Wild Shropshire

What could you see this month?

Young red fox (Vulpes vulpes) amongst daffodils, urban park, Bristol, winter. - Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

Spring is in the air

With a record high level of rainfall this winter, we are all looking forward to spring. Read on for our top picks for places to visit and find out what wildlife and plants to look out for this month.

Reserves to visit this month

WIth over 40 to choose from, here are our favourites to visit at this time of the year.

What to look out for

From early spring flowers and farmland birds to frosty footprints there’s plenty of things to see.

Buff-tailed bumblebee

Buff-tailed bumblebee (c) Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Buff-tailed bumblebee

Most bumblebees spend the winter in hibernation, however the plucky buff-tailed bumblebee is active throughout the colder months. Like any other time of the year they require energy from nectar so consider planting winter flowering plants in your garden to give them a helping hand.

Some plants include: Pussy willow, winterflowering honeysuckle, snowdrops, winter aconite and primrose.

If you do find a tired bee, don't take it inside, but instead pop it on a nearby flower or in a sheltered part of the garden, or you could also feed it a mix of white sugar and water.

Have a look at our species pages to help you identify a bee or for more information about gardening for wildlife, click here.

Pussy willow catkin

Close-up of pussy willow catkin (Salix caprea) (c) Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Pussy Willow

The catkins of the pussy willow are an early sign of spring and as mentioned above, an important source of winter nectar. Resembling cats paws, pussy willow is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Male catkins appear slightly earlier, soft fuzzy white catkins become yellow as they develop, female catkins are longer and greener.

As well as being an early souce of nectar, pussy willow is important for moth caterpillars and it is the main food plant for the purple emperor butterfly.

Grey heron

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) (c) Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Grey heron

The grey heron is our earliest nesting bird. They lay eggs in February with young fledging in April when many other birds are still incubating their eggs.

Herons nest in colonies called 'Heronries', often in the top of trees. Here, they make their large, ungainly nests out of twigs and lay 3-4 eggs. One of the best Heronries is in Ellesmere on Moscow Island, which lies 40m off the shore by The Boathouse. Dozens of these majestic birds can be seen sitting on their nests from February until June. Ellesmere Heronwatch volunteers are on hand in the cafe there to answer questions each weekend. There is also live video footage of the nests on display. video films of the herons and their chicks.

WildNet - Tom Marshall

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs start to emerge from hibernation in spring. They will be hungry after losing almost a third of their body weight during the winter!

They may struggle to find food so it is always helpful to leave a small saucer of cat food (not fish based) and fresh water in your garden.

Follow the links below to find out more about helping hedgehogs, or to read about our latest project, Hedgehog Heroes of Shropshire, click here.

Wren

Wren (c) Stewart McDonald

The dawn chorus

The dawn chorus signifies the coming of spring and is regarded as one of natures phenomenoms. As the days get longer, birds sing to attract a mate and protect their territories. It begins in March and will carry through until its peak in May.

Females will choose a male that produces a strong and impressive song, therefore it is more likely to pass successful genes onto young.

Head out about an hour before dawn, or join a dawn chorus walk with a specialist on hand to help identify bird calls. We have some planned so visit our events pages to join one.

 

Frog and toad spawn

Frogs and toads emerge from hibernation to breed from February. They produce spawn in great quantities as only a small proportion will reach adulthood.

Toads will be seen slightly later, their spawn is formed of long strands, rather than the clumpy jelly produced by frogs. It is best to not move spawn from pond to pond as this can spread disease.

Frog spawn

Frog spawn (c) Stephen Barlow

Toad spawn

Toad spawn (c) Dr John Wilkinson

How can you help wildlife in your garden?

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Craig Baker