Our top 10 wildlife sightings for March
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.
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 the apart.
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 comes from the Saxon word for rump because of the white markings on their rumps.
Brimstones and other early butterflies
Look out for brimstones, the large yellow butterflies that may have given ‘butter flies’ their name.
They emerge from their winter hiding places on warm days and are a sure sign that spring is one its way. We’ve already seen brimstones flying around the grounds at our head office.
Other butterflies that spend the winter as adults include peacocks and red admirals so keep an eye out for these too.
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.
These pretty plants, with yellow, star-shaped flowers and heart-shaped leaves, bloom in woodlands and along hedgerows. Along with other spring flowers they are an important source of nectar and pollen for insects.
Crocuses emerging from the ground are a familiar sight in many gardens. But Inkpen Crocus Field, 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. Visit during the first couple of weeks in March to see them at their best.
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’.
Lords and ladies
This strange looking plant is fairly common in woodlands 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?
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.
Blackthorn is an important plant for wildlife throughout the year. 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 is essential for the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, which lays its eggs there.