Spring has now officially arrived, believe it or not, with the start of the meteorological spring but the weather lies firmly in winter’s icy grip with the impact of the “beast from the east”!
Despite the current freezing temperatures, the sun’s warmth is getting stronger and the days getting longer as the Spring Equinox approaches on 20th March – when the Sun is directly over the Equator and day and night are of equal length. March like January will also have two full moons (the second one is known as a “blue moon”) , on the 2nd and 31st of the month, in contrast to February which had no full moon at all.
Once the cold snap is over, then farmers will start to put their over-wintered livestock back outdoors, and the heartening sight of new-born spring lambs will once again be a joy to behold out in the fields.
A few signs of spring life can be detected now if you look closely for them, including Snowdrops in flower for example. Soon the yellow spring flowers will be emerging, from Daffodils to Dandelions as well as the buttercup-like Lesser Celandine lighting up woodland floors. Hedgerows and scrub are also starting to come back to life, to be covered by the attractive white flowers of Blackthorn which emerge on bare twigs prior to the leaves.
Some insects will shortly re-appear on the wing also, such as Bumblebee queens scouting for nesting sites as well as the charismatic large Bee Fly (a bee mimic), remarkable for its unfeasibly long proboscis!
Bird activity and song is noticeably ramping up, with male birds declaring their territories and pairing up with mates, especially during the increasingly noisy cacophony of the dawn chorus. Our resident birds’ numbers are significantly boosted by the progressive appearance of summer migrants from more southern climes, one of the earliest arrivals being the Chiff-Chaff whose distinctive two-tone song is heralded as a sound of spring.
The most wildlife activity this month is to be found in ponds however, where there have already been instances of Frogs spawning although the subsequent freeze will have put an end to this. When the weather warms up there will be lots more gelatinous clumps of Frog and (later) Toad spawn, together with the writhing bodies of multiple adults whose sole focus is to mate! The tiny tadpoles within the eggs hatch after about a month to form a wriggling mass within the water.Lastly this month is most famous for its “Mad March” Hares, whose leaping and ‘boxing’ antics you may be lucky enough to witness upon the arable fields of the South Downs, as the females fend off the amorous attentions of enthusiastic males.