Whilst spring is still a while away, depending upon how mild the winter has been, February can often be surprisingly full of life as our gardens and the countryside begin to noticeably wake from winter. One of the sure signs that spring is on its way is the frenetic activity of frogs during the breeding season followed by the appearance of frogspawn in ponds and ditches. During February frogs will emerge from their winter hideaways at the bottom of ponds or in damp sheltered spots on land and make their way to traditional breeding areas, making it one of the best times to observe frogs in the wild.
If you fancy a spot of frog watching, keep an eye on the long-range weather forecast, looking out for a spell of number of consecutive warmer days. Such warm spells help to rouse the frogs from their hibernation and, seemingly overnight, local ponds will go from being barren to full of spawn. Each female can lay around 3,000 eggs in a season, so it’s easy to see why ponds can seem brim full with spawn, but such is nature’s taste for frogspawn, with everything from dragonfly larvae and fish to blackbirds taking the opportunity of an early feast, that few of the tadpoles that hatch will make it to adulthood.
Much of nature’s effort at this time of year is linked to breeding and typical sights include pairs of great crested grebe doing their courtship ‘dance’ on local lakes and herons building nests. Many other birds will now be busy scouting nest locations and claiming territory.
The lack of leaves on the trees in woodland might give you a chance of spotting a nuthatch and on the riverbank, this absence of vegetation may increase your chances of spying the electric blue flash of a kingfisher.
Back in the woodlands, the skeleton form of the trees may also make a glimpse of a roe deer more likely but you’ll still need to be stealthy, and unless you know an ideal location, you’ll also need a healthy dose of luck. Your best chance of spotting them is probably as they emerge from woodlands onto open farmland.
February is a great time to visit wetland sites such as Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford. This huge wildlife haven is a great place to spot a wide range of water birds, especially in winter, and there is a network of paths giving easy access and a chance to walk along the River Idle. The welcoming cafe serves warming treats and the welcoming reception team will help point out the best spots to see wildlife during your visit.
Further details about Idle Valley and all Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust sites across the county, as well as opportunities to get involved as a volunteer, can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.