Our top 10 wildlife sightings for February

Great spotted woodpecker by Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Love is in the air in February! Listen out for birds singing and look out for spring flowers
Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker by Margaret Holland

Drumming great spotted woodpeckers

Listen out for great spotted woodpeckers drumming on trees to announce their presence in the woods. Did you know their sharp bill is powered by strong neck muscles and their brain is protected from all the drumming by a special type of bone that absorbs the stress. 

Male great spotted woodpeckers have red feathers at the nape of their necks while females have no red on their heads at all. 

Woodlark

Woodlark by Margaret Holland

Singing woodlarks

Listen out for the melodious song of the woodlark, a cousin of the skylark.

Woodlarks are one of the earliest birds in the year to start singing in Britain, and their song is said by some to be one of the finest you’ll hear.

Listen for them singing away on lowland heathland, such as Greenham Common.

Listen to a woodlark

Grey herons

Grey herons in a nest by Neil Phillips

Grey herons and heronries

Grey herons build their large nests in trees by rivers or lakes. You’ll often see many nests in the same tree and these groups of nests are known as heronries.

Look out for male herons putting on a courtship dance to attract a female. The male will stretch his long neck upwards and then lower it over his back with the bill pointing upwards.

Great crested grebes

Great crested grebes by Margaret Holland

Great crested grebes

Great crested grebes also have an elaborate courtship dance. Watch as the males and females mirror each other on the water, diving down and rising up in perfect unison.

Great crested grebes were once very endangered in the UK. Historically they were hunted for their soft feathers which were used a substitute for fur and elaborate head feathers which were used to decorate women’s hats.

Frog spawn

Frog spawn by Wendy Tobitt

Frog spawn

Frogs breed before toads and you may see great jelly masses of early frog spawn in ponds in February. If you have a pond in your garden, don’t introduce frog spawn from elsewhere, wait until frogs find your pond and create their own.

Build a pond in your garden

Common toad

Common toad by Bruce Shortland

Toads

Toads breed later in the spring than frogs but this month you should see them start to return to their breeding areas.

Once toads do breed look for long strands of toad spawn in ponds compared with the large masses of spawn that frogs produce.

Hazel flowers

Hazel flowers by Margaret Holland

Hazel flowers

Hazel produces female flowers and male catkins at this time of year. The tiny flowers are bright pink. Take a close look and be amazed by this minute flower waiting to catch pollen released by the catkins.

Catkins

Catkins by Wendy Tobitt

Catkins

Hazel catkins hang like little (lamb’s!) tails from bare branches, wafting pollen in the breeze.

Hazel isn’t the only plant that produces catkins but is one of the earliest. Other trees that produce catkins include willow species and alder.

Violets

Violets by Nigel Smith

Violets

Sweet violet (Viola odorata) is the first of the violets of the year to bloom. This is the only violet which has a fragrance so take a sniff!

Later in spring look for common dog-violet in woods and hedge-banks. Hairy violet grows in grassland and scrubby areas on lime and chalk.

Did you know dog-violets got their name because they don’t have any scent and were thought to be only fit for dogs!

Primroses

Primroses by Tristain Blaine

Primroses

The sight of primroses in woodland, on hedgebanks and waysides is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Did you know the name derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning first rose of the year.

Best reserves to visit in February

Wild at heart: Wildlife Fridays by Ric Mellis

Wild at heart: Wildlife Fridays by Ric Mellis

Discover

Wild at Heart

This month, fall in love with your local wildlife! 

Find out more

 

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