While the official first day of spring was three weeks ago, many in the northern hemisphere are only just starting to experience warmer weather. People, plants, and animals are beginning to emerge from their winter modes to step outside, bloom, and otherwise welcome the sunshine. These photos show glimpses of the new season from around the world, as we shake off the winter and greet the spring.
Stella Ferruzola, 3, poses with a Blue Morpho butterfly on her nose at the Sensational Butterflies Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, on March 25, 2013. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor)
The freezing weather has led to flocks of starlings - which would not normally be seen in the country at this time of year - delay their migration to Scandinavia because it's actually colder here.
In Denmark's capital Copenhagen, temperatures of 6C were forecast today while temperatures in the South of England were barely above freezing yesterday, with the thermometer plunging below -4C in Cumbria.
Huddling: A million starlings fly together over Swindon in an attempt to keep warm last night
Unusual: The birds would not normally be seen over the UK at this time of year
Migration: They have delayed their flight on to Scandinavia because of the cold weather in the UK
This weekend temperatures will climb to 11C in some parts, with widespread sunshine, although in Kent it will remain strikingly cold at around 6C.
The start of next week will see dry, sunny but bitterly cold conditions in most places, with Atlantic frontal systems coming in later in the week bringing somewhat warmer weather accompanied by the possibility of rain.
'Over the weekend it is still going to be cold for many people but it will be drier and brighter, said Met Office forecaster Sarah Holland.
'It is still going to feel cold. In London we're looking at temperatures of 5-6C on Saturday, getting up to 7-8C through to Sunday.
'Most places across the UK will be dry with sunny spells. There will be lighter winds, so those icy chills will be around no longer.'
Refuge: The birds would normally be in Scandinavia by now, but it may be too cold for them to fly
Swarm: Birdwatchers have been delighted with the unusual spectacle appearing over Swindon
Average temperatures for April are not forecast to return until the second half of the month - but even this will bring little relief to freezing Britain as it is accompanied by heavy rainfall.
Last year was one of the wettest on record, but water companies have nonetheless asked customers to be cautious in their usage amidst fears a drought could come at any time.
Yesterday was believed to be the coldest April day since the 1960s in places.
At Heathrow, where the mercury peaked at 3.3C, it was the chilliest April day since 1966, while a top temperature of 2.7C in Wattisham, Suffolk, made it the coldest since 1968.
In some parts of the South, the mercury struggled to get into single figures at all, staying at 0C in Wych Cross, Sussex, and Kenley, Surrey.
Extraordinary photographs taken in Swindon last night showed how around a million sparrows formed a 'murmuration' over the town.
Picturesque: The freezing temperatures have at least given opportunities to lovers of nature
Crowd: The RSPB attributed the appearance of the migratory birds to the unusual weather
Extraordinary: The combination of the Wiltshire sunset and the starlings created a picturesque vista
Million-strong flock: The birds wheeled around in formation, apparently keeping together for warmth
'Essentially it is the old adage of safety in numbers, that is how they survive through the night,' said Stewart Dobson of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
'As a species starlings need to rest in very large numbers together. When they come down to the ground they huddle together to get extra warmth.
'Because it is so cold they have come into the town to get yet another couple of degrees of warmth.
'That's the reason they are in Swindon, because we have had one of the coldest Marches on record they have moved into the town rather than out in the countryside.'
Nationwide: Another flock of starlings was pictured at the end of Aberystwyth Pier this week
Surprise: Photographer Ben Andrew describes the chance find in West Wales as 'breathtaking'
Contrast: A year ago, water levels at Bewl Water in Kent had seriously dropped thanks to drought (left); now persistent rainfall has filled up the reservoir (right)
Shortage? Despite the contrast between April 2012 (left) and this month (right), consumers have been warned to save water amidst fears of a possible drought
A spokesman for the RSPB said: 'Normally the non-resident birds would have headed back to Northern Europe and Scandinavia to breed by now, but the RSPB’s had a few calls from people seeing big starling flocks recently.'
The spokesman added: 'We’ll never know for sure, but there’s a good possibility the recent bad weather is the cause of their prolonged stay in the UK - they might not want to battle the strong, cold winds coming across the country so are sitting tight until the conditions ease.'
In the New Forest, more than 300 ponies, donkeys and cattle have been removed from the pasture and returned to their owners for their own safety during the freeze.
The national park's agisters, skilled foresters charged with overseeing its famous ponies, are desperate for the weather to improve before the herds give birth later this month.
'This year has been particularly bad,' head agister Jonathan Gerelli said. 'Prolonged cold and wet weather affects the ponies more than other stock so we have been very, very busy.'
RESERVOIRS ARE FULL AFTER ONE OF THE WETTEST YEARS EVER... BUT CUSTOMERS STILL TOLD TO SAVE WATER
Last year was one of the wettest in UK history - but now Britons are being warned to save water.
Reservoirs, rivers and lakes are well above their average levels after 2012 proved to be the second rainiest since records began.
However, water companies have issued statements advising their customers to 'use water wisely' to avoid the risk of a drought in the near future.
Thames Water said: 'While water use restrictions this year are highly unlikely, we would ask everyone to continue using water wisely, because we are never more than 18 months of very dry weather away from a drought.'
South East Water and Anglia Water echoed their rival's message.
In April 2012, hosepipe bans were introduced in some regions, quickly leading to ridicule when the summer was washed out in a deluge of rainfall.
Suffering: County Durham was hit with a fresh blast of snow overnight as winter showed little sign of going away
Stranded: A farmhouse near Barnard Castle sits in the middle of snowdrifts after fresh snow which has continued into April
Picturesque: But residents of the affected areas are quickly becoming fed up with the non-stop snowfall
Brave: Punters in Cambridge took to the waters but made sure to wrap up warm in the notoriously windy city
Sunny: But Britain has been squeezed with chilly weather even though it looks fine
RARE FLOWERS CAN'T BLOSSOM
Britain's washout weather means that the country's rarest flower has failed to bloom this April.
80 per cent of snake's head fritillaries grow in a 110-acre meadow in Wiltshire - but the plants are showing no sign of flowering thanks to the water-logged ground.
Conservationists have told the thousands of nature-lovers who normally flock to the area to stay away this year.
Summer flooding last year prevented farmers from cutting hay and grazing animals in the meadow, which encourages the fritillary to grow.
The wild flowers, coloured with green and purple checks, were once widespread across Britain, but are now limited to a handful of flood meadows.
John Lee, a forecaster with Meteogroup, said: ‘There are signs [the cold snap] will break down next week and we’ll see a return to slightly milder conditions.
‘The average temperature [for this time of year] is about 13C and there are signs of that next week.
‘Compared to what we have had, that will feel quite nice but it will be accompanied by some rain.’
Sarah Holland from the Met Office added: 'Spring is almost here, so it seems. We are gradually going to see a bit of a turn in the weather as we move into next week.'
A spring flower show held for 138 years had to be cancelled in Kent yesterday as snow fell across the county.
Brenchley and Matfield Horticultural Society announced the continuous freezing weather had resulted in no entries in the tulips and camellias categories. Other spring flowers such as daffodils were in very short supply.
Society spokesman Colin Brown said for this reason the show, due to be held last Saturday, was axed.
He said: 'The weather has got the better of us. It has been so cold that so many flower classes will have nothing in them such as the tulips, camellias and spring flowers.
'Nothing has come into flower yet as well as very few daffodils.
'I often enter the majority of the 40 or so flower classes but this year I would be hard pressed to enter six classes and it seems most of our members are having the same problem.'
Sign of spring? Nine-year-old Hannah Phelps relaxing among the crocuses in Lister Park in Bradford today
Playful: But typical April temperatures are not expected to return until the second half of the month
Visitors enjoy walking through moss phlox at a garden in Tatebayashi, Gunma prefecture, about 80 km north of Tokyo, on April 7, 2013. Over 400,000 blossoming moss phlox are expected to attract many visitors until the upcoming Japanese "Golden Week" holiday season in late April and early May. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images) #
A newborn lamb sleeps on its mother's back in a barn on a farm in the Wiltshire village of Edington, England, on March 21, 2013. Despite the poor weather the lambing season, which normally runs from February to May, is well under way. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
A man dressed as the Easter Bunny is given a warning by California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Griffiths in La Mesa, California, on March 31, 2013. The man was stopped on his motorcycle for not wearing a proper safety helmet and because his costume might impair his vision.(Reuters/CHP) #
Spectators watch as participants dance and throw colored chalk during the Holi Festival of Colors at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, on March 30, 2013. According to organizers 50,000 people were expected pack the temple grounds to celebrate Holi, the passing of winter to spring, and throw colorful powder throughout the day. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
A vehicle plies between walls of snow after the Srinagar-Leh highway opened to traffic in Zojila, 108 km (67 mi) east of Srinagar, on April 6, 2013. The 443 km-long highway was opened by Indian army authorities for traffic on Saturday after remaining snowbound at Zojila Pass, 3,530 meters (11,581 feet) above sea level, for the past six months. The pass connects Kashmir with the Buddhist-dominated Ladakh region, a tourist destination known for its monasteries, landscapes and mountains. (Reuters/Danish Ismail) #
A buttercup (Eranthis hyemalis) blossoms through the spring snow in the "Gardens of the World" in Berlin, on March 27, 2013.(Soeren Stache/AFP/Getty Images) #
A swan swims in the early spring sun at the inner city harbor in Berlin, on March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) #
A Cherry tree in bloom at Scott circle in downtown Washington, D.C., on April 08, 2013. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images) #
People photograph frozen branches at the Afsluitdijk in Den Oever, Netherlands, on March 23, 2013.(Catrinus Van Der Veen/AFP/Getty Images) #
A steeplejack clears snow and icicles from a roof in the center of Kiev, Ukraine, on March 27, 2013. Kiev came to life after record-breaking snow that blanketed the capital and other parts of the country over the weekend. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #
The passenger ship "Soderarm" heads in a channel cut through the ice by an icebreaker to the jetty of the island Husaro in the Stockholm archipelago in Sweden, on April 5, 2013. According to the Swedish Metereological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), the ice coverage in the Baltic was the thickest and most extensive ever on record. (Reuters/Anders Wiklund/Scanpix Sweden) #
Swans fly over the frozen Strela Sound at the Baltic Sea port of Stralsund, Germany, on April 2, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Stefan Sauer) #
A Kashmiri woman walks in a tulip garden on the outskirts of Srinagar, India, on April 3, 2013. (AP Photo/ Mukhtar Khan) #
A tree with snow near the Imperial Ancestral Temple following overnight snowfall on March 20, 2013 in Beijing, China. Beijing witnessed a heavy spring snowfall with a depth reaching 10-17 centimeters overnight. (Feng Li/Getty Images) #
Newborn lambs huddle under heat lamps at Gwndwnwal Farm on April 1, 2013 in Brecon, Wales. Dai Brute runs Gwndwnwal Farm in Llan-Talyllyn, with his wife Dulcie Brute and son Paul Brute. The recent cold snap has meant that farmers have had to continue feeding their sheep long into the period when they would normally be able to survive on grass in more mild weather. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images) #
Spring flowers bloom inside the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales on March 5, 2013 near Carmarthen, Wales.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
A hare cowers in the snow on March 21, 2013 in a field near Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany. (Patrick Pleul/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Falla burns during the last day of the Las Fallas Festival on March 20, 2013 in Valencia, Spain. The Fallas festival, which runs from March 15 until March 19, celebrates the arrival of spring with fireworks, fiestas and bonfires of large puppets named Ninots.(David Ramos/Getty Images) #
Daffodils, with the London Eye seen behind them, after days of wintery weather, in central London, on April 6, 2013.(Reuters/Luke MacGregor) #
Belarussian people take part in a Slavic "Spring welcome" festival in the village of Viazynka, about 40km (25 miles) northwest of Minsk, on March 23, 2013. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #
An Afghan boy sells balloons during a gathering to celebrate the Afghan New Year (Nawroz) in Kabul, on March 21, 2013. Nawroz, also known as Persian New Year, is observed during the March equinox, marking the first day of spring. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
People look at cherry blossoms in full bloom in Tokyo, on March 24, 2013. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images) #
Raindrops hang on to Crocuses at Kew Gardens on March 1, 2013 in Kew, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) #
Children play under a rainbow tarp on a warm, spring day in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on April 1, 2013.(Reuters/Gary Cameron) #
Spring flowers bloom among gravestones in a church yard in Knutsford, northern England, on March 19, 2013. (Reuters/Phil Noble) #
Volker Kraft decorates a tree with around 10,000 Easter eggs in a garden in Saalfeld, Germany, on March 19, 2013. The retired couple Christa and Volker Kraft have been decorating their tree at Easter for more than forty years. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer) #
A woman gestures during a sun salutation, on the beach in Nice, southeastern France, on March 19, 2013.(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau) #
Visitors ride a boat in the Chidorigafuchi moat covered with petals of cherry blossoms in Tokyo, on April 1, 2013. (Reuters/Toru Hanai) #
A young man and woman enjoy the sun and spring-like temperatures on a pier at Lake Starnberg in Niederpoecking near Munich, Germany, on March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Andreas Gebert) #
Lightning steaks across the sky behind the Young Meadows Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 18, 2013. Strong storms moved across much of Alabama on Monday, bringing hail, high winds, and heavy rainfall as a cold front passed through the state.(AP Photo/Dave Martin) #
A woman and child pose for another photographer, under the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin that are starting to bloom, Friday, April 5, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The blossoms are blooming a little later than expected due to the unseasonably cool weather.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #
A woman sits on a park bench and enjoys the sunny spring day in Mainz, Germany, on March 5, 2013.(Fredrik Von Erichsen/AFP/Getty Images)