March is a month of promise. The winter is drawing to a close and, as long as the weather is kind, some resident birds such as Robin and Blackbird will be nesting.
With a warming climate we have seen increasingly early arrivals of many summer migrants over recent years. Wetland nature reserves like the Trust’s Rutland Water and Cossington Meadows are good places to see some of these birds, for example Sand Martin and Swallow. The Warren Hills area of Charnwood Lodge NNR has become well known as a place to see Ring Ouzel and Wheatear and other early migrants. Ospreys return to Rutland Water during March.
In woodland nature reserves such as Prior's Coppice and Launde Big Wood, woodpeckers will be calling and 'drumming' on trees, spring flowers like Primrose and Wood Anemone will be starting to bloom and, with a bit of luck, it will be warm enough for a few butterflies to brighten our day.
Species of the month: Brown hare
The sight of brown hares boxing is one of spring’s natural delights with the best time to see this in March and April.
If you spot a group of hares chasing each other around then you have a good chance to see some boxing, with dawn and dusk the best times. But did you know that this is actually an unreceptive female (Jill) fending off the attentions of an over-amorous male (Jack)?.
The brown hare is part of our folklore. Its energetic leaping and wild chasing has given rise to sayings such as ‘mad as a March hare’ and ‘hare-brained’.
A shy, alert creature the brown hare is equipped for life in open countryside where cold wind and rain is as much a challenge to survival as predators. Long, black-tipped ears and large eyes, positioned to allow 360 degree field of view, provide the excellent eye- sight and hearing it needs to warn of danger. As well as acute senses, the brown hare relies on camouflage, phenomenal powers of acceleration and running speeds of up to 45 mph to evade predators, such as foxes. However, if disturbed by man they will often ‘sit tight,’ crouching low to the ground and bolting off at the last minute.
Long legs and a loping gate distinguish it from the much smaller rabbit. Hares live above ground, sleeping and breeding in shallow depressions in the grass.
The Trust tries to maintain the undisturbed grassland that hares need. The most likely nature reserves to find brown hares are: Charnwood Lodge, Ulverscroft, Cribb’s Meadow and Merry’s Meadows. See our Nature Reserves Guide or the Nature Reserves section of this website for further details.
Photograph: c. John Wright