This Month on the Emmbrook
What to look for if you are out and about in

MARCH

General

Riverside Walk

Although there can be warm days, March can often remain in the grip of the winter weather. However it is impossible not to feel the mounting anticipation of Spring and notice the new emergent life. As the nights get longer, and at last the clocks change ("spring forward"), there is a renewed optimism for the new season ahead.

Birds

Chiffchaff

As more summer migrants arrive in late March, the woodland dawn chorus will swell. However the resident birds (Song thrushes, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Great Tit and Robin) are already in full song proclaiming their territories to all comers. One of the first migrants to arrive is the Chifchafff with its repetitive and distinctive song. These birds will have flown from West Africa to be here. The Chiffchaff is a small green warbler found in woodlands and scrubby areas.

Insects

Bumblebees especially the Buff-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris) can be seen buzzing around on the warmer days. This is a widespread and common Bumble Bee. The large, conspicuous overwintered queens are often among the first bumble bees to appear in spring, often occurring in late February/early March. Nectar sources are scarce at this time. They are black with a dull yellow band just in front of the wings, and another across the middle of the body. The abdomen of the queen is buff coloured, but workers are very similar to white-tailed bumble bees. This species nests below ground.

Dormant throughout the winter, Ladybirds wake-up in March and April and begin looking for partners to mate with. Ladybirds are normally found wherever there is food for them. Any plant, shrub or tree with greenfly or scale insects may attract Ladybirds.

Butterflies

Brimstone Butterfly (Male)
The first butterfly of the year to emerge from hibernation is the beautiful lemon yellow male and greenish white female Brimstone. It is possible that the word butterfly is derived from the yellow butter colour of this species . The adult is an important pollinator of the yellow Primroses flowering at this time, whereas its caterpillars feed only on Buckthorn.

Other Wildlife

In March and April bats emerge from their winter hibernation, to hunt out flying insects on which they feed. In towns the small pipistrelle is the most common species. Bats are very particular in their hibernating sites requiring a stable temperature and humidity. Toads start to emerge from their wintering hiding places and move towards their chosen breeding ponds.<

Plants & Trees

Along the banks of the Emm towards the end of the month the Blackthorn (also known as sloe) flowers. Their bushes are covered in clouds of white blossom borne on its dark, thorn laden branches. This shrub is sometimes confused with Hawthorn, but the Hawthorn does not flower until May and comes into leaf before the blossom opens. A sure sign of spring is the apperance of the furry looking catkins of the 'pussy' willow, found in damp places.

Early Lesser Celandines have already shown their yellow petals to the sun, however when its dull the flowers remain closed.