Meteorological spring officially begins on 1st March every year as this is based on our calendar months, while there is a bit of a wait for astronomical spring which is based on the position of the Earth in relation to the sun.
Spring means breeding and growing season for most wildlife, with flowers blooming, trees coming into leaf, nest and den building and hungry mouths to feed.
This year March 3rd is World Wildlife Day too, so here are some of the first local spring sights to look out.
Hazel catkins are often some of the first hints that spring is on the way, arriving before the leaves of the hazel trees. These catkins are closely followed by another - the grey fur of pussy willow. Blackthorn blossom is also beginning to appear, with the delicate white flowers blooming before the leaves on this common hedge plant.
On the ground look for bright yellow celandines, fragrant sweet violets and perhaps take a second glance at dandelions. If they have a scaly stem and a more defined middle section they could be the flowers of colt’s-foot which grow on disturbed ground.
On the wing
Some of the first butterflies to take advantage of the warmer weather are species which have been hibernating over winter in their adult forms.
The striking colour of brimstone butterflies gives them their name, look for them flitting along sunny lanes. Red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacocks are also among some of the first insects to spot.
As our climate changes spring is getting earlier every year – on average spring now arrives eleven days earlier than in the 19th century. This can have negative impacts on our wildlife, as species that rely on temperature changes to wake from torpor or begin their spring activities wake earlier, those that rely on day length suffer from a lag. This ‘decoupling’ can result in some animals becoming out-of-sync with the peak in availability of food sources. Coupled with the more unpredictable weather climate change is bringing, wildlife is under pressure. Please remember this when you visit the Trust’s nature reserves and ensure you follow the signage in place. Our nature reserves are primarily places for wildlife to thrive, and activities which are not allowed will further disturb and harm wildlife populations.