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When does the winter end in Český kras?

This is the question I ask myself every year. And it pops into my mind nearly every time the alarm clock wakes me up into dim light instead of that desperate darkness waiting for me outside the window. For me, these are days full of expectations and impatience. Evenings are getting longer, and the alarm clock is getting friendlier by the day (but never so friendly to be utterly liked). And my way out of the house is accompanied by bird song. February starts with blackbirds and tits singing…what a relief after a few months of bird silence! The spring is coming!  And few minutes later I am watching the floating ice disappearing beneath the bridge I am standing on. My enthusiasm is switched again to my eternal question: When does the winter end in Český kras?

Floating ice on the river Berounka



Frosty mornings in Český kras.

We are at the beginning of March now. The tits and blackbirds attempts to break the winter silence are exchanged for a bird chorus. I do not recognize all birds I am hearing now, but their sound is intense, divine and joyful. Yes, joyful, and not only for us people. March is the month of the first days when we can REALLY feel the spring! The earth is waking up, giving off its fertile scent. Yes, those are the moments we were waiting for during the winter, they are here! my jacket is zipped open, jumper off, and the following morning my cough is telling me that I have not learnt how to handle the first pre-spring days yet. And of course, the alarm clock is again as friendly as during the January sales. Especially if it chases me out into a frosty morning again! Lucky me, I live in one of the warmest regions in Czechia!

Willow tree is coming into blossom!

But apart from the birds there are other signs that nature is awakening. The willows are a common species in Český Kras. They grow by the river and little creeks. One species of willow can survive on so little water, that it is the first tree species to inhabit dry abandoned limestone quarries. At this time of the year, willows are still quite far from their characteristic whisper they make once the wind starts to shake their leafy branches. The sound is different. Their catkins invite insects for the first nectar feast of the year, and especially during the first warmer days standing beneath the willow’s blossom is like being invited for some sort of bee party!

The catkins of a hazelnut tree.


And hazelnut, of course, who does not like nutella? I heard that somebody called it the tree of the beginning. I like this name for many reasons. Apart from its early catkins, the hazelnut tree is one of the first trees to inhabit new areas. When the landscape of Český Kras was awakaning from the ice ages, hazelnut was among the first woody species to form the forest here. And when I bump on my hikes into stumps of cut down hazelnut trees, I am always amazed by their vitality and how fast they grow back!  Whether growing on its own, or crouching among the tree giants in a fully grown forest, this is the time of the year to spot the hazelnut tree easily.

So if you want to catch the first signs of pre-spring, head outside now, nature does not wait!