Wildlife Photography in March
March signals the start of spring and although the days may be warm, there can often still be cold nights and it's not unlikely that some winter weather can pass through. However when out and about in the countryside it is impossible not to feel the anticipation of spring with both plant life and wildlife starting to emerge and take on new roles. At the end of the month the clocks change and the UK days start to get longer, so giving more time to get out and see what is happening around us.
Probably the most significant event of March in the wildlife calendar, although few of us probably see it, is the famous Mad March Hare, boxing in fields. These are in fact female brown hares fighting off the amorous males as they are trying to wait until the time is right to breed and do not want to copulate too early. If you want to try and glimpse this spectacle then the best time is in the early morning of in the evening at dusk, they can be found in most flat country on open grassland, especially near arable farms and use woodland and hedgerows as resting areas during the day. They rest in a shallow depression in the arable fields and can be difficult to spot at this stage even if the ground is bare and flat.
Mad March Hares Boxing by Nic Relton
Within the woodlands the ground is starting to become green with green shoots and many woodland wild flowers start to come into flower, including the yellow petals of the early lesser celandines, wood anemone, primroses, and the purple flowers of the sweet violet. Towards the end of the month, in the hedgerows, the blackthorn's delicate white flowers start to appear, whilst in damp areas the furry catkins of the 'pussy' willow will be seen hanging from branches. The race is now on for the inhabitants of the woodland floor to produce leaves and flowers before the leaves appear on the trees and block out some of the light.
If you're lucky you may also see the yellow trumpet flowers of the small wild daffodil. They can be found in the UK countryside any time from late February to early April. The exact flowering date will depend on the weather, a warm spring will prompt the flowers to come out earlier. For a list of some places where you may get a chance to photograph, besides your own garden of course, take a look here. In the garden as well as daffodils other bulbs should be out in flower, including a colourful array of crocuses. Whilst any Snowdrops will now be starting to think about closing up and leaving us for another year.
Road verges too are starting to green up as fresh new grass makes its way through the matted winter foliage. You may come across patches of coltsfoot, which looks like something between a daisy and dandelion, with it's yellow flower on a thick stem and furry leaves. White and Red Dead Nettle is also starting to flower. Along the roadside you may also see the first buds on the horse chestnut trees and elder. One easily missed plant that emerges this time of year is Wild Chives, they grow in straggly clumps often amongst grass which it is then mistaken for.
Coltsfoot and Pollen Beetle by Rachel
On heathlands gorse shines brightly in the spring sunshine with it's yellow flowers attracting the early insects. Early insect risers include Cranefly, Hoverflies, Earwigs, ladybirds who start to appear from their communal hibernation, and bumble bees will be out and about on warmer days. The first butterfly to emerge from hibernation is the Brimstone, the adult is an important pollinator of the primroses flowering at this time, it's caterpillars feed on buckthorn. Also the peacock butterfly should be out on sunny days where the adult is emerging to both feed and lay eggs. They feed on nectar from thistles.
During March and April bats start to emerge from their winter hibernation looking for early flying insects for sustenance, in towns the small pipistrelle is the most common species.
The dawn chorus starts to swell as our resident birds like the Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Robin and Great Tit are marking the territories for the coming season, towards the end of the month they are joined by the early summer migrants/visitors as they arrive. The first of these being the ChiffChaff and the Wheatear. Lapwings on the other hand start to establish their territories over arable farm land during March. They have a swirling, tumbling display dropping from the sky only to rise up again at the last minute, whilst calling 'peewit'. You may also see or more likely hear the first Cuckoo's as they start to look out of likely nests to invade.
Toads start to emerge from their winter hiding places and move towards their chosen breeding ponds. However Frogs are already there rising from the bottom of the pond where they have spent the winter and mating with vigour. The amorous males cling on to the females in large numbers, trying to ensure that the eggs laid are fertilised by them. It is surprising that the females survive. The adults stay in the pond until the weather is warmer in April. If they have already laid in your garden pond then a film of frogspawn will be floating on the surface, so take time to watch and observe as the tadpoles will start to hatch towards the end of the month.
Sticking with the water, Coots breed in March. These are plump little black water birds with a white patch above it's white bill. They will fight for territory using their long claws. Some of the estuary birds will have left now, such as the Curlew and Wigeon returning to their breeding grounds, others will be starting to prepare for their long journeys. However you could still see Oyster Catcher, Grey Heron, Little White Egret, Cormorant, Ringed Plover, Gulls, Canada Geese and others. Alongside rivers, ponds and canals you may also see pairs of Mute Swans starting to build their nests.
Coot by Wayne Keegan
See also the Nature and Wildlife Calendar - March
Other species can be found listed in the Wildlife and Animals section of the Topic Index and plants within the Nature, Flora and Countryside section, more lists may be found from the Wildlife & Nature index page within the reference section. These lists also give you links to other websites allowing you more information on what we have and haven't yet covered.
So What could you photograph this month