wildlife calendar, February is the start of spring and from
now on there is plenty happening. Violets, crocuses,
snowdrops and aconites are flowering, providing food for early
insects. The occasional butterfly may be out of hibernation.
In milder areas of the country frogs will be spawning and many
birds are now singing to declare their territories. Thrushes,
blackbirds, great tits and chaffinches are the most vocal, and
collared doves will soon be laying eggs in their small twig
nests. In the countryside, badgers are producing their young
now in spite of this often being the coldest month of the
year. Occasionally we experience very warm weather in
February, but this may be followed by severe conditions,
causing the loss of eggs or chicks of early nesters such as
blackbirds, but they will recover quickly from these losses and
is plenty to do in the garden now in preparation for the
spring ahead. Buddleias should be cut down to 5 or 10
centimetres at the end of the month to encourage strong new
shoots with large flowering heads. Buddleias flower on
new branches each year so although this may seem rather
brutal, your Buddleia will quickly produce lots of new
flowering shoots in the next few months. If you have more than one
Buddleia, stagger this operation, cutting some this month and
others throughout March. This will prolong the flowering
season into September to the benefit of the late butterflies,
especially red admirals and painted ladies.
have a dog rose or sweet briar in the garden, these can also
be cut back if the rose hips have been eaten.
can put your prunings to good use by making a ‘twiggery’ this
month – a twiggy habitat tucked away in a quiet spot at the
end of the garden or allotment, or under a hedge. Cut the
prunings into length of 1 to 2 meters and make a low pile in a
shady place. Many small mammals, especially shrews and wood
mice, will use this and hedgehogs may nest here. Birds that
don’t mind nesting close to the ground, such as blackbirds and
dunnocks, may also use it as a nest site. If you hide an old
terracotta flowerpot amongst the twigs you may attract a
milder areas general tidying up can begin, but be cautious.
Cutting back herbaceous growth and last year’s seed heads too
early can expose beneficial insects such as ladybirds,
lacewings and beetles to unexpected cold weather. It may also
expose tender new shoots to frosts or even snow. If the
weather is very cold wait until the end of the month or the
beginning of March before doing too much. You may even
uncover a hedgehog in a hibernation nest if you have left all
your herbaceous plants uncut over the winter.
February the 14th marks the start of National Nestbox Week.
There is still time to put up a new nest box in the garden, or
perhaps on the wall of your house if you have little outside
space. In this situation a blue tit or great tit box would be
the best choice. Boxes made of ‘woodcrete’ are better
insulated than wooden ones and last a long time, but those
made from natural birch logs are also favoured by tits. Try
to place your box at a minimum height of 2 metres from the
ground where predators, including domestic cats, can’t reach
it and position it to face between north–east and south-west
to make sure that it does not receive full sunlight.
If you still have some
gentle pruning or cutting back of shrubs or hedges to do, try
to complete it by the end of the month. Several common
garden birds, especially blackbirds, dunnocks, robins and
thrushes may be thinking about nest building next month.