Late winter wildlife and the first signs of spring

by Alice Ashcroft, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

The stubborn, icy hand of Jack Frost may still have a grip on much of the county, but a few subtle signs of spring are emerging despite him. We at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are delighted to see these first tentative steps towards our wildlife bursting back into life.

Song thrushes, blue tits and chaffinches are raising their voices, claiming dominion over their territories and singing for the season ahead, while woodpeckers drum alongside them.

Snowdrops are rearing their heads, braving the cold to assure us there are brighter days ahead, and a number of other wildflowers will follow suit; coltsfoot often makes an appearance by the wayside and in the woodlands, and infamous ‘lords and ladies’ plants begin to spread their leaves and grow.

Woodlands are wonderful places to enjoy the last wisps of winter and spot the first signs of spring. Shining, golden carpets of star-like celandine flowers can cover woodland floors as early as January, and wild primroses are often found in woodland clearings. Primroses flower very early in the year, and their name is thought to derive from the Latin for ‘first rose’ (prima rosa).

You may be lucky enough to see evidence of badgers spring cleaning. Badgers tend to stay underground as much as they can during the winter to keep warm, but they often emerge early in the year to get rid of their old bedding and replace it with new – you may see it piled up outside their setts. They do this in preparation for the arrival of their young; many badgers will give birth this month.

February is also a wonderful time to discover some beautiful and unusual species of fungi. Certain types of fungi thrive in the late winter and early spring when surrounding vegetation has died back, and you may be surprised to happen upon some truly remarkable species. Scarlett elf cup is a particularly striking with its bright red colouring and distinctive shape.

February is a month of transition, full of welcome harbingers of the season to come – experience them first hand and explore your local wild places, delight in new discoveries and be sure to enjoy this special time of year.

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