dunkeld in Perthshire, to listen to robins, wrens, warblers and thrushes.

Also at: outdoor places across Scotland

A meadow pipit sitting on a wire fence, in the background is a brown grass field
A meadow pipit, ready for spring

Flowers of the ancient woods

In the Pass of Killiecrankie, the flowering of star-shaped wood anemones signals the arrival of spring. These gentle white flowers enjoy the sun, so they flower early in the season to make the most of the dappled sunshine before the canopy above fills out with leaves. Wood anemones spread slowly, expanding their territory through their roots, so finding large areas of these pretty white flowers is a good indicator of the ancient vintage of the woodland in which you’re wandering.

Also at: Brodie Castle Estate, The Hermitage, Linn of Tummel, Mar Lodge Estate

A pretty patch of wood anemone | Mariola Anna S/Shutterstock

Early alpine blooms

Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve is renowned for its wide range of arctic and alpine plants. The first to bloom in spring is the richly coloured purple saxifrage, its flowers opening as the snow melts, sometimes as early as February. This incredibly hardy plant flowers at some of the highest altitudes and most northerly locations in the world. Take your binoculars and look out for it on the crags of Grey Mare’s Tail, one of the UK’s highest waterfalls, which plunges into Moffat Water Valley in Dumfries & Galloway.

Also at: Mar Lodge Estate

Purple saxifrage | BMJ/Shutterstock

Return of the osprey

In March, ospreys migrate from Africa to breed in southern Scotland. Once extinct in this country, since 2008 these fish-eating birds of prey have been nesting at Threave Estate in Dumfries & Galloway, where we worked with a local tree surgeon and raptor expert to encourage them to breed here. Between March and September, you can visit our viewing platform on the estate, where our knowledgeable volunteers can tell you all about the ospreys. In between visits, keep an eye on the Friends of Threave Osprey Facebook page for regular reports from the nests.

Also at: Grey Mare’s Tail

Osprey chick at Threave Estate

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