Jono Leadley of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust continues his monthly column with a report on the birdsong of early spring.

Apologies to the superstitious among you! As soon as you read my words last month about the exceptionally mild January weather, things took a turn for the worse and Yorkshire had some of the coldest temperatures in England this winter, while a blanket of white covered most of the county.

Our climate seems to have gone round in a full circle and as I write the milder air is once again back with us. With this warmer weather and the noticeably increasing day length, the noise in the natural world is really starting to escalate.

Robins, which have been defending their winter feeding territories throughout the dark days, with their thin, shrill song are now joined vocally by a number of our other common resident species.

Song thrushes have started their powerful refrain in the last week or two, instantly recognisable by their varied song and their habit of repeating each short phrase three or four times.

Wheezy greenfinches and accelerating chaffinches are among the chorus, whereas a touch of early spring sunshine encourages the spluttering, popping song of starlings to spew forth from chimney pots and garden fences. It really is getting noisy out there!

Some of our winter visiting birds are already heading back north and east, slipping away unnoticed, in some cases under the cover of darkness.

And yet it is still too early for our summer migrants to arrive. The bravest of these, wheatears, sand martins and chiffchaffs will start to appear from early March, risking a late and potentially fatal cold snap to get back to their breeding grounds as soon as possible.

Many mammals are becoming active. Alongside the brown hares mentioned last month, that scourge of keen lawn gardeners, the mole, is busy tunnelling in search of mates. Soft piles of new till appear in our grasslands and fields as the male moles seek out a receptive female.

I am told that males zig-zag and females move in straight lines and in this way, they have a good chance of crossing paths.

The presence of otters at several sites including Staveley and Wheldrake Ings nature reserves was revealed during the snowy spell – their tracks were reported frequently.

One lucky observer had a good view of a dog otter on the bank of the River Derwent at Wheldrake Ings, which seemed completely unperturbed by the observer’s presence, even nonchalantly coughing in his direction.

Dog otters defend a long, thin territory following the sinuous curves of the river. Any female otter within this stretch will likely become the dog’s mate.

The cold snap early in the month fuelled a wave of reports of unusual garden visitors across the area, including reed buntings, pied wagtails and bramblings.

Two species which seemed particularly affected were fieldfares and redwings. These robust thrushes, denizens of the extensive dark taiga forests of Northern Scandinavia and Siberia head to the UK in the autumn to spend the winter in our milder climate.

They gorge on the autumn crop of berries, and when the weather is mild feed on worms and other soil-dwelling critters in the fields and meadows.

Harsh weather puts a stop to this and as the berry and fruit crop is long gone by late winter, they suffer from a shortage of food.

Many gardens attracted these handsome birds during the cold spell, particularly where apples and other fruit was provided. Fieldfares in particular can be incredibly territorial and often one bird would establish a temporary feeding territory driving off all comers in order to maintain ownership of the food supply.

I even saw one having an aerial fight with a much larger mistle thrush, which surprisingly retreated in the face of such hostility. Both fieldfares and redwings will soon slip away over the North Sea for the summer, to be replaced by summer migrants hot on their heels, fresh in from southern Europe and Africa.

These birds will sing their vibrant songs and the tremendous spring chorus will become a delightful cacophony, raising our spirits.