Yesterday (20.03.22) was officially the first day of spring, for weeks we have been seeing the promise of better days to come with the first sight of snowdrops pushing up through the frosty ground holds. The longer days and the sun’s warmth encourages nature to stir from its long winter’s sleep. The birds start singing, amphibians are on the move and tree buds are bursting with the potential of what this new season will bring.
Spring is an exciting time to plan for the year ahead and take advantage of the season’s boundless energy. At this time of year, Temple ecologists are getting ready to head out into the field as the busy survey season kicks off.
Many surveys are restricted by the seasons and weather, and spring is the best time to undertake protected species surveys. Our experienced team of ecologists are licenced to survey many species including:
One of the most iconic early signs of spring is the sight of frogspawn in ponds. There are seven different amphibian species in the UK. Two frog species (common and pool), two toad species (common and natterjack) and three newt species (great crested, smooth, and palmate). All of these migrate to waterbodies during the spring to reproduce. Frogs are one of the first to appear in ponds and will lay their eggs in clumps, whereas toads lay their eggs in long strings. Newts on the other hand wrap their eggs in aquatic vegetation, gently folding a leaf around each delicate egg.
Have a look in your local ponds to see what amphibians you can spot, and watch the tadpoles grow, it’s a great spring activity for kids and adults alike.
End of hibernation
As the days get warmer, more species will emerge from their winter sleep. There are only three UK mammals that truly hibernate; bats, dormice, and hedgehogs. Native UK reptiles also hibernate (alternatively called brumation) to survive the cold winter weather. All these species start to emerge during warm spring days with reptiles basking in the sunlight, bats hunting on the wing during warm evenings and hedgehogs can be seen about our gardens again.
Look out for reptiles basking in the early spring sunshine on south-facing slopes. Make sure to check compost heaps and log piles for reptiles. In the evening, you might be lucky to spot bats flying, making the most of the rise in temperatures and increase in insect prey. Listen out for snuffling hedgehogs in the garden also on the hunt for some food. Hedgehogs will have lost around a third of their body weight during hibernation, help them out by placing cat food out for them to eat.
The sound of birds singing is a sure sign that spring is truly here. Bird song intensifies in spring as birds defend their territories, attract mates, and prepare for nesting. You are likely to hear resident birds such as the blackbird, robin and great tit first, slowly being joined by migrant birds such as chiffchaff and blackcap. Bird song reaches its peak during May and June when the breeding season is in full swing.
Listen out for the dawn chorus and see if you can identify which birds are producing each song. Put out some food for the birds, they will need extra energy for all that singing.
Spring flowers and bursting blossoms
Parks and gardens will soon be vibrant with the colour of bright spring flowers; purples, pinks, blues, and yellows. Snowdrops are the first to brave the fresh spring air as early as January. They are soon followed by crocuses, daffodils, lesser celandine, and wood anemone. By the end of May, woodlands will be carpeted in purple as bluebells begin to emerge. Trees will be exploding in colour as blossoms and leaves cover the once bare branches.
Look out for golden tassels hanging from hazel trees, if you look even closer you may find a little gem. Hazel trees have both male and female flowers. The male flowers are called catkins which are the more prominent yellow tails dangling from the branches. The female flowers are crimson tufts, only a few millimetres long, protruding from green bud-like forms, once pollinated, it is here that the hazelnuts will develop.
Bees and butterflies
Spotting your first butterfly or hearing your first buzzing bee of the year is a clear sign that spring has arrived. The freshly emerged flowers will soon be humming with insects as they take advantage of the sweet nectar. Queen bees emerge early in warmer weather in search of a safe place to start a nest. Some bees to spot in spring include the tawny mining bee, red-tailed mason bee, hairy-footed flower bee and buff-tailed bumblebee. Butterflies that can be seen flitting across gardens on warm days include brimstone, red admiral, painted lady, and small tortoiseshell.
Plant a range of pollinator friendly plants that produce nectar-rich flowers throughout the whole year. Insect hotels that provide nesting opportunities for solitary bees and hibernation areas for overwintering butterflies are also a great way to support these insects at this time of year. Easily made from old bricks, bamboo, loose bark, dry leaves and sticks they can provide great garden habitats.
Today, the unpredictability of climate change, combined with political and social drivers for change, require enthusiastic, forward-thinking ecologists to draw together the necessary information and deliver workable solutions. Temple offers bespoke ecological services to facilitate design and implementation, from project inception to completion. This includes a broad range of both traditional and more specialist surveys, assessments, and advisory services, including Protected species and habitat surveys, Ecological Impact Assessment, Habitat Regulations Assessment and many more. To see the full range of services visit our ecology page.
Stay ahead of survey season with Temple’s Survey calendar.