Outer Hebrides Biological Recording  Outer Hebrides Biological Recording
Lesser Celandine

Hebridean Spring Project

Signs of Spring 2024


As the days begin to lengthen, there is always a sense of anticipation and excitement amongst the islands’ naturalists. The arrival of spring in the Outer Hebrides is always unpredictable and can be either early or late, cold or unseasonably warm, wet or dry, balmy or stormy.

The start of spring depends on whether you are using astronomical or meteorological definitions. Therefore, either around 20th March on 1st March each year.

These are very rigid definitions and most people will have their own natural indicators e.g. bees buzzing and daffodils flowering in the garden. Our interest in using natural events to record the spring dates back to early 18th century. Since then recording the variation in the timing of seasonal events, such as bird migration, emergence of insects and bud break on trees, called phenology, has continued. It is now recognised that using an index of natural events can highlight a biological response to climate change.

Unfortunately, many of the species used in the UK national surveys are not found in the Outer Hebrides. We have therefore, devised our own project using species which are appropriate to the islands. We have chosen 3 species of flowers, insects and birds, all of which are easy to identify. Recording when you first see or hear any of these will help us track the arrival of spring through the islands and measure the variation from year to year.

Our Signs of Spring project is intended to be easy and fun, nevertheless the information we collect may help us understand the effect of climate change on our animals and plants.

Unfortunately the launch of this survey in March 2020 coincided with the corona virus pandemic. Nevertheless some of our recorders managed to participate and you can read a preliminary report of the results on the Hebridean Nature Notes website.

The OHBR Annual Summary of Biological Records for 2023 contains a summary of the results of the survey to date (pp. 75-76).

We are ready to start the Signs of Spring Survey 2024 - are you ready to join us?