As the month rolls in we welcome short, bright and crisp days that begin with a coating of frost. The frost brings our attention to things we usually miss; such as spider webs that are perfectly outlined with tiny crystals, rendering them useless for the spiders but decorating the countryside.
This is the time of year when the first signs of the spring to come make their appearance. The gardens start to ring with the calls of song thrushes, blue tits and great tits, as they defend territories for the breeding season.
If you’re taking a walk through the woods you might be lucky enough to hear the characteristic ‘drumming’ sound of the great spotted woodpecker hunting for larvae beneath the bark of the trees.
The first flowers poke their heads through the frozen soil in the form of snowdrops, and the pale yellow catkins of the common Hazel hang down exploding with a cloud of pollen if tapped at the right moment.
If you go pond dipping this month keep a look out for Damsel fly and May fly Nymphs.
Mountain hare and stoats are still sporting their winter coats, blending them perfectly into their snowy surroundings, hiding them from both prey and predator alike.
Now is a great time to get interested in animal tracks, the overnight freeze preserves animal tracks in the mud if you go looking early in the morning. You may be surprised at the number of animals that pass through an area. The best place to look is alongside a river or stream where the ground would be a bit softer. Alternatively, if it snows, get up early in the morning and see the tracks through the snow, even birds will leave tracks in your garden.
Towards the end of the month, the first amphibians will emerge from hibernation. Newts will begin their migration to their breeding ponds; they tend to hibernate within 500m of the pond. In the south West of Britain, Common frogs will begin their courtship rituals before mating and laying the first frog spawns in any body of slow moving or stationary water. This process will then slowly move North as the month goes on.
So wrap up warm and go exploring. Make it one of your new year’s resolutions, to see and learn something new about the abundant nature that surrounds us.
Happy new year to you all from the team here at Acer Ecology.
Remember that it is still possible to undertake a range of ecology surveys during the winter months, click here to find out more!
Check out our survey calendar to see when you can start planning your surveys this year.
Why not attend one of our ecology courses?