February Wildlife: What to Look Out for This Month
With February comes the noticeable lengthening of the days. Although the days have been inching longer since the winter solstice on December 21st, it’s only once February dawns that we begin to make some serious daylight progress. Winter’s midpoint was on February 3rd, and from that point on the days stretch out and the night shortens. Between February 1st and February 15th we gain a whole extra hour of daylight. From here, things can only get brighter and warmer. This is very good news for those of us who have energetic dogs to walk. Although I love winter, I do find it hard work trying to fit in enough exercise in for Buddy before dark.
It’s impossible to write a guide to wildlife in February without mentioning snowdrops. The Latin name for the snowdrop is Galanthus Nivalis which means ‘milk flower of the snow’. I first spotted the little green shoots and tiny pearl white tops on January 10th this year. Since then, they have come into full bloom, white heads bobbling away. Snowdrop flowers consist of six petals. Three inner petals and three looser outer petals. There is something pure about the white flowers against the vivid light green of the foliage. Coming across a blanket of snowdrops in woodland is magical. I genuinely get a thrill. I think it must be the hopefulness of the tough little snowdrop. They remind us that all winter, while all we could see was bare twigs and hard earth, there were bulbs under the ground preparing for spring and there were buds forming on trees. When everything seemed to be still, it was quite the opposite. Nature never stops work. New life is ready to go. All it needs is the permission of some warmer days. Once the snowdrops teach us that lesson, it’s easy to start spotting lots of little signs of spring. The elder tree is one of the first to burst it’s dark red buds. The honeysuckle in our garden has lots of leaf buds, stubborn against the frost. The tips of crocus and tulip leaves have broken through the soil. If you scrape away some of the leaf litter on the woodland floor, you might even see the bright green promise of bluebells.
Listen out this month for the birds beginning to sing again. Song Thrushes usually start back up at the end of January, and as the month progresses, more voices will join in. I always think that hearing the blackbird taking up her song again is one of the loveliest signs that spring is indeed on her way. If you enjoy spotting signs of spring, you might like Nature’s Calendar by the Woodland Trust. You can record signs as you spot them and help the scientists gather information about what’s going on in nature. The research from Nature’s Calendar has helped scientists to measure the speed of spring. The data goes back to 1736. They have revealed that these days spring moves at roughly 1.9mph, taking three weeks to cover the length of the country from south-west to north-east.
As always, the Wild Months card for February 2018 is available in the shop.