Welcome to the BBOWT blog

Get an insider's view into the work of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. Find out what conservation work we're carrying out and meet some of the wonderful people, from our reserves staff to our trainees, that are behind everything we do.

Email updates

Sign up to get new posts in your RSS Reader

Smartphone Safari

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. 

My Wild Wish

What are your 2018 wishes for wildlife? Take a look at #MyWildWish collection created by the BBOWT team and friends. 

Back to blog listings

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: Monday 26th February 2018 by bbowtblog

Boxing hares by Andy Rouse2020VISIONBoxing hares by Andy Rouse2020VISION

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 Andy Rouse/2020VISION

It really is spring when you see boxing hares! The 'mad March boxing' is usually a female or 'jill' fending off the attentions of a male 'jack', either to show that she is not ready to mate yet or as a test of his determination.

If you haven’t seen one yet look out for Britain’s fastest, wild, land mammal in the grassland at College Lake and the open meadows at Chimney Meadows. These amazing creatures are 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 Primroses

The sight of primroses in woodland, on hedgebanks and waysides is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Did you know the name derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning first rose of the year.  

7 Violets

Sweet violet (Viola odorata) is the first of the violets of the year to bloom. This is the only violet that has a fragrance so take a sniff! Later in spring look for common dog-violet in woods and hedge-banks. Hairy violet grows in grassland and scrubby areas on lime and chalk. Did you know dog-violets got their name because they don’t have any scent and were thought to be only fit for dogs!

8 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.

9 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’.

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.

Read bbowtblog's latest blog entries.