Woodpecker drumming– another call you are likely to hear, during February, is the territorial and mate-seeking hammering of Woodpeckers. Only the Great and the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers drum- not the Green Woodpecker. Since the sparrow-sized Lesser Spotted, (the male of which has a red cap, and no white shoulder bar. ), is now on the endangered red list, having declined by 73% in 25 years, the most likely one you’ll be hearing is the louder, faster and much more common Great Spotted Woodpecker. The male Great Spotted, starling-sized, has a red nape. The sound really carries- I heard three trying to out-drum each other recently in Sussex. But listen carefully- if you should hear or see a Lesser Spotted it is worth letting the RSPB or BTO know. Conditions: Sleet, rain and low cloud. Temperature: Max 3- Min 2C.
Recognising birdsong– this is a good time of year to gradually learn, one at a time, before many birds start singing for territories and to attract a mate. The Great Tit has several calls, but the easiest is the loud two-note song you’ll hear now, often represented as ‘teacher-teacher’ but I think of as a tick- short down, longer up note. I found that learning one bird-song at a time really helps, and Great Tits are common to most areas so good as a start. Conditions: Chilly and grey, with some rain. Temperature: Max 3-Min 0C.
Butterbur, which grows in damp areas, is scenting the air with aniseed alongside Catsfield Church already, providing food for overwintering butterflies and bees. Used since medieval times to treat migraine and asthma, recent scientific research shows that it contains ingredients effective for these complaints. The name comes from the old practice of wrapping butter in the leaves, to store. Only male flowers grow in the South, while the much larger female grow with male in the north, at Millers Dale and other sights. Conditions: Overcast and nippy Temperature: Max 6- Min 2 C.
Cedars, non-native Conifers, add little except shelter to our wildlife. All Cedars are easy to identify, having cones that sit upright on their branches. This is the best known Cedar of Lebanon, introduced to the UK in 1638 and extensively planted in country estates by Capability Brown and others. The durable wood was used to build palaces and ships in Lebanon and Egypt, where the fragrant oils were used to help mummify bodies. Oils are and are still used as an insect repellent. We inherited a Red Cedar hedge, slower growing and vastly preferable to the commonly used Leyland Cypress. Conditions: Windy with some sun, at last, down South! Temperature: Max 9- Min 4C.
Scots Pine– one of only 3 native UK conifers, this pine was the first to recolonise after the Ice Age. It can live to 700 years old. The once widespread Caledonian Forest is only a remnant of its former self, but is a priority habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The wood has been used for centuries for many things- ship-masts, furniture, resin, tar and turpentine. All pines have these tough long needles in bunches. The Scots Pine has three years of cones on the tree at any one time, and sustains a wide variety of wildlife even when planted, like these, more recently
in gardens and Parks. Conditions: Almost continual rain and cloud in Sussex over these few days. Temperature: Max 9- Min 8C.