Winter into spring: February on the farm

February is often described as the bleakest month, with the land still gripped in winter and the coldest temperatures often being reached. It cannot be ignored though, that February also brings the promise of coming spring, with the feeling in the air beginning to change, as the month progresses.

Some mornings a light frost can be woken up to, but still frosts are less frequent this winter, than they used to be.

Plants are beginning to stir in February, with catkins (male flowers) hanging from hazel trees, celandines appearing, pussy willow flowering, primroses flowering, and gorse flowering in the hedgerows.

This year on our farm though, blackthorn is flowering early in February, along with horse chestnut trees already coming into bud and the buds beginning to burst.

Animals are beginning to become more active in February, with brown hares becoming easier to see in the fields, rabbits becoming ‘frisky’, female foxes being pregnant, and grey squirrels giving birth in their drays. Also, badgers are beginning to give birth to cubs too, with the most obvious sign of this being remains of grass seen around the entrance tunnels to setts, left from where badgers have dragged grass down into their setts to make nests.

As well at this time of year, starling flocks begin to disperse, as individuals head back to their breeding ranges and rooks begin to build their nests in preparation for breeding. The drumming sound of great spotted woodpeckers can now be heard more frequently, as males defend their territories against other males and attempt to attract a female. This is the same with the dawn chorus, as in February it begins to pick up, due to males defending their territories and advertising themselves to available females.

Conditions were mild towards the end of February this year, leading to insects, such as honeybees and butterflies beginning to become active.

In relation to the farm side of life, in February our four sheep were brought inside in preparation for iconic spring lambing at the end of March.

My highlight of February, was beginning to hear blackbirds singing at dawn and dusk as the month came to an end, which is a traditional sign that winter is over.