Spring wildlife on the Mottisfont estate

Common blue butterflies mating on Stockbridge Down

Animals are emerging from hibernation across the 1600 acres of woodland and tenanted farmland that make up the Mottisfont estate.

Adders appear from February, starting with males, then females a little later as they prepare for mating season. Grass snakes can be spotted from April.

Early butterfly species such as dingy and grizzled skippers take to the air in spring, as well as adult hibernators such as brimstones, red admirals, peacocks and small tortoiseshells.

Hares box in arable fields as they compete for mating rights.

The estate is busy with bird-nesting activity: from rookeries in the plane trees, a resident barn owl in the Oakley beat oak and goshawks in wooded areas to songbirds in the hedgerows.

Ospreys pass over the Test Valley as they migrate from Africa back to their breeding grounds in Scotland. They have been known to spend a few days around our fishing beats on the River Test.

Flora in the Hampshire countryside

Beautiful woodland flowers crop up in spring. Look out for wood celandine, wood anemone, and wood sorrel, all ancient woodland indicators.

Wood anemones flower in response to more sunlight after hazel coppicing
The merry white flowers of wood anemones

On Stockbridge Down, early wildflowers such as cowslips emerge - a vital source of food for duke of burgundy butterflies. Other species such as violets, speedwells and birdsfoot trefoil begin to appear, although the real displays take place in the summer months.

Our spring work

Area that have been scrub-cleared over winter will now start to produce ground flora. Cleared areas allow sunlight to get to the ground, and any seeds that lie dormant will be revived and grow.

Our winter coppicing in areas such as Queen Meadow and Oakley will also produce a great ground flora display of foxgloves, primroses, bluebells and wood spurge.

With tree felling finished by the end of February, our rangers move on to spring works, including fencing and final tree plantings early on in the season.

Survey season starts in March, checking the numbers of breeding birds on Stockbridge Down, as well as dormice and butterflies across the estate.