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Nature of Britain Calendar: February

Updated Friday, 1st February 2008

Follow the Nature of Britain's seasonal hints and tips - this month we look at February, when watching urban wildlife becomes even more rewarding as animals head closer to humans, looking for food and warmth.

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Do one thing

Put up a nestbox or clean out and maintain an existing one ready for nesting birds.

What to look for

Bumblebee Creative commons image Icon Clearly Ambiguous under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license Bumbleebee The first bumblebees emerge on sunny days obtaining nectar from garden plants such as crocuses. Most are large queen bees, which have hibernated over winter and are on the lookout for places to start a new family. They like untidy corners and often build their nests in the old nests of mice.

Ladybirds, including two spot and seven spot, will sun themselves in milder spells.

In woods, bluebell leaves are pushing through the soil and under hedges, leaves of wild arum are unfurling. Long maroon and yellow catkins appear on alder trees along rivers and streams.

Sparrowhawks and buzzards begin to establish territories by soaring over woods on clear days. Birdsong begins to grow louder as chaffinches, song thrushes and blackbirds become more vocal and great spotted woodpeckers drum.

On wintry evenings the local reservoir may produce a blizzard of gulls as thousands of the birds fly in to roost.

Did you know

The Normans introduced the pheasant into Britain in the 11th century. There are thought to be around 8 million birds in the countryside over winter, many reared from chicks by game-keepers. Nearly half are shot and the others die from natural causes.

Habitat of the month: Urban areas

Animals come to towns because it’s warmer and food is sparse in the countryside. Watch for wildlife in parks and gardens and help out by putting up a birdfeeder in your garden. 

A woodpecker eats some nuts Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Other - from calendar, cleared for use online A kingfisher on a birdfeeder

Photo opportunity: Bird feeders

With food in short supply your bird feeder is an ideal place to photograph wild birds. Your house makes an ideal hide – photograph through an open window and the birds will not notice you. A telephoto lens is useful to get good close-up shots but you may find a tripod useful to keep the lens steady.

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