Winter is departing and spring magic is in the air. These are some signs that you should look out for when you come to visit or stay with us in the Essex countryside.
Birdsong: The Great Tit
From the start of warmer days in February, great tits tentatively sound out mates and neighbours with a clear two note call: tee-cher, tee-cher, tee-cher.
It’s a spirited, hopeful call that grows stronger in March until late April as the bird leaves the stage to feed its first brood of young. In its place, other species, especially woodland birds such as willow warblers and chiffchaffs, fill the airwaves alongside native blackbirds, songthrushes and robins.
Emerging animals: The March Hare
The new growth of grasses, herbs and wildflowers is a huge boost for hares in spring.
They do not hibernate so, being large and active mammals, they need a constant supply of food throughout the year which is something that only habitats rich in native flora can provide.
As these habitats become rarer, so have hares. But now is one of the best times to see them, before the vegetation has grown high enough to hide them.
Hedgerow blossoms: White flowers of Blackthorn
These tiny frosty white flowers cover the hedgerows from early March and are an important early source of nectar for bees and other insects.
As the insects forage, they pollinate the flowers and by autumn these will have developed into sloes.
The blackthorn fiercely protects its wares with sharp spines up to 3 cm long. Blackthorn leaves are feasted on through the summer by a number of butterfly and moth caterpillars, including black and brown hairstreaks.