Mike Newby is Estate Warden at The Dartington Hall Trust. He oversees Dartington’s numerous conservation programmes, often working closely with our volunteers to help nature flourish across the estate.
Spring is almost upon us but the nights can still feel cold. Each day brings extra daylight in the evenings ready for the clocks to go forward and prepare us for the warmer months ahead.
This month you may be lucky and see the boxing March hares (Link: BBC) in the open grassland or in the arable fields. Each year this action is part of a ritual known as mate guarding.
It is when the female comes into season and the males take more of an interest: the buck hare follows them closely to avoid losing his mate. He will fight off other males who come into his territory to try and take his mate.
Hares are few and far between in Devon, and are mainly seen on the eastern side of Britain in east Anglia, Lincolnshire and Essex.
Listen out too for one of the first migratory birds to return to these shores, the chiff-chaff (Link: RSPB). This bird has a unique repetitive call: ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’. They are a small green warbler found in scrubland and woodlands.
In March you can see the early yellow petal flowers called lesser-celandines on the grass verges and in the woodlands. The lesser-celandines are one of the food plants for the oil beetle so you might get more than you bargain for when looking at the plants in the countryside.
You may also notice the wood anemone and the violets poking their purple heads out along the woodland floor. Feast your eyes to the hedgerows where you will see the white blackthorn blossom which shows itself before the hawthorn blossom which flowers later in May. Dartington’s hedgerows are benefiting from our participation in a Environmental Stewardship scheme, which you can read more about here.