As usual for the time of year my garden wildlife diary for February seemed to be dominated by the weather, and with good reason! At first the mild conditions at the start of the month here lulled me into a false sense of security as snowdrops and even primroses burst into bloom all over the garden, and outside the garden too as the snowdrops have escaped onto the grass verge, and our flowering currant had promising buds swelling. Daffodil leaves were lengthening daily and fieldfares had all but disappeared in the mild conditions. The majority of fallen apples had been eaten but a few remaining fieldfares were still foraging for invertebrates in the field next door. The garden bird feeders were dominated by large numbers of blue tits, goldfinches and a flock of longtailed tits, plus a gang of chaffinches picked up dropped seeds beneath the feeders. Robins were starting to sing around the garden and a handsome male reed bunting was seen perched amongst the dead stems of golden rod in one of the borders on the 7th.
Siskin numbers began to build up in the second week of February. This pleased me enormously as siskins are my absolute favourite finch and possibly my favourite garden visitor with the exception of spotted flycatchers. Six or seven of these bright little birds were squabbling with the goldfinches for a spot on the nyger feeders and as the numbers of both these finches built up we put out more feeders to accommodate them. Males of both siskins and goldfinches started to twitter and sing around the garden and as numbers continued to increase the twittering became very obvious every time I ventured outside. As we moved through the second week of the month the weather deteriorated and there was heavy snow on the Long Mynd to the west, plus a little in the garden. Temperatures dropped and it became very windy. Siskin number went up to twenty birds and goldfinch numbers also increased. The third week of the month saw the siskin flock became even larger – more than fifty birds were counted on the feeders, on spilt food below, and in our boundary trees and the noise of their twittering was extraordinary. Through this week several buzzards visited the garden, usually hanging around in the sheltered lower branches of our beech tree, or sometimes in the hazels on the bank. On the 19th three mallard took refuge from the increasingly bad weather on our sheltered pond but temperatures increased again on the 20th. We awoke to a song thrush singing from our copse and a heron visited the big pond – the first we have seen here for a while. The siskins continued to sing from the hazel outside my office door and celandines burst into flower on the banks and under the hedges. Our first frog spawn appeared in the marshy pond on the 22nd.
On the 23rd I travelled to South Devon for work, expecting the occasional walk in early spring sunshine. This could not have been further from reality as freezing weather from the east met storm Emma from the Atlantic and for several days I was snowed in to the small, steep Devon valley where I was staying . Feeding the birds though provided a great deal of interest as marsh tits, coal tits, chaffinches and house sparrows were joined by other less usual species including a meadow pipit! Tawny owls hooted around the area at night and a green woodpecker was heard frequently – a bird we have seen only once in our Shropshire garden. Short walks though the ice and snow revealed great views of a dipper in the local stream and goldcrests were feeding in a nearby holly hedge.
I was eventually able to return home to Shropshire on the 6th of March where there were still snow drifts in the garden and several days later our narrow lane remains completely blocked one way. I am looking forward to warmer weather!