Wildlife and Places to See in March!
Here you can find out about the wildlife you can seen in Wiltshire and Swindon at the moment. Visit this months featured site to see a wealth of wildlife, take a look at our identification guide to find out a group you are most likely to see, don’t forget to send us in your records!
Three To Spot
Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni Thought to have inspired the word 'butterfly' due to the butter-yellow colour of the males, the Brimstone is one of the first butterflies to appear on sunny days in March but since it is such a long-lived species butterflies may be seen throughout the year even though there is only one brood per year. The adults on the wing now hatched from pupae last August and hibernated through the winter. The wings of the female are very pale green, almost white, males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upperwings; both the male and the female Brimstones have an orange spot on each of their wings. Mainly found in scrubby grassland and woodland where the foodplants Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn occur, the Brimstone ranges widely and can often be seen flying along roadside verges and hedgerows.
White Lipped Snail - Cepaea hortensis Snails start to emerge from hibernation this month, one of the most distinctive is the White Lipped Snail, identifiable by the pale rim around the shell aperture. Look out for the pale band around the opening to identify this species as the colour of the shell is highly variable from plain, pale yellow, to a pink, brown or red, with up to 5 variable spiral dark bands, which seems to correlate to the degree of camouflage on different habitats ranging from gardens and hedgerows to dense woodlands. Ranges in height from 10 to 18 mm and with a diameter of 14 to 22 mm. The body of the snail is usually greenish-grey becoming yellow towards the rear.
Woodcock - Scolopax rusticola The Woodcock is a portly wading bird with short legs, and a very long straight tapering bill, big eyes and red-brown plumage. For most the year, finding Woodcocks can be a difficult experience, well camouflaged in mottled brown and keeping perfectly still, they perfectly match their surroundings, a brief glimpse as it dashes away is often the only sighting. However, in spring the males begin their territorial displays making them much easier to spot. Their territorial 'roding' flights are best seen at dusk and consist of the males flying slowly, circling trees, croaking and whistling.
This Months Must See
Common Toads - Bufo bufo
All winter Common Toads have been hibernating under deep leaf litter, logs or in burrows, only occasionally will they hibernate in mud at the bottom of a pond. Now their urge to breed is irresistible. Emerging from hibernation Common Toads head for their ancient breeding grounds crossing fields and roads where many are killed as they cross roads to reach the ponds that they return to each year. There is a lot of competition between the males for the females and ‘mating balls’ can often be seen as males try to take a female from another male, early evening is the best time to see this spectacle. When mating is successful eggs are laid in long double strings (unlike the frog clump of spawn) amongst vegetation. This is the only time of year that Common Toads are seen together, or near to water.
Early Flowering Plants
Could you look out for early flowering plants for us? Trees are coming into leaf sooner, and some spring flowers are increasingly being seen coming into bloom in November and December. By collecting valuable information on when you saw the first Blackthorn blossom or Hazel catkin we will be able to demonstrate how climate change is affecting our wildlife. Find out about the early flowering plants you may see this month with our ID guide
Explore Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve
Morgan’s Hill is one of the highest points in Wiltshire and boasts incredible views of the surrounding county. Walkers and wildlife watchers can enjoy a rewarding backdrop to their climb, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly which feeds on the Devil’s-bit Scabious found here during late summer. Indeed, the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of its grassland. Visit this month to see clusters of Marsh Fritillary larvae basking in the sun. Find out more about Morgan's Hill in March.