Spring wildlife in the Midlands

A common lizard in the grass

With the warmer weather of the spring months more and more of our native wildlife begins to stir. We care for common creatures and rarer specimens across the countryside we look after. Here are a few examples of what you might be lucky enough to spot when visiting in the Midlands.

Hares in the hills, hares in the valleys! If you want to see hares behaving madly look out for mountain hares on the Dark Peak moors, many of which will be moulting from their white winter coats to grey-brown and may appear “blue” in colour. Lower down the hills and in the valleys, brown hares occur. They are much larger than their mountain cousins and can often be seen in spring on open fields chasing and “boxing”. The mountain hare is native to the UK unlike the brown hare which it is believed was introduced here for meat by the Romans.

Keep an eye out for hares hiding in grass
Hare lying in grass

Early spring is a good time to keep an eye out for the elusive and increasingly rare water vole whilst strolling along your local river bank. Females are setting up their breeding territories and their burrow entrances and chewed grass and rush stems are visible before tall bankside vegetation grows and hides it all.

Otters are rarely seen being so secretive and mainly active at dusk and dawn. However, they are a great conservation success and have returned to many rivers including NT properties. You will have to be early and quiet to catch a glimpse of them at Belton, Kedleston, Clumber and Hardwick. If you do, please let us know, we are always interested in reports of sightings, it helps us to better understand what otters are doing on our land and how to manage their habitat for them.

Will you spot otter tracks?
Otter tracks in the mud

We have had a very mild winter which has meant that bats have been active from time to time throughout. Usually, they become most active in May but this year they have done so much earlier and will be attempting to stay alive by feasting on the flying insects that have also become active earlier this year.

Spring brings out the bumblebees
A bumblebee on a purple flower

The first bugs to be seen in early spring are bumblebees, usually queen bees that emerge from hibernation and have to build up their energy reserves in order to lay eggs and start a new colony. Bumblebees with white tails (about three species) are most commonly seen in gardens on sunny days even when it seems quite cold. Bumblebees are important pollinators and are contrary to popular belief, are not aggressive.

Always the earliest butterflies of the year - have you spotted a yellow brimstone yet?
Brimstone butterfly on ipheion in spring garden at Charlecote

At the same time, butterflies that have also overwintered as adults are the first on the wing in spring. This includes the lovely brimstone, a striking all yellow butterfly and the vividly coloured peacock. Also look out for small tortoiseshell, red admiral and comma. One of the first of the blues to be seen is the holly blue whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of holly and ivy.

Stoneywell is host to one of our more unusual bugs, the glow worm. It is in fact not a worm at all but a beetle. Where they occur they are a gardeners best friend because the larvae are voracious eaters of garden snails. It is the females that glow ( a form of bioluminescence) to attract a male during the breeding season.

Reptiles become active in spring, often found basking in early morning sunshine in order to warm up enough to move and feed. Three of them, the adder, the common lizard and the slow worm (actually a legless lizard) are quite special in that unlike most reptiles that lay eggs these all give birth to live young. Eastern Moors is a good place to find common lizard and adder and Stoneywell for slow worm.

Do more to help slow worms, such as this one at Stoneywell, Leicestershire, which are becoming increasingly rare
A slow worm curled up