February was a month of contrasting weather. At times it was remarkably mild with wintery sunshine here in South Shropshire, but at the end of the month storm Doris hit us with a vengeance. Thankfully there was little real damage in our wildlife garden except that the majority of the hazel catkins were blown right of the branches.
Birds dominated the garden last month with 30 different species recorded in the garden including our now resident willow tit. A wonderful flock of 30 redwings sat on the hedge between the garden and the field next door. They repeatedly went down to feed on the rough, sheep- nibbled grass or trailed across our wildflower meadow in a line like a forensic search party, looking for, and finding, a good selection of invertebrates. Winter finches eventually put in an appearance with two lesser redpoll and three siskin on the feeders at the end of the month, but still no bramblings. Three wild mallard ducks spent a few nights on our big pond and at the very end of the month a visiting heron discovered our spawning frogs. Coloured string was immediately placed around the smaller pond at about heron knee height which seems to have deterred it a little. Herons have to eat but I would like to see a good population of surviving frogs in the garden again this year.
A flock of 10 or 12 long-tailed tits visited daily, feeding mainly on fat blocks but by the end of the month only two remained and the start of a mossy nest was found in one of the hedges. However the most exciting bird related event in February was a resident song thrush, singing every morning and evening from the large ash tree in the garden. Another joined in from the wood next door and as the month progressed they were joined by great tits, dunnocks and chaffinches singing, and finally, on the 27th, by a blackbird’s rich song in the early evening. A pair of woodpigeons sat side by side in the apple tree, cooing loudly and rubbing beaks. Spring is on its way!
Elsewhere around the garden a few flowers put in an appearance. The snowdrops were in full bloom and here and there in shorter grass, the bright yellow of celandines could be seen. A few flurries of snow at the end of the month did little to dampen my enthusiasm for the advent of March when hopefully spring will arrive in earnest. I am looking forward to more bird song, toads spawning in the big pond and nesting activity from the blue tits and great tits in our bird boxes.