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Wildlife Calendar - January

WILDLIFE CALENDAR - JANUARY

January is probably the bleakest month of the year with short days, frosty mornings and harsh weather, but enjoyment can be sought in any month in the UK and January is no exception. Winter resident birds are more visible amongst the bare branches of trees and there are signs of new life in the form of sprouting bulbs and flowering shrubs.

Spring bulbs and especially Snowdrops (Galanthus) are using their stored energy to push their way through the frozen soil. Find a public park or garden near you to see impressive carpets of white later in the month and into February. In mild winters, the bulbs are often fooled into making an appearance very early – we have seen Tete a tete Daffodils flowering at the beginning of January! Please tell us about any very early signs of spring that you have witnessed - email us at info@naturestation.co.uk.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) is another plant that defies the cold and is happy to flower during the winter. The name is not as it appears though – it is derived from the old English meaning “Pliant” or flexible (referring to the bendy stems) and not women on broomsticks with warty noses. The plant relies on insects to pollinate its flowers, which is odd because you don’t find too many insects in the depths of winter, but it tries very hard to achieve this by flowering profusely and being very attractive to bees and flies taking advantage of a mild winter’s day. Now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs that are dormant – bare rooted native plants may be obtained and firmed in when the soil is soft enough.

The only mammals that truly hibernate are hedgehogs, dormice and bats, but any of these may wake up to feed during particularly warm spells. Other mammals such as badgers and foxes are active throughout the winter, and require a food source nearby to maintain fat reserves and energy through a particularly bad spell of weather.

Ice and snow may make a blanket barrier that prevent active birds and mammals from taking in enough food to survive, so it is the most important time to supplement their food with seed, suet and nuts. Keep the feeders clean in this very active period with a sanitiser spray, and ensure fresh water is available during the day after removing the ice from bird baths. You may also start to put up nest boxes well in advance of spring – they provide a warm winter roost for small birds and birds such as blue tits are already looking for a suitable home in preparation for their breeding season.

Watching birds is easier in twiggy deciduous trees, and now is a good time to get some excellent photographs (please share them with us – email them to info@naturestation.co.uk). Another great way of identifying birds is by listening for bird song. Here are a few of the songs that you may hear at this time of year:

  • Song Thrush – Clear, piping song that is repeated three or four times.
  • Blackbird – Varied flute-like song, quieter in winter.
  • Robin – Strong, warbling song that has a lovely melody. Can be heard during night and day.

Recordings of bird songs can easily be found on the internet. If you learn to recognise them then your walks will become much more interesting!