Written by Heather Elvidge
It used to be said about March that it’s the month when winter starts packing its bags. Certainly the sun is on our side, even when it’s hiding behind clouds.
Spring sweeps northwards at around one hundred miles a week
The sun climbs rapidly higher this month, the days continue to lengthen and as the land begins to warm, spring sweeps northwards at around one hundred miles a week.
Already there’s a cheerful choir at dawn, with most of our songsters joining in. Rising above the chorus are the fluting notes of that sublime soloist, the blackbird. He’s been silent for some time, so when we hear his languid song we know that spring really is here.
Other birds are searching for nest sites. Pairs of long-tailed tits sneak away from their winter flock for a while to check out thick hedges and gorse bushes. Mallard partners leave their pond and waddle some distance to find the right place sheltered by hedge or bush. Rookeries bustle with activity as birds bring new twigs to repair old nests; rejected twigs lie scattered beneath the trees.
Those great roosting flocks of starlings are breaking up now into smaller groups, and on a fine day each male starling returns to his old nest site. In that hole under the roof tiles there’s spring-cleaning to be done. Out goes last year’s rubbish; in comes clean grass and leaves. If he can find a small flower, he’ll add that too. Then he perches close by to sing about it. His partner will line the nest with moss and feathers, providing she approves of his efforts.
Out in the fields brown hares are going crazy. This is the month when jacks chase jills, and jills box jacks, while other hares sit calmly watching. Those mad March hares are testing out each other’s suitability for breeding.
Folklore isn’t short of sayings about March weather, because people needed to know what was going to happen on the land. So we have: “A wet March makes a sad harvest” and “March damp and warm will do farmers much harm.” They all add up to one thing: for good weather in August to ripen grain – and for the peak holiday season – we need dry, cold days in March.
However, it’s worth remembering that the month is capable of anything. “March, month of many weathers, wildly comes in hail and snow and threatening floods and hums.” If it should turn grey and damp, the old lore offers some consolation: “Better to be bitten by a snake than to feel the sun in March.”
Take note of any misty days this month because “a mist in March is a frost in May.” This reliable saying is useful for fruit trees that need blossom protecting from late frosts. It can also protect us from spring fever. You know you’ve got it when you find yourself buying tender plantlings and rushing to bed out the poor things far too soon.
Everyone knows that, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” and so it did. Let’s hope we’ve got the wild weather out of the way.