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Every weekend on BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Radio Oxford we broadcast a Smartphone Safari. Listen along as we explore some of our fantastic reserves and introduce you to the wildlife you can see. 

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Our top 10 wildlife sightings in March

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Tuesday 28th February 2017 by bbowtblog

Wheatear by Margaret Holland, boxing hares by Elliott Neep, brimstone by Chris GWheatear by Margaret Holland, boxing hares by Elliott Neep, brimstone by Chris Goddard

Spring is on its way and with it comes woodland flowers, returning migrant birds, and animals and insects making the most of the warmer days. How many of our 10 species will you see or hear this March?

1 Boxing hares

Boxing hares by Elliott Neep

It really is spring when you see boxing hares! If you haven’t seen one yet check out these facts and tips explaining how, where and when to spot Britain’s fastest, wild, land mammal, capable of speeds of up to 45 mph. 

2 Chiffchaffs

Chiffchaff by Margaret Holland

Chiffchaffs, the little brown birds that call their name ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’, are one of the first migrants to return from Africa. Some birds are even starting to spend the winters in the UK as the weather becomes milder. They’re very similar in appearance to willow warblers so their calls are the best way to tell them apart. Have a listen to a chiffchaff here:

3 Wheatears

Wheatear by Margaret Holland

These attractive birds return from their African winters and tend to pass through our area, heading further north or west to breed. The name 'wheatear' is thought to derive from a Saxon name meaning 'white rump' because of the white markings on their rumps.

4 Brimstones

Brimstone by Chris Goddard

Look out for brimstones, the large yellow butterflies that may have given ‘butter flies’ their name. We’ve had reports of sightings already this year. They emerge from their winter hiding places on warm days and are a sure sign that spring is one its way. Other butterflies that spend the winter as adults include peacocks and red admirals.

5 Basking snakes

Grass snake by Louise Print-Lyons

On sunny days in early spring you may catch a glimpse of grass snakes or adders basking in the sunlight. They’ve spent the winter tucked away, safe from predators and are now emerging and making the most of warmer weather.

6 Lesser celandine

 

Lesser celandine by Kate Dent

These pretty plants, with yellow, star-shaped flowers and heart-shaped leaves, bloom in woodland and along hedgerows. Along with other spring flowers they are an important source of nectar and pollen for insects.

7 Crocuses

Crocus by Adrian Wallington

Crocuses emerging from the ground are a familiar sight in many gardens at this time of year. But Inkpen Crocus Field nature reserve, in West Berkshire, is filled with hundreds of thousands of wild crocuses, which bloom each spring. No-one knows the exact reason why so many grow in this small field on the edge of the village, but whatever the reason the sight is truly spectacular. Read more about the crocuses and the reserve in Ali’s blog from last year.

8 Wood anemones

Wood anemones by Mick Jones

Carpets of wood anemones indicate areas of ancient woodland because these delicate plants spread very slowly, perhaps as little as six feet in a hundred years. The leaves have a musky smell, giving wood anemones one of their other common names ‘smell fox’.

9 Lords and ladies (cuckoo pint)

Lords and ladies by Kate Morel and Bjorn S/flickr.com

This strange looking plant is fairly common in woodland and along hedgerows, look for curls of green leaves pushing up through the earth at this time of year. It has a variety of common names, including cuckoo-pint and jack-in-the-pulpit. The flower is pollinated by flies and later in the year produces bright red berries, which are toxic to humans. Did you know they have starchy tubers which were used in the production of stiff ruffs in days gone by.

10 Flowering blackthorn

Blackthorn blossom by Kelly Thomas

Unusually for many trees, the blossom on blackthorn appears before the leaves, giving rise to the phrase ‘blackthorn winter’ when hedgerows are filled with blossom which can look like a covering of snow. The delicate white flowers are a useful source of nectar for insects in early spring. Later in the year sloes, the blackthorn’s fruit, provide food for birds. The thorny branches are ideal places for birds to safely nest and young blackthorn growth is essential for the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, which lays its eggs there.

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this season.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

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