THE mild start to 2012 has brought some unseasonable glimpses of spring to the depths of winter.
Flowers are blooming, birds singing and insects are on the wing – and it is only the second week in January.
What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record.
Then it was weeks before the first telltale signs of spring would emerge.
Twelve months on and those cheery indicators have now been with us for a couple of weeks, the result of the mild winter.
But do not be lulled into a false sense of security – these balmy days are forecast to disappear by the end of the week with temperatures expected to fall to 2C at night.
The News gardening expert, Brian Kidd, was thrilled to see the first snowdrop in flower in his Waterlooville garden on New Year’s Day.
And, as reported in The News, daffodils are in flower on a verge at Concorde Way, Segensworth, near Fareham.
Elsewhere in the wider Portsmouth area, bulbs are shooting up and silver birch, oak and hazel buds are bursting.
Mr Kidd said: ‘Every year I always say you can guarantee to see snowdrops in bloom on every Sunday in February.
‘But we had our first one out on January 1.
‘I don’t think I can recall seeing them out so early.’
The National Trust said fields were very green in comparison to last year, and the signs of spring were appearing.
Matthew Oates, a conservation adviser with the trust, said: ‘After two cold winters, we’ve reverted back to the modern trend of mild, wet winters.
‘If you look closely in woods, valleys, stream-sides and south facing slopes in particular, there are features of late January and early February everywhere.’
In sheltered areas near Chichester, hazel catkins were out on Christmas Day at least two weeks early, while snowdrops have been seen, including in the Lake District, well ahead of their normal late January or early February emergence.
Birds including robins, song thrushes and mistle thrushes are already singing while wood pigeons are attempting to breed, said Mr Oates.
Red admiral and brimstone butterflies have been seen on the wing and buff-tailed bumblebees have been spotted as wildlife makes the most of the mild weather.
Mr Oates urged people who wanted to visit gardens to see snowdrop displays not to leave their trips until February as they may miss the flowers.