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Enjoy your own wildlife watch

The days start to lengthen noticeably in February - our shortest month - so take a break from wildlife watching on the tv and get out and enjoy looking for the first signs of spring!

It can still be very cold, particularly at night, but a few birds are starting to sing and even build nests – National Nest Box Week is held mid-month.

Plants start to wake up in February: look out for hazel catkins, early blooms of primrose and other woodland plants.

The Trust’s Dimminsdale Nature Reserve in north-west Leicestershire, is an interesting place at any time of the year but in February hosts the famous flowering of carpets of snowdrops. They were probably introduced to this site long ago when people lived and worked there. The plants can be found at the far side of the main entrance in what was once a garden.

One of the natural highlights of of this time of year is the common frog emerging from hibernation. Listen out for the males purring to attract females at their traditional breeding ponds.

The common frog is probably our most recognisable amphibian. Unlike its ‘confusion species’ the common toad, frogs have smooth skin – and long legs for jumping away quickly. They are found in almost any habitat where suitable breeding ponds are nearby: garden ponds are important for common frogs, particularly in urban areas.

They overwinter sheltering under rocks, in compost heaps or buried in mud and vegetation at the bottom of ponds, emerging in early spring and heading to a pond to breed.

Clumps of spawn, containing up to 2,000 eggs, are laid anytime from January onwards. After 2 – 4 weeks tadpoles will hatch out. As they grow the tadpoles develop light bronze speckles, distinguishing them from common toad tadpoles that are black. After around 16 weeks the tadpoles start to grow back legs, followed by front legs, and once they have fully absorbed their tails, leave the water as tiny froglets.

Photograph: Snowdrops (Amy Lewis)

Related categories: General

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