February can be a cruel month. On the one hand, bulbs are starting to flower and you may hear your first low hum of a queen bumblebee looking for sustenance. But on the other, days are still short and cold, and some of the worst winter weather could yet be to come.
Keep bird feeders topped up and replace frozen water in bird baths with fresh. You may consider floating a ball on the surface of your pond to stop it freezing over, but remember that plants can continue photosynthesising through thin ice, so ice only really causes problems if it’s there for a long time and/or is covered with snow.
How to help wildlife in your garden
- Grow your own bird food
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- Chris Packham on gardening for wildlife - Podcast
- Wildlife homes to make
Frogs are laying eggs
In the south, frogs will be heading to breeding ponds to spawn. At dusk, listen out for croaking males and look for frogs hopping to the pond in ones and twos (females often carry males on their backs). Croaking and coupling up (amplexus) last for a few days before they finally decide to lay eggs – at which point the pond turns into a seething mass of frog bodies and eggs, before it all goes quiet again.
Birds are relying on your feeders
Birds may be using your feeders more often as sources of natural food, such as seed and berries, will be very low now. Less common species like brambling, lesser redpoll and waxwing may make an appearance. Scatter small amounts of seed and leave halved apples on the ground – regularly cleaning bird feeders will ensure these migrants don’t take diseases, such as trichomonosis, back to the continent. Read more about feeding garden birds in winter, as well as what to feed garden birds all year round. Looking for a bird feeder?
Queen bumblebees are enjoying the first crocus blooms
Queen bumblebees will be making the most of the season’s first crocus flowers. Some queens will return to their winter quarters at night but others may sleep in the crocus, which will close at dusk, making the perfect floral cocoon. Find out which are the best crocus varieties to grow.
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Hedgehogs may start emerging
If it’s mild, hedgehogs may be emerging from hibernation. Leave a small amount of cat biscuits and water for them, and set a camera trap (if you have one) to monitor activity. Always call a rescue centre if you see a hedgehog out during the day. Check out our guides on how to make a hedgehog footprint tunnel and 10 ways to help hedgehogs. We also have roundups of the best wildlife cameras, as well as hedgehog houses.
Pond life is returning
Mild conditions will also increase activities of pond life. You may spot a pond skater on the surface, or a backswimmer floating up from the depths to catch an air bubble.