Jono Leadley, of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, reports on an exciting siting of an otter.

SINCE last writing in late March, spring seems to have come and gone and we have returned to cold, windy weather.

Nevertheless the warm air and welcome sunshine over the May Day bank holiday weekend brought relief to Yorkshire folk and wildlife alike.

The floodgates opened for a deluge of summer migrant birds. Hordes of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Swallows which should have arrived in early April flocked in with birds more typical of late April and early May, such as garden and reed warblers, lesser whitethroats and swifts.

The volume of our woodlands, marshes and gardens went up several notches literally overnight with the melodic and powerful songs of many of these birds adding to the chorus of our resident songsters; a terrific free treat for us all.

These aural delights provided the soundtrack to what has been an explosion of colour in the monochrome landscape of late winter.

Many trees and bushes have blossomed late and the soaring temperatures brought the flowers out simultaneously with the bursting of the vivid green leaves of birch, willow and hazel.

Below the canopy, the woodland floor is a similar riot of breathtaking colour. In some of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s woodlands – North Cliffe near Market Weighton, Grabutt Wood near Thirsk and Hetchell Wood near Bramham – bluebells have finally bloomed, along with white wild garlic and yellow archangel. It really is a great time to be alive.

Over that lovely weekend, insects emerged en masse too, with the first orange-tip butterflies skipping along sheltered sunny woodland rides seeking out garlic mustard on which to lay their eggs, while the delightful sulphurous yellow brimstones flitted through gardens.

Bees too became conspicuous with large queen buff-tailed and white-tailed bumblebees actively seeking out new breeding sites among tussocky grass and in old mouse nests.

My most memorable sighting in recent weeks was of an otter at Wheldrake Ings. It was a brief encounter but left me awestruck and full of joy.

I had been sitting quietly on a sunny Sunday morning in the pool hide enjoying the comings and goings of common birds and listening to the churrs and trills of sedge warblers in the nearby scrub.

Suddenly, a gang of ducks took flight, quacking anxiously. I immediately began to scan around thinking that a bird of prey may have flushed them – perhaps a peregrine or marsh harrier – both are fairly regular here these days.

But no, a sudden splash and the head of an otter appeared right in front of the spit of land where the ducks had been sitting. Brilliant!

The otter made its way out in to the pool, diving frequently, hunting for fish. It mooched around a willow that is growing out of the water, presumably looking for prey among the submerged roots. It then continued round the back of the spit and up on to the bank, where it ran in the strange lolloping way that only otters exhibit across the ground and into cover.

The whole experience only lasted a minute, or so, yet left me exhilarated. What an unexpected sighting and huge privilege to have seen such a beautiful wild mammal at Wheldrake Ings, a site so close to my heart.

Despite all the depressing statistics about the loss of wildlife and wild places across the UK, some special animals, including otters, are now making a welcome return to many of their former haunts.