I looked across to the hillside opposite my house this morning and detected the first whiff of spring in the canopy. The hillside has changed its tone, ever so slightly, from the tawny tones of winter to a hint of the rich green to come.

Parcels of greenery are waiting to be teased into life by the warming sun, and as they do so, the hillside will undergo a wonderful transformation to welcome the returning insects and birdlife.

I spotted a hare lolloping along in a field at the weekend, as if trying to keep up with our car, and was reminded that animals are now out and about looking for places to rear this year's young. As the days lengthen, foraging activity can be interspersed with courting behaviour and other less pressing activities. There is even time for some play.

If you see a couple of boxing hares this March, remember that they are most likely to be a Jack and Jill hare rather than two males. The females easily get tired of the unwanted amorous advances of the males and can fend them off quite forcefully.

Soon the first sand martins and wheatears will be with us, fresh from trans-Saharan journeys to their summer quarters. In their wake, a host of feathered seasonal visitors will follow, eager to seek our the best nesting sites in our temperate habitats.

I always enjoy your letters and emails and a message from Mrs Stanley indicated that wading birds are now very active around Gargrave. She reported four curlews and no less than six lapwings calling, apparently on territories, together with two oystercatchers sitting on the canal wall.

We are fortunate in the Dales still to have a healthy population of these waders, which have declined so dramatically in other parts of England. Our area is still one of the few places that you can virtually guarantee to hear the evocative call of the curlew during an early morning walk.

I'm pleased to say that Otley's parrots have survived the winter - unless a late cold snap sees them off. The birds - a yellow-winged Amazon and an African grey parrot - have found a cosy spot on a church chimney where they can keep warm. Today, as the sun shone strongly, they were belting out strange and exotic calls, attracting puzzled glances from passers by.

The parrots never fail to raise a smile, and are fast becoming an amusing tourist attraction in the town.