Gate leading to a frosty field | The RSPB

Nature's calendar: February

If you wait until spring has sprung to get outside and connect with nature, you’ll miss out on some incredible wildlife encounters.

Bustling bluetit

While you may wake up several mornings from now, shocked to discover Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and yes it’s too late to book a table, blue tits are punctually searching out safe, warm sites to start building a nest. If you’re the more disorganised type of partner, don’t mention blue tits get ready for breeding months ahead of time. Blue tits are keen on nest boxes. They’re the species most likely to use one and have been known to investigate within minutes of a nest box going up.


Blue tits look for the classic type of nest box with a 25mm entrance hole. They make a small cup-shaped nest within the nest box using moss and wool and can lay a clutch of up to 16 eggs which could mean very busy parents.

Toad in a garden pond with frogspawn | The RSPB

Frogspawn

Almost feverish levels of excitement over the first signs of warmer weather are a key feature of British culture. Towards the end of winter, we start watching the weather forecast like a small child listening for an ice cream truck. When the temperature increases even slightly, frogs can leap out of hibernation. The result is that there’s every chance of early frogspawn in February. Toads, perhaps more sceptical about British weather, hold out for longer before breeding.

Young house sparrows feeding on garden lawn

Affable house sparrows

Gold star wild neighbours. A familiar sight year-round, they’re not fussy eaters and unlike many other birds they will happily nest near others. The sort of house guest who always get invited back. By putting up a little terrace nest box you might even attract a whole community of sparrows, filling your garden with the sound of their chirping. This species is in serious decline so its birdsong will be something to celebrate.

They will need a nest box with a 32mm entrance hole.

Tree planting time

We hate to break the bad news but February is a good time to do some nature-friendly gardening. And it’s prime time to get your nest boxes up. Plant some extra habitat such as native trees and shrubs which will help wildlife for years to come. Don’t give yourself time to think about the wind chill factor. Wrap up quick and dash outside. Tree planting is a simple task that doesn’t take too long: you can be back on the sofa before you’ve had to say “Brrrr!”

Workaholic wood pigeons

We all have that friend or colleague who never feels cold, repels winter lurgies and puts the rest of us to shame by sticking to their running schedule religiously on the chilliest of mornings. In the nature world, there’s woodpigeons. While many animals are trying to conserve their energy this time of year, wood pigeons aren’t slowing down and in fact nest every month of the year. Their young are fed on a ‘milk’ that the parents make in their crops. Wood pigeons aren’t reliant on food such as caterpillars, abundant only in spring and summer, to feed their chicks.


If birds could talk, they might well give wood pigeon nests side-eye and mutter “quality over quantity.” Wood pigeons make rather iffy nests from just a beak full of twigs. Eggs have been known to fall straight through them.

Long tailed tit sitting on it's nest made from moss, lichen, feathers and grass

Showpiece nests

Unlike other species of tit, this petite bird rejects the shelter of nest boxes. It’s easy to see why since man-made nest boxes can hardly compete with the delicate and beautiful cocoon-like nests that long-tailed tits create, lined with sometimes over a thousand feathers and camouflaged with lichen and cobwebs. A masterpiece isn’t made overnight and nests can take up to a month to build, with work starting in February.


Over winter long-tailed tits roam woodlands in flocks of up to twenty, huddle together at night for warmth and help other pairs raise chicks. After months of long, dark nights and atrocious weather have the winter blues caught up with you? Imagine dozens of these cuties snuggling together overnight. We can’t do anything about the freezing cold but picturing little long-tailed tits may raise a smile.

Buzzing with life

On those glorious first sunny days at the end of winter, even couch potatoes can be tempted out of hibernation. As you walk into the light, perhaps blinded by your first rays of sun in weeks, listen out for the hum of bumblebees. Sunny days can draw out bumblebees, taking advantage of nectar from early flowers such as crocuses. Large queens bees will be looking for spots to start a hive after hibernation. Did you know there are 25 species of bumblebee native to the UK? Many are extinct or threatened.