Nature Note Feb ’23 – Signs of Spring
The end of February will soon be with us. Each day (in theory) we enjoy more daylight and the sun is potentially as warm as it was at the end of October.
When we venture outside to the garden, the local park or the wider countryside, there are signs of spring everywhere. Finding them raises our spirits; what should we be looking for?
In the garden, snowdrops and hellebores have been in flower for some time now and crocus and daffodil shoots will be visible even if their flowers are not yet open. Walking in the countryside, coltsfoot, winter aconite and lesser celandine are providing splashes of yellow to welcome the returning sun.
Early flowering trees include hazel and various willows. Now is the time to enjoy the catkins that will soon become bright yellow flowers. Trees that flower later in the spring are not as dormant as they at first appear. Look especially for the swelling buds of horse chestnut trees.
Butterflies that hibernate as adults may fly around on any warm and sunny day. I read a report of a brimstone butterfly on the wing locally in the first few days of January. Other species that could be your first butterfly of the year are peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and comma. Some insect families (for example, moths, beetles and spiders) comprise large numbers of species. Small numbers can be seen throughout the year but with rising temperatures more and more species emerge and become relatively easy to find. For many of us, seeing a bumblebee on the wing is a welcome sign that spring is on its way.
Even species that hibernate (such as bats and hedgehogs) will sometimes appear during an early mild spell of weather. If you have not already seen a fox, hare, muntjac or otter be on the lookout for your ‘first of the year’. Also look out for evidence of fresh excavations around badger setts.
Resident species of birds are increasingly noticeable from mid-February onwards. Listen for territorial singing as the dawn chorus begins to tune-up and be on the look-out for nest building activity. Song thrushes and drumming great spotted woodpeckers have been making themselves heard since mid-January. By now a dozen or more bird species will be singing. rooks and grey herons will be at their nesting colonies and some pigeons, ravens and egyptian geese will have young by the end of the month.
Next time you venture out in the morning, why not take a notebook and record your local ‘signs of spring’. You are likely to be pleasantly surprised.