As we move further away from the winter solstice and towards the spring equinox, the days during February continue to lengthen until by the end of the month we have gained around two hours of extra daylight. All sorts of things in nature are beginning to respond to this extra light, so if you can bear the cold, often stormy weather this month can bring, a nature walk in February is always worth it to witness those very first signs that spring is just around the corner. Here are a few of my favourite things to look out for in February...
Number one: Cherry plum blossom
One of my local first signs of spring is a cluster of young trees lining the edge of the beck. They're always the first to break bud even before the blackthorn which grows on the opposite side of the path, which is how I came to notice that this blossom was different. Like blackthorn, the white, starry flowers bloom before the green leaves which makes the blossom look so abundant, but it doesn't have the thorny branches of blackthorn and is not in fact a native tree but an ancestor to the domestic plum often planted as a street tree. I think this small colony must have spread here initially by a bird who'd been enjoying feasting on their edible cherry like fruits. Their restrained beauty and proximity to the water reminds me of Japanese woodblock prints and I often stop here for a few minutes to soak up the serenity and watch the blue-tits flitting about the blossom on my way past.
Number two: Bird song returning
I notice it especially at dusk from birds in the thrush family, with the neighbourhood blackbirds once again taking up their lofty perches on gable ends and chimney pots singing (softly for now) at sunset. One of the very first birds to return to singing early in the year is the unmistakable song thrush. There is a very tall conifer tree near my garden where this one was perched in early Feb swaying in the wind and singing its repetitive phrases loudly as if to shake us all out of our winter slumber.
Number three: Goat willow buds
These fluffy white cotton wool like buds are just beginning to appear. If we have February storms you may be lucky enough to find a windfallen sprig as I did in 2020. I took it home and put it in a vase with water to watch the leaves unfurl and kept it on display as an Easter tree. It grew so many roots in the water that I thought I would try planting it in a pot and it remains (hopefully quite happily) in my living room 3 years later.
I'd love to hear about some of the signs of spring you look forward to seeing in February, please share in the comments below.
For more seasonal tales, sign up to my Sunday stories newsletter here