Winter weather remains for the time being – despite the meteorological winter period having now formally ended – although the days are getting longer as the Spring Equinox (20th March) approaches (when the Sun is directly over the Equator and day and night are of equal length).
There are also a few early signs of spring life showing through.
Our farmers are starting to put their over-wintered livestock back outdoors, and the heartening sight of new-born spring lambs will soon offer a joy to behold out in the fields.
Wildlife activity is also gradually returning, with bright yellow flowers beginning to bloom 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, 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, 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 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 active wildlife now however is to be found in ponds, where you can find a gelatinous mass 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.
And of course 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. Love is in the air!?