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Nature of Britain Calendar: March

Updated Friday, 29th February 2008

This month we see the first stirrings of spring, and for many, the long hibernation is coming to an end

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Speckled wood butterfly on a bramble Creative commons image Icon Cath In Dorset under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license A speckled wood butterfly on a bramble

Do one thing

Set aside a corner of your garden for wild plants such as nettle and bramble.

This will provide cover for small mammals and food for a variety of insects including butterflies.

What to look for

Spring is in the air and many animals are coming out of hibernation. Peacock, comma and brimstone butterflies all fly on sunny days.

Long-tongued flower bees, looking like small black or brown bumblebees, visit garden plants such as lungwort. And the bee-fly, which looks like a bee but with a long snout, searches for nectar among the blooms of primrose, lesser celandine, butterbur or wood anemone. These plants are important sources of food for hoverflies and solitary bees.

Some birds are already breeding: noisy rooks in their treetop colonies and coastal gannets. The first chiffchaffs cash in on the insect supply and sing from sallow bushes in sunny woods.

On downland and coastal grassland, smart wheatears, fresh in from Africa, are flirting their white rumps on their way to upland breeding haunts.

You may see young rabbits above ground for the first time in fields and roadside verges. It is a busy time for voles too, with families to feed; you may catch a glimpse of one in a hedgerow or field border.

Now is a good time to look in streams for freshwater invertebrates, like mayfly and stonefly, as they prepare to emerge as adult insects.

Did you know

There are more than 1,000 species of moth at the National Trust’s Wicken Fen (the first ever nature reserve) in Cambridgeshire. Frogs in a pond Creative commons image Icon glisglis under CC-BY-NC-SA licence under Creative-Commons license Frogs in a pond

Habitat of the month: Freshwater, streams and ponds

Many invertebrates are getting ready to emerge at this time of year. Look for them as they are at their largest and most easily spotted. You don’t need a net, lift up a rock and see what’s there, but replace it carefully.

Photo opportunity: Ponds

It’s amphibian breeding season so there are loads of frogs. Take photos whilst they are distracted with each other. Keep quiet, wear dull clothing and keep low down.

Use a polarising filter to reduce glare from the water surface.

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