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By Catherine MunroMarch 25th 2024

It is often said that spring walks up the country, making its way from south to north, each new leaf and bud evidence of its journey.

After a winter of snow and storms, when spring reaches Shetland it is spectacular, our landscapes filling with birds and wildflowers. Sunlight and longer days bring warmth and brightness, and the wildlife has a new energy.

Da Gairdins

'Da Gairdins i Sand', always a fantastic place to visit, has an extra magic at this time of year. We had some beautiful weather in February and early March with surprising warmth in the sun and several days without wind. From keeping an eye on Shetland wildlife social media pages, I knew frogs were returning to ponds across the islands. So packing a picnic, I took the bairns to Da Gairdins.

Established in 1991, this area of woodland and ponds, is a haven for wildlife. If you time it right, choosing a sunny day in early spring, you might be rewarded with hundreds of frogs.

You can hear them long before you see them, a chorus of voices as males advertise their presence, attracting females from miles around to this place. The pond’s surface is punctuated with frogs' heads and eyes, their bodies surrounded by so much frogspawn that it seems as though the water itself has become solid.

If you quietly watch you see more and more frogs join them, emerging from the trees to join those already in the water.

Just beyond the treeline silver waves crashed and against the rocky shore. Despite the stillness of the day, the sea was restless, remembering the storm that had been, or perhaps predicting another on its way.

Oystercatchers and curlew called from the beach while a blackbird sang exuberantly from a nearby tree. Other than that, there was silence and I realised we were too early for frogs.

I do this every year, as the excitement of new light tells me spring has arrived a little before it actually has. Yet, there were still plenty signs of new life emerging from winter ground.

In sheltered sunny places crocus and celandine provided a splash of colour and daffodils grew tall, a little yellow visible through tightly closed buds.

Exploring in spring

Some trees had a little green, fragile leaves unfurling to meet new season’s sun. Even the leafless branches had life as worlds of lichen grew and a tiny wren sang from one of the lower branches.

Although the area is relatively small, the network of paths and sheer diversity withing the environment means you can easily spend a day exploring.

Among the trees these are several benches and picnic areas and even a traditional Shetland shed, with an upturned boat as its roof.

With few areas of woodland in Shetland this place is a fantastic opportunity to experience something different and celebrate the changing season.

From the puffins' return to the Shetland Folk Festival, discover more things to do and places to explore on the Spring page.