Early spring is my favourite time of the year. With the dark of winter left behind, everywhere signs of spring are emerging, filling the air with a sense of hopefulness for the year ahead. With a lot of scary and disheartening information everywhere, regarding how nature is struggling around the world, it is so important to be able find little joys day to day, and with spring arriving there’s plenty to observe and enjoy on our farms.

One of springs golden wonders are found at Awnells Farm in Herefordshire, the wild daffodil. Once blanketing damp meadows and woodlands across Britain, the species is now a much rarer site, usually only decorating the base of hedgerows in southern and western parts of the UK. At Twyford Farm in West Sussex, I visited the woodland there to conduct the first part of a woodland condition assessment (a survey which looks at woodland attributes, floristic diversity and ecological condition). On the border of the woodland, wild daffodils were thriving in the dappled shade of the trees.

One of the first tasks for the survey season ahead is to check on the reptile refugia, locate the corrugated mats, and replace any which may have gone missing or been damaged. These are then ready to be monitored for slow worm, grass snake or adder presence from mid-April until late May, and then again in late June, late August and late September.


March marks the start of Bumblebee Conservation’s ‘BeeWalk’, a citizen science scheme which monitors bumblebee population trends across the UK. March of 2023 was the wettest in 40 years, since 1981 (Met Office, 2023). Although bumblebees are one of the hardier groups of insects, no bumblebees were sighted on either Herefordshire farm during March surveys this year. During April surveys, buff-tailed bumblebee queens made an appearance along with female hairy footed flower bees, tawny mining bees and dotted bee-flies (not a bee) at Turnastone Court Farm. At Awnells farm I recorded Queen Red-tailed and Buff-tailed bumblebees, Honey-bee workers, dotted bee flies and the social parasite of the Buff-tailed bumblebee, the Vestal Cuckoo bee.

[Above] Buff-tailed bumblebee queen, Ruth Moss, Awnells Farm

[Below] Female dotted beefly, Ruth Moss, Turnastone Court Farm

March is also the time of year when the majority of birds in Britain begin their annual breeding routine of singing, courtship, nest building and chick raising. The middle of March is when I conduct the first bird survey of the season to map the breeding bird territories held by different species on our Herefordshire farms. 29 different species were recorded at Awnells during the first survey and 32 at Turnastone. These early surveys are characteristic of Song Thrushes singing loudly, bullfinches courting in the foliage-free hedges and our winter migrant species like Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling gathering in flocks ready to make their return journey north to Scandinavia and Russia.

Data collection for the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) runs from the beginning of April until the end of September every year and is composed of a weekly walk along a set route (transect) in suitable weather conditions, recording every butterfly along the way. The conditions have only been suitable to conduct a butterfly survey a handful of times on each farm this April, with Orange Tip, Peacock, and Speckled Wood being the species recorded so far this season.  

As we head further into spring with the days getting warmer, summer migrants will arrive from overseas, others will come out of winter hibernation and all-around new life begins to appear.


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