When do bluebells flower? Your March photos

Lorienne Whittle, 15/04/2019

March bluebell records

In woodlands across the UK spring flowers are taking advantage of a small window of time in which they can bloom. The ground has sufficiently warmed for them to grow, but the canopy of fresh tree leaves is yet to block out the strengthening sun. The rich leaf litter beneath broadleaved trees provides important nutrients and absorbs the sunlight, warming the soil and encouraging growth.

Bluebells are a favourite woodland flower and we’ve had 164 records of them so far this spring. If you are lucky enough to have native bluebells near you please let us know when you spot the first ‘bell’ flowering (when the petals have opened enough for you to see inside the flower). Although they’re perfectly adapted to woods – you might find them in other places too. Also look for their beautiful blue hue along hedgerows and in fields,

Find out how to identify native bluebells on the Woodland Trust website.

Bluebell in a broadleaved woodland, Emily Thomas

Bluebells are most often found close together, creating the much revered blue carpet, Kay Shaw

Bluebells ‘first flower’ when you can see inside the bell shaped flower, Gale Jolly

Oak before ash, you’re in for a splash, ash before oak….

…you’re in for a soak.


The old adage predicts if we will be having a dry or wet summer based on whether oak or ash trees are first to leaf. Although we have looked at the long-term data and found no substance in this, oak trees are thought to be more responsive to temperature changes, so indicate a warmer spring.


The records submitted this spring support this. Met Office statistics show we have had mild spring and on Nature’s Calendar, more oak ‘first leaf’ records have been submitted than ash so far this year. The first pedunculate oak ‘first leaf’ was seen on the 22 March in the Isle of Wight. So far we’ve only had one record of ash first leaf, but with the increasingly warmer springs ash has rarely been earlier than oak in the last 50 years.


The photos below show the sequence of events for oak trees, taken from three pedunculate oaks around the UK. If you have recorded budburst it is particularly useful to record the timing of subsequent events on the same tree.

Pedunculate Oak, budburst. George Pitman, 11 March

Pedunculate Oak, first leaf. Mary Elizabeth Rogers, 24 March

Pedunculate Oak, first flowering. Andy Willis, 1 April.

Spring migration: when will birds return from Africa?

Four Nature’s Calendar species (swallows, swifts, house martins and sand martins) migrate from Africa to breed in the UK over our summer. We are able to track this migration through observations submitted to the project and this year a few eager individuals arrived as early as February: The first record was a house martin on 17 February near Poole in Dorset and the first swallow was identified in Alconbury Weald in Cambridgeshire on February 22. Two swifts were spotted 28 February near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and the first sand martin record was a little later, on 6 March at Chard reservoir in Somerset.

Since then we’ve had 15 further sightings of house martins, 8 sand martins and only one further swift record.

The swallows, however, have been arriving in the highest numbers. We’ve had 17 further sightings through March, mostly from the south-west, followed by nearly 50 sightings across the country in the first ten days of April. Find out more about swifts and how to spot them.  

Keep a track of all the species migrating from Africa using our live maps. 

A selection of beautiful butterfly photos

Butterflies are notoriously hard to photograph, often flitting away before you can even get your camera out. Thank you to everyone that sent in a butterfly record and those who managed to snap a photo too. Here is a selection of some of the beautiful butterflies spotted around the UK in March.


Michael Scott

Kay Shaw

As the name suggests, the speckled wood butterfly can be found in woodlands, as well as gardens and hedgerows. We had eight records in March.


The familiar peacock butterfly is more widely recorded for Nature’s Calendar and often seen in gardens and parkland. We had 184 ‘first seen’ peacock records submitted in March.

Jeff Morgan

Alexa Piggott


Another distinctive butterfly, the orange tip is also widespread and can be seen in gardens and hedgerows through April and May. We’ve already had 42 records of orange tip sightings in March, mostly concentrated in the south of England. The two photos below show males displaying their orange wing tip. The first also reveal the striking underwing pattern seen on both male and females. Female orange tips have white upper wings with black tips.

Kay Shaw

Emma Somerfield

March was a busy month and we’re already halfway through April, but there are still plenty of natural events to spot and record. Download our handy phenology calendar to see what is likely to be happening throughout the year.


Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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