Trees/shrubs: Hazel catkins, also called “Lamb’s tails”, dangle and shed pollen in the wind.
Plants: Snowdrop, Heliotrope and Lesser Celandine may be found in flower.
Birds: Redwings, Fieldfares and Waxwings foraging for berries.
Mammals: Foxes begin breeding. Squirrels build their homes, called ‘dreys’.
Amphibians: Frogs & Toads may wake from hibernation if the temperature rises.
Invertebrates: Small Tortoiseshell butterflies may wake from hibernation on sunny days.
Trees/shrubs: Hazel catkins are joined by the catkins of Alder trees.
Plants: Most Snowdrops, Lesser Celandine & White Butterbur come into bloom. Heads of Bulrush (Reedmace) burst open producing fluffy seeds dispersed on the wind. Look out for the first Primroses.
Birds: Woodpeckers drumming on dead trees, male Moorhens defend their territory against rivals, Herons nest in tree tops in groups called heronries.
Mammals: Badgers emerge from their setts at dusk, between 6 & 8pm.
Amphibians: Frogs return to ponds in town and country, the males arrive first.
Invertebrates: Look out for Comma, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing during warm days especially towards the end of February.
Trees/shrubs: White flowers appear on bare twigs of Blackthorn/Sloe. Willow catkins appear in profusion – the male catkins of Goat Willow are called “pussy willow”. Hawthorn leaves unfurl & can be eaten (called “bread & cheese”).
Plants: Crocuses, Daffodils, Winter Aconite, Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Dog’s Mercury, Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Dog-violets, Red & White Deadnettle & Coltsfoot, which flowers before producing leaves. The leaves of Lords-and-ladies (Cuckoo Pint), Wood Anemone, Bluebells & Ramsons (Wild Garlic) are pushing up through the soil. Ivy fruits in the spring – its berries are a valuable early food source for birds.
Birds: Woodpecker drill into trees and Blue Tits are looking for places to nest. Curlews are back on the upland peat bogs & wet fields ready to breed. Ducks & Coots are squabbling on ponds. Lapwings (also known as peewits or chewits) start to establish their territories. Listen out for the Skylark’s song, followed by the arrival of the first spring migrants including the Wheatear, Chiffchaff &Willow Warbler or even an early Cuckoo.
Mammals: As the saying goes it’s as “Mad as a March Hare”.
Amphibians: Toads return to ponds & by late March have spawned, whereas frogspawn may have already hatched so look out for any tadpoles.
Invertebrates: Insects emerge, some butterflies take to the air, queen bumblebees search undergrowth for a suitable nesting place, bees gather nectar & pollen.
Fungi: Look out for Morels & the Scarlet Elf Cup.
Trees/shrubs: Trees and shrubs come into leaf, fruit trees are heavily laden with blossom, Ash flowers look like large swollen buds. Gorse blooms on acidic soils, its yellow pea flowers smelling of coconut or vanilla.
Plants: Marsh-marigold (Kingcup) flowers beside ponds and streams, Primroses flower in clusters, Bluebells and Ramsons (Wild Garlic) start to carpet the woodland floor, Cowslips blossom in meadows and roadside verges. The Early-purple Orchid is the first orchid of the year to flower. Also look out for Barren Strawberry, Cow Parsley, Dog-violet, Garlic Mustard (Jack-by-the-Hedge), Meadow Buttercup, Wood-sorrel and Wood Anemone.
Birds: The ‘dawn chorus’ of birdsong fills the air. Watch out for Swallows, Blackcap, Warblers and Cuckoo arriving. Look out for Blue Tits and Blackbirds feeding their young.
Mammals: Badger setts have been spring-cleaned and adults forage each night. The young Badgers may be seen above ground for the first time.
Amphibians: Any remaining spawn hatches into tadpoles and toadlets.
Invertebrates: Butterflies and bees forage for food. Common butterflies include Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. During late April swarms of St Mark’s flies maybe seen with their longish black legs trailing lazily beneath them as they fly around. Male Orange tip butterflies emerge in April but only the male that has orange wing-tips.
Fungi: Look out for Many-zoned Polypore and St George’s mushroom.
Trees/shrubs: White blossom of Hawthorn (May blossom) replaces that of Blackthorn. Elder bushes come into flower. More trees break into leaf, including Beech, Oak and ash – remember the saying “Oak before Ash in for a splash, Ash before Oak in for a soak”.
Plants: Cow Parsley and Meadowsweet adorn hedgerows and roadside verges. Bluebells and Cowslips are joined by Cuckooflower (Lady’s smock), upon which the female Orange Tip butterfly lays her eggs, Lords-and-ladies (Cuckoo Pint), Greater Stitchwort and Red Campion. In damper woodland Bluebells are often mixed with, or replaced by, the white flowers of Ramsons (Wild Garlic). The fluffy white ‘flowers’ of Cotton-grass resemble cotton wool balls can dominate wet peat bogs on the hills. Also look out for Woodruff, Pignut, Yellow-Rattle, Bush Vetch, Common Spotted-orchid, Oxeye Daisy, Germander and Wood Speedwells.
Birds: Only by May have all the singing birds arrived so get out very early to hear the full glory of the dawn chorus – listen out for the explosive songs of Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Wren. Swifts and martins join the migrant Whitethroats and Warblers that have already arrived. In the first week of May listen out for the screeching sound of Swifts in the sky. Look out for the holes of Woodpeckers in trees with adults returning to feed their young. Stonechats ‘clack’ from the tops of bushes, showing off their bright orange coloured breasts.
Mammals: If you hear grunting and snorting in your garden during warm nights in May it could be hedgehogs mating! Bats are out in force swooping through the air using their sophisticated echo-location technique to home in and catch and eat midges and other insects.
Amphibians: Tadpoles metamorphose into Frogs and Toads – have any developed legs yet?
Invertebrates: Insects are incredibly abundant, from cockchafer beetles and dragonflies to aphids and mayflies. Dragonflies and damselflies emerge on warm days. Common Blue butterflies feed on the flowers and lay their eggs on Bird’s-foot-trefoil.
Trees/shrubs: Dog-rose and Guelder-rose come into flower.
Plants: Foxgloves are a distinctive feature of the countryside while Bramble (Blackberries) and Honeysuckle flower in the hedgerows. Orchids appear in wet grassland, whilst vetches and daisies grow in profusion in meadows and pastures. As Cow Parsley flowers fade, Common Hogweed and Hedge-parsley take its place. Water Mint, Water Forget-me-not and Brooklime flower in wet places and along ditches and streams. Also look out for Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Oxeye Daisy, Red Campion, Meadow Crane’s-bill and Yellow Iris.
Birds: Listen out for the song of the canary-like Yellowhammer which goes like “a-little-bit-of-bread-and no-cheese” sung from a tree or hedgerow perch! Linnets, Goldfinches and Greenfinches all add to the June birdsong. House Martins are busy catching insects on the wing to feed their young in the large cup-like nests made of mud under the eves of houses. Swallows find easy pickings skirting low over meadows and pastures.
Mammals: On warm midsummer nights look out for Badgers and bats and Fox cubs playing with their siblings and parents.
Amphibians: The first young frogs and toads leave their ponds.
Invertebrates: Mayflies are still around in early June. Rivers, streams and ponds are alive with damselflies and dragonflies. Look out for orange Soldier-beetles feeding on Common Hogweed. On sunny days look out for day-flying black Chimney Sweep moths with white wing tips, and on warm midsummer nights look out for moths.
Trees/shrubs: As Butterfly-bush (Buddleja) come into flower they attract bees and many butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock and the whites.
Plants: Pink spikes of Rosebay Willowherb feature in the countryside with Honeysuckle clambering amongst some hedgerows. In damp places the creamy-white Meadowsweet flowers may be accompanied by many other waterside species such as Yellow Iris, Hemp-agrimony and the tall spikes of Purple loosestrife and Great Willowherb. Broad-leaved Helleborine, which are a type of orchid, comes into flower this month in woods and shady places. Also look out for Knapweed, Goat’s-beard, Meadow Crane’s-bill, Common Spotted-orchid, Bittersweet and Tufted Vetch.
Birds: Flocks of goldfinches (called charms) feed on seedheads of Knapweed and thistles. Cuckoos are the first birds to migrate south for the winter. July is a good time of year to see birds of prey – Kestrels hoverabove fields and roadside verges with long grass.
Mammals: Young Rabbits emerge from their warrens.
Amphibians: Any remaining Frogs and Toads leave their ponds.
Invertebrates: Bumble bees and butterflies such as Red Admiral and Peacock are still seen on Buddlejas and many hedgerow flowers. The Humming-bird Hawk-moth is a day-flying moth with a wingspan of about two inches. It beats its wings so rapidly that they produce an audible hum. It can hold its body still while its long proboscis drinks nectar from flowers.
Trees/shrubs: Tree seeds are ripening and Large-leaved Lime, Sycamore, Field Maple and Hornbeam will soon be shedding their winged seeds. By the end of the month, some trees may start to show the first autumnal colours. Blackberries start to ripen, going from green to red then finally black and delicious. Elderberries also ripen and are feasted on by birds such as Blackbird and Starling. Other berries are ripening too, such as Hawthorn (called haws), Blackthorn (sloes) and Roses (hips).
Plants: Leaves of Lords-and-ladies (Cuckoopint) have died down leaving a fruiting stem, with its head of poisonous red berries. The purple of heather flowers cover the hills, moor and lowland heaths, attracting thousands of bees. Bilberries are now ripe and ready to eat and look out for the carnivorous Sundew on wet boggy ground. Late flowering species include Lady’s Bedstraw, Knapweed, Harebell, Field Scabious and, in wet grasslands and on peaty soils, the deep purple-flowered Devil’s-bit Scabious. Also look out for Betony and Marsh Woundwort.
Birds: Swallows gather on telephone cables and martins muster in flocks as they prepare for the journey south. August is a good month to see Kingfishers as chicks leave the nest and disperse to new areas of water. Take an early morning walk along a small river or stream and look out for the flash of orange and bright blue plumage. The Red Grouse is one of the few birds only found in the UK and is effectively confined to Heather moorland, which also supports Golden Plover, Meadow Pipit and Skylark.
Mammals: Watch bats feed on insects over water during the night. Squirrels can be heard chattering and squealing at each another and can be heard cracking open unripe pale green Hazel nuts, even though there is little reward inside.
Amphibians: Any remaining Frogs and Toads leave their ponds.
Invertebrates: The black/yellow striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth feed on Ragwort, absorbing the poisonous chemicals. Butterflies to look out for include the orange and brown Gatekeepers. Listen for grasshoppers making their distinctive sound as they rub their legs against their bodies in areas with long grass. This is called ‘stridulating’ and they are advertising their territories. Species most likely to be found are the Common Green, Common Field and the Meadow Grasshoppers. On certain days around this time of the year swarms of black ants fill the air. The females have temporary wings which, after their short flight, they bite off and colonise a new area.
Fungi: August is normally too early for most of the Autumn fungi, but the Birch Polypore and Dryad’s Saddle can be found.
Trees/shrubs: Seeds fall from many of the trees, including conkers from Horse-chestnut trees (which were introduced to the UK from Albania in 1616?), as well as acorns from oaks and the ripe brown winged seeds from Ash, Sycamore and Field Maple. Hedgerows are full of the ripe black-coloured berries of sloes, elderberries and blackberries and red-coloured hips and haws. Deciduous tree leaves change colour and start to fall to the ground.
Plants: Common Toadflax and the dandelion-like Rough Hawkbit bloom in dry grasslands as do Common Fleabane, Greater Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Yellow Loosestrife and Purple Loosestrife in wetter areas. Also look out for Yarrow in meadows and roadside verges, and the white flowers of Greater Bindweed and Wild Angelica attract bees and hoverflies.
Birds: Preparations for winter begin but do not finish fully until November. Small birds move through the countryside in flocks helping each other to find food. Jays and hide-away acorns in the ground as stashes to help make it through the winter. On warm days Willow Warblers may be heard singing once again before they leave the UK.
Mammals: Shrews feed on insects and their numbers peak during September. Squirrels, like Jays, also stash acorns in the ground.
Amphibians: Frogs and Toads eat greedily to put on body weight to sustain them through the winter.
Invertebrates: Look out for the dragonflies in wetland areas and bees and wasps feeding on the late-flowering Ivy. September is a good time to see plant galls. Look out for oak ‘apples’, red ‘bean galls’ on willow leaves, and “Robin’s pin cushion” on roses, looking like a tangled ball of red fishing line! Butterflies can still be on the wing from the second or third hatchings. However, they may be ragged and this will be their last month as adults. The browns and skippers feed on grasses. The male Gatekeeper sets up territories along hedges where the nectar bearing plants of Mint, Wood Sage and Bramble attract the adults. The Wall butterfly can be seen basking in the sun on rocks and stones.
Fungi: Fungi such as Stinkhorns, Puffballs and Field Mushrooms appear above ground in abundance in woodlands, meadows and pastures. The Fly Agaric is one of Britain’s best known and most attractive fungi, made famous by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland – take a look around Silver Birch trees.
Trees/shrubs: Trees such as Beech, Oak, Field Maple and Ash reveal their autumn colours, which can happen quite suddenly if there’s a sharp frost.
Plants: Ivy is a very important plant and especially during autumn when it flowers, providing a vital nectar source for insects before they hibernate.
Birds: Redwing and Fieldfares return from the north and many of our summer visitors head off south to Africa.
Mammals: It’s the deer rutting season and stags compete for hinds by fighting each other with their antlers. As the days shorten, dusk is a good time to catch sight of Foxes.
Amphibians: Toads hibernate under rocks and stones, as do female Frogs and young Frogs, but some male Frogs go to the bottom of the pond.
Invertebrates: The Holly Blue butterfly lays its white, dimpled, disc-shaped eggs on flower stalks of Ivy – the green caterpillars that hatch feed on the ivy flower buds. There are plenty of Harvestmen (Daddy Long-legs) about at this time of year.
Fungi: Fly Agaric and Shaggy Inkcap, appear in coniferous and deciduous woodlands. Look out for fairy rings formed by toadstools in grassland and the Beefsteak fungus on oak and chestnut trees.
Trees/shrubs: We are still treated to one of nature’s spectacular scenes – the autumn colours from dark browns to bright yellows and others of reds and oranges. As the leaves fall we can notice the red twigs of Dogwood shrubs and the small catkins of Hazel.
Plants: Ivy is in flower and provides a late source of food for insects. White Deadnettle, looks like a short stinging nettle without a sting and has white flowers in between its leaves.
Birds: Mixed flocks of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch, scour the countryside for food. Redwing, Fieldfare and Waxwing feed on the remaining berries of Hawthorn and Rowan in the hedgerows. Robins are about the only birds left singing as they continue to defend their territory in winter. Tawny Owls begin to establish territories in November – listen out for the distinctive ‘t’wit t’whooo’ after dusk.
Mammals: Hedgehogs try to build up their fat reserves to get them through their hibernation over the winter by feeding on slugs, beetles and worms.
Amphibians: Some of this year’s young Frogs and Toads may still be out hunting.
Invertebrates: Ladybird hibernate clustered together in large numbers, up to 1000 individuals, to provide extra warmth.
Fungi: Look out for Puffballs, which have a firm and rubbery white texture but when ripe look like stemless brownish sacs, which contain the spores and are released in a cloud of dust when hit by a drop of rain.
Trees/shrubs: The two coniferous trees that are native to the UK, i.e. the Scot’s pine and yew, are evergreen and the upper bark of the pine has an orangey-pink colour, and berries appear on female Yew trees. The holly is an evergreen broadleaved tree and, like Yew trees, are either male or female, with only the female trees producing berries. Other trees that stand out in winter are Silver Birch, with its white bark, and Alder, with its purple-tinged catkins. The young stems of Dogwood shrubs are blood red in colour.
Plants: A few plants may still be found lingering on in flower, such as Groundsel, Scarlet Pimpernel and Red Campion.
Birds: Look out for the pink crests of Waxwings that feed on berries after severe winter weather in Europe brings them to the UK. The Robin is one of the few birds in the UK that sing all year round because it holds its territory over the winter and males often hold the same territory for their whole life.
Mammals: At night, Foxes call out with the female’s eerie blood-curdling screams and the dog’s barks and yelps as they start to form pairs. If the weather is mild bats may emerge briefly from their winter’s sleep to grab a meal of insects if there are any about.
Amphibians: Frogs and Toads may wake to feed for short periods in warm weather.
Invertebrates: The December Moth can be found until mid to late December.