Jubilee Wood in March
March 2019 Jubilee Wood
As the weak winter sun dips down behind the trees in the wood, and we welcome the first official days of spring with the vernal equinox, it’s hard not to wish for signs of summer with long days and busy hours as wildlife does what wildlife has always done in the season of plenty…….replenishing fat reserves, bringing up young ones and if lucky, having a bit of relaxation after the winter and unpredictable weather of spring.
Spring is a time of uncertainty as we wait to see whether different species have survived the winter, and unfortunately, many of the Ash trees in the wood are showing signs of dieback but time alone will tell how many will survive. It’s a worrying sight and yet nature has a way of compensating and filling the void. Those of us who are old enough to remember how Dutch elm disease changed the look of the landscape should be heartened to know that there are still several quite large elms in this area as well as several small ones in hedgerows, and no doubt some of the Ash trees will adapt and survive in a similar way.
Butterflies are definitely a species which can find winter challenging and many butterfly lovers are waiting to see if the offspring of Chequered Skippers which were reintroduced to England last year from Belgium have survived the winter. The chosen site in Rockingham forest has been kept secret but Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers are closely monitoring the site. The Chequered Skipper was first recorded in Britain near Bedford in May 1798 by Charles Abott. For many years it was known only in England, found in a band of woodlands stretching from Oxfordshire to Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. Its presence was one of the reasons Charles Rothschild, a pioneer of conservation, set up his estate in the heart of this area, at Ashton near Oundle. Most of us will be familiar with the excellent pub in Ashton named after the butterfly but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could host them here in Jubilee Wood? Thanks to the recent hard work of volunteers in clearing areas around the edges of the wood, the sunny, flower rich open areas are all ready for their return.
On another positive note, sightings of the great crested newts in the pond have been reported so we know that some at least, have survived the winter. It’s a hazardous journey for some of them to return to the pond looking for a mate, especially if they have to travel across the road from their winter home, and at least one unfortunate newt wasn’t lucky enough to make it this year. Perhaps we’ll have to ask the parish council for ‘Newts crossing’ signs next year….or even an underpass!
With so much happening at this time, perhaps we should just take time to appreciate the excitement of seeing the first unfurling of tiny leaves on the trees, the powdery catkins and the glorious golden colour of wild aconites and dandelions. The sound of the dawn chorus never fails to remind us it’s Spring as the rich melodies of blackbirds, doves, robins, and even the squabbling of the sparrows and starlings are played out in this very special part of the year.