Wildlife and Places to See in February!
Here you can find out about the wildlife you can seen in Wiltshire and Swindon at the moment. Visit this months featured site to see a wealth of wildlife, take a look at our identification guide to find out a group you are most likely to see, don’t forget to send us in your records!
Three To Spot - Waterfowl
Lesser Stag Beetle - Dorcus parallelipipedus Less well known than its larger relative the Stag Beetle, the Lesser Stag Beetle thrives in the deadwood of deciduous woodlands, primarily Ash, Beech and apple. At 2-3cm it is considerably smaller than the Stag Beetle and lack the characteristic antlers, the adults can be further distinguished by their smaller mandibles, knobbed antennae and all black wing case. Larvae are more difficult to identify with both the stag beetle and lesser stag beetle larvae possessing an orange head and brown jaws and both adopting a C shape when at rest. However the larvae of the lesser stag beetle are more likely to be found in drier wood piles with lesser stag beetle adults often found nearby.
Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia In early spring the larvae re-emerge after winter, clusters of up to 150 can gather to bask in what sun there is. Keep your eyes peeled for this sight at Morgan’s Hill nature reserve. Easy to spot webs are produced in late summer by small black larvae who then overwinter, emerging in early spring to bask in the weak sunshine. Due to changes in agricultural practices, today colonies are predominately limited to calcareous grassland. Devil’s-bit scabious is the primary foodplant, although on calcareous grassland Field Scabious and Small Scabious may occasionally be used. With severe declines across Europe, Britain is considered to be a stronghold for the Marsh Fritillary.
Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus With skills so finely adapted for hunting, Sparrowhawks are a beautiful species of bird that are most commonly seen effortlessly gliding through the air looking for an unsuspecting bird to catch. Being ambush hunters your garden is a perfect hunting ground for Sparrowhawks who, by learning the best route through your garden in which to attack, can quickly swoop in over a fence and catch any unsuspecting bird that is perched on your bird feeder. Sparrowhawks can be identified by males having a bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly, and with females having a brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. They also have long, yellow legs and long talons and bright yellow eyes that turn orange as they get older.
This Months Must See
Alder - Alnus glutinosa
A sure sign that spring is on its way the emergence of catkins on Alder indicating the awakening of woodlands after winter. A native broadleaved deciduous tree standing at 15 – 25m it is primarily found in wet environments in particular along the banks of streams and rivers. Its flowers are both male and female: males in the form of yellow-brown catkins with females distinctly different in appearance as 6mm red cones. From February to early April the Alder is a distinctive sight with yellow-brown catkins contrasting with the red cones of the female flower.
Winter Twigs, Buds and Bark
When the leaves have fallen, it is still possible to identify deciduous trees by the colour of twigs and the buds they bear along with the colour and texture of the bark. Take a look at our identification guide to winter twigs, buds and bark to help you identify some of the species you can see. Find out about the winter twigs, buds and bark you may see this month with our ID guide
Explore Woodlands to See Carpets of Snowdrops
Across the county white carpets will be getting rolled out as pure Snowdrops transform woodland floors that spring to life after the winter months. Often appearing throughout late January and February, they have been spotted as early as New Year's Day in past years. They are aided by hardened leaf tips that enable them to push through frozen soil (which gave rise to another name of 'snow piercers'). Find out more about Woodlands to See Carpets of Snowdrops