When mad March hares and butterflies are found,
And snowdrops and daffodils adorn the ground,
And polka-dot frogspawn swells in the pond —
That’s how you know that springtime has dawned.
The first equinox of the year (Saturday 20th March, for your calendars) announces the arrival of the spring season. Both the day and night of the vernal equinox are twelve hours long, and celebrate the coming of long, hazy days and short, balmy nights. A time of morning dew and dappled sunlight through verdant buds on deciduous trees; of snowflakes turning into flurries of pink petals. Spring wildlife is abundant throughout Suffolk: the ancient woodland, rewilded farmland and protected wetland reserves makes it the ideal place to study BSc (Hons) Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science, where native wildlife is on your doorstep.
Which of these species will you spot in the coming weeks?
Snowdrops are the first brave pioneers, emerging from the frost as early as January. Their name comes from their snow-white petals, which, unlike many other flowers, face the ground rather than the sun; the ‘drop’ part comes from their droplet shape. Growing in extensive mats, snowdrops can be found covering forest floors and alongside pathways.
Daffodils are iconic spring flowers, rarely seen flowering alone. The wild daffodil species native to the UK can be distinguished by muted yellow petals around a proud golden trumpet, playing in harmony with the spring band towards the end of February.
Bluebells usually show themselves at the beginning of May (the last month of spring); despite this, they are worth the wait. These elegant, bell-shaped flowers grow in large numbers in the hearts of woodlands, which are often ancient. Referred to as ‘perennials’, they only flower once a year, and the native species are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so take care to stay on the path.
Find these beautiful spring flowers in Suffolk
• Blakenham Woodland Garden
• Bradfield Woods
• Ickworth House
• Nowton Park
More than 250 bee species are native to the UK, with 24 of those encompassing bumblebees. These insects can be easily identified by their fuzzy bodies, and the loud buzzes their wingbeats make as they bumble around, hovering from flower to flower, shifting pollen as they go. The remaining species include solitary bees, like mining bees, and one native honey bee: these are much smaller, and more sleek.
The wings of the males are lime-yellow, while the females flutter in shades of pale mint-green. One central orange dot on each of their four wings tells these fairy-like creatures apart from the similar looking cabbage white butterfly, whose forewings are tipped with brown. They can be found flitting through gardens and sunny woodland stretches.
The old phrase, ‘Mad as a March hare,’ comes from the curious behaviour that hares engage in during the spring. March falls in the middle of their breeding season: the males chase the females to gain their attention, and when the females have had enough they hit the male to discourage further pining. They stand up on their hind legs to deal blows with their forelegs, hence why it is often referred to as boxing! Their black ear-tips distinguish them from the dried grass in the fields where they tussle.
Billowing clouds of these bubble-like orbs can be found in ponds, pools and puddles (remember: frogspawn is laid in clusters, while toadspawn is laid in ribbon-like trails). A female frog may lay up to 4000 eggs over a single season! The way that the amphibian undergoes metamorphosis, transforming from an inky dot into an entire complex creature, is an enchanting example of the magic of nature.
Last year students and academics from the University of Suffolk’s Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation Science degree welcomed a family of blue tits to one of their nesting boxes. A webcam has been set up poised on the nesting box to monitor the comings and goings of the birds and to watch the progress of their chicks, once they hatch. We are hoping they use the box again soon. To watch the live feed of the nesting box, search for ‘University of Suffolk Wildlife’ on YouTube and subscribe to the channel or follow their progress on the course’s Twitter or Instagram pages @uoswildlife.
Lily Sparrow, Student Blogger
Have you seen any signs of spring in Suffolk? Let us know in the comments, and follow our #SuffolkScenes stories on our social accounts!
To find out more about the BSc (Hons) Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation Science degree click here or take part in the University’s Virtual Open Day on Saturday 24 April 2021, 9.30am-2.30pm. To register click here.