“February fill dyke, be it black or with white”. Another country saying is that “The owl, the bat and the badger look out of their holes on Candlemas Day (2nd February). If they see the world covered with snow, they come out because they then know that more than half the winter is gone; but, if they see the sun shining and no snow, they go back because they know that more than half the winter is yet to come.”
On warmer days it might well be possible to see honeybees out and about looking for early flowers. If there are any snowdrops on bloom then they may well collect pollen.
Birds are starting to sing and you may well hear Great Tit calling as well as the Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush.
It is a good time of year to look for mosses. I hope that you are looking at our monthly Moss section and a hand lens will help you to appreciate their miniature beauty.
Rooks can be seen on their nests and may well even have started nesting, Herons also are early nesters but I am not aware of a Heronery in our area.
Trees are still bare and it is a good opportunity to check your ability to recognise them by their bark, winter twigs and tree shape. Once again our Tree of the Month should help you with this.
Things to look out for and send in the dates and any photographs that you may be able to take:-
Blackthorn on bloom.
Elder, budburst and first leaf.
First Coltsfoot and Lesser Celandine on bloom.
First nest record for Blackbird.
First call for Chiff Chaff.
Last date of departure for Redwing and Fieldfare.
First dates for ladybirds.
First date for frogspawn.
Please email me with any dates and photographs for the Seasonal Gallery. Bob Reed
A late observation or two on the local scene - mainly from the north - west corner of the town.
Last month a few Bird Group members (Mike Ashworth, Dave Hill , Kieth Overall & myself) made its annual new year foray into the Norfolk hinterland on what set out to be a wet morning. By the time we had made the Norfolk border the sky had begun to clear & it all looked promising. That is until we set off for the trudge to the RSPB hides at Snettisham. As we made the shingle embankment that leads directly to the hides, we were hit by the most almighty squall that drenched us in no time from horizontal sleet, before a bird had been seen. Making our way back to the car, Mike miraculously provided towels for our muddy feet & we made off for Titchwell. Here we were more fortunate. The sun came out & we were able to enjoy relatively civilised bird watching in both the old hide & the new, glazed jobs that have now been erected there. While they offer great luxury of wind- down windows for the 'scopers', they do present an impression of a somewhat ramshackle arrangement of fencing sheets deposited overlooking the pools & scrapes. However, the views were great. Several hundred Lapwing, Golden Plover & Wigeon, all crowded into the pools where waders such as Redshank & Knot fed in the less crowded areas, creating circular waves that spread out from their plunging bills. We made the beach but were driven back by the sheer intensity of the wind. Snow Bunting & Twite had been reported at Holme, so we returned west & were lucky to find flocks of both species there, the Snow Bunting displaying the give-away white flashes on their wings as they flew & the Twite, smaller & bouncier in the air.
Mike obviously knew where he was heading for the return journey, even if we didn't! A mystery tour led us through signposted roads towards Wisbech & Sleaford &, just outside Ramsey we turned into a reserve area that was apparently known for Hen Harrier & Barn Owl. While it was clearly too late for the former, the Barn Owl did make an almost instantaneous appearance though, by this time it was almost too dark to see it as it perched on a nearby post!
Locally, the year has begun as one of the wettest seasons I can remember, with the task of cleaning muddy boots a particularly tedious task. Through the winter period I have managed to see a Merlin on three separate occasions - all dashing through a hedge or breaking out of a wood, followed by that thrilling swerving flight low over the turned soil in the hope of flushing something like a Skylark from the furrows. I have searched my local woods for Woodcock & have only found one. Perhaps a bad year? I also make a point of looking for the Early Purple Orchid breaking through the ground early in January. This year has so far been disappointing, although the Cuckoo Pint (that can easily be confused with the E.P. Orchid as the leaves just break though the soil), was exceptionally early this year & is already well established in the local woods. The sight of both these species is immensely cheering on a cold January day, just as the sound of the first Chaffinch singing (Hat. For. 8 Feb.) & the Blackbird (Dane Park, 9 Feb.) convinces me that Spring is on the way.
A brief visit to Hatfield Forest on 8th of Feb.to take a look at the Woman Weaver fen that was cleared last year, was rewarding with six Widgeon in one of the newly created pools . In the surrounding woodland I found several Goldcrests in the company of Tit flocks, one of which dislpaying the broad orange flash in its crest as it turned among the twigs it was feeding in, identifying it as a male.
Back in the 'patch', Wickham Hall has proved interesting because of a shelter belt that the farm manager has created. It runs from the drying kilns just before the farm down towards Bloodhounds Wood & is not a public footpath! This has produced huge numbers of finches throughout the winter (Up to 100 Linnet, 50+ Chaffinch, 50+ Goldfinch) & even accounted for one of my Merlin sightings!
In Stortford Park, the Snowdrops are in flower & the Aconite too, is there in abundance. Unfortunately, the owner has established a substantial Laurel hedge around the garden & the Park is no longer as visible as it once was. Fortunately, it is still not entirely peep-proof!! Hugh Coe