Wildlife in February

Although spring is still several weeks away the first signs can often be seen. Frogs are at the peak of their breeding season with frogspawn appearing in ponds and ditches.

Frogs are still emerging from their wintering hiding places and moving towards their chosen breeding ponds. Here in the south frogs spawn earlier than much of the country but as the month progresses areas further north also fill with spawn. Look out for clumps of round clear jelly eggs with a black centre.

This is the best time of year to see frogs as they arrive at ponds to spawn. They emerge from their winter hideaways in sheltered damp spots on land or in the mud at the bottom of ponds. After mating the adults will stay in the pond until the weather is warmer in April. For most of the rest of the year these animals are very unobtrusive and difficult to find.

The speed at which the tadpoles develop depends on the warmth of the water and their food supply. It usually takes about 3 months to change into a young adult. When they first hatch, the tadpoles hang on to their eggs or nearby pond weed. These young tadpoles breathe by taking in oxygen through their gills. As they grow their gills and tails gradually disappear and they develop lungs and legs. The tiny frogs leave the pond and take three years to become fully grown adults.

Other things to look out for:

  • On Moors Lake great-crested grebes can be seen in pairs performing their elaborate courtship dance which involves the exchange of gifts of water weed.
  • Winter ducks like tufted duck, pochard and teal.
  • Hazel catkins have started to expand into golden tassels in order to release their pollen to the wind.
  • Herons – this time of year the herons are mating although we don’t believe they have ever nested at the park. The male performs a mating dance, stretching his neck up then lowering it over his back, with his bill pointing upwards.
  • The rivers are often high at this time of the year, but without the cover of leaves kingfishers may be spotted more easily.