Missions for March

It’s the start of a new month, and almost the start of a new season. As we come to the end of winter and move into early spring, it’s a good time to get ahead of yourself and even start planning further ahead for summer projects. Read on for some useful points for March missions to undertake on the golf course, or in your garden, written by Joanna Bertwistle, Ecologist.

Whilst the temperatures rise and soil softens through March, now is the time to plant spring and summer-blooming plants. It’s hard to say whether we’ve seen the last of the frosts yet (remember the snow in April 2016?) but if luck would have it, now is usually a safe time to plant bulbs that flower later in the year.

With the increase in temperature over this month (even though it may not feel like it!) comes increased activity from invertebrate pollinators too. Native spring-blossoming flowers suitable for pollinators include ramsons (wild garlic), daffodil, crocus, English bluebell, and primrose. Are these present on your golf course? These flowers provide a beautiful and colourful addition to any site, as well as providing for local, early-emerging pollinators. Think about planting these to bolster your golf club’s ongoing Syngenta Operation Pollinator project.

Ramsons flowers (yummy leaves in the background – duller green!).

More insects and warmer weather also sees bats return to the skies. As we near the end of the bat hibernation season, small numbers of bats will leave their hibernation roosts to stretch their wings and do some foraging. If you fancy seeing these nocturnal critters the best time of day is to look against the sky at dusk, where you will see their aerial acrobats flying around hedgerows and tree-lines foraging for insects. Talking of hedgerows, now is also a great time to ‘gap-up’ existing ones or create new hedgerows ready for nesting birds, pollinators and small mammals to utilise.

Bird boxes erected over the winter at your home or facility should start to become occupied as bird nest building activity increases this month. One easy and very helpful task anyone can do is to hang any small twigs, moss and plant debris you may find or create during gardening and other maintenance works. These should be hung near bird feeders and bird boxes ready for the local bird populations to use as important additions to their nests.

Mid-March is also the start of the great crested newt survey season. The adult newts are now moving out of hibernation in terrestrial habitats and into ponds to begin courtship and breeding. If you have a pond on your property and you would like to know if great crested newts are present, then March is the time to action these surveys.

A male great crested newt showing off the white flash in his tail, which he uses to impress females.

As well as newts, other amphibians such as common frog and common toad increase in activity as hibernation ends. If you do not have a wetland area or pond suitable for amphibians but would like to encourage them to the area, then you can easily create a makeshift pond using shallow washing up bowls or plastic ponds, ensuring that there’s a functional escape route for any unwanted visitors, such as hedgehog or other small mammals. You can find full details about the installation and maintenance of these handy habitats on the RSPB water for wildlife page.

Small pond example with escape routes made from branches (RSPB).

Hopefully these small tips give you some inspiration for March. Whilst golf returns at the end of the month and priorities may be focused on getting playing surfaces in tip-top condition, see if you can find a little extra time to think about the wildlife that inhabits the golf course, or your garden, year-round. Spring is almost here!