February begins tomorrow, which means it's time for Snowdrops. Indeed they have emerged on schedule, though the flowers haven't quite opened up yet. Some things you might not have known about Snowdrops, if the Wikipedia page is to be believed:

  • Snowdrops were probably introduced to the UK by the Romans.
  • The seeds are distributed by ants, and contain substances that attract them.
  • In most countries it is illegal to collect Snowdrop bulbs.

Many gardens open at this time of year especially to show off their carpets of snowdrops. There is a page listing Snowdrop gardens for 2010.


A quick blast of summer to warm up the cold winter nights. Pictured is a Small Magpie moth that has just emerged (well, last June) and is waiting for its wings to fully unfold and dry out.

If you're planning to spend an hour in the garden this weekend taking part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch then also make sure you keep your ears open as well as your eyes. It can sometimes be difficult to spot birds that may be hiding in trees or hedges, but quite often you can hear them before you see them.

Do you know the difference though between what a robin and a blackbird sounds like? If the answer's no then why not take a look at this fantastic guide from the Guardian's website. It gives example of the songs of the birds that you are most likely to spot in your garden. 

By the end of the weekend you could be an expert! 

Do you have an unusual, amusing or just plain brilliant wildlife photo, video or story? You know – the sort of thing they show on Springwatch to warm the hearts of the nation. If so, why not send it in to us and then perhaps everyone can see it and you will receive kudos and admiration from your wildlife loving peers.

Go on – you know you want to! Use the contribute link in the top right to email the editor. Even if you just want to comment on the blog or suggest ideas for future articles, we'll be pleased to hear from you.




A quick reminder that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is upon us this weekend – 30th and 31st January. Find the handy recording sheet for printing here.

The Chaffinch above is watching you watching him!

Much has been written over the last month or so about the impact of the cold snap that we've been having in the UK on our bird life. Much of it has been fear as to the impact that the weather may have in reducing bird numbers, but it seems that the impact on bitterns is in the opposite direction.

Bitterns are generally very secretive birds that are hard to spot as they stalk through reeds looking for fish. Part of the same family as herons, they are most known for the booming sound that the male makes in the spring. 

This year's cold weather has resulted in record numbers of bittern coming to the UK from Northern Europe (where it's been even colder still) and some have also been spotted outside of their usual reed bed habitats. The white back ground and frozen water in their usual feeding places means that spottings have even come in of some being seen in people's back gardens and one sighting on top of an office block. 

Out of concern for the birds, some reserves have taken to feeding the bitterns (and herons) sprats in recent weeks as it is thought that many may not have been able to fish for themselves. Cold weather has previously resulted in reductions in the number of heron family members and wardens will be watching with interest to see how the number of bitterns changes over the next twelve months.

The press seems to be full of "news" of celebrity couples divorcing these days, but one divorce headline grabbed my attention today for being a little bit different!

Bewick's swans usually mate for life, but staff monitoring the annual arrivals at Slimbridge have noticed one pair that seem to have returned this year separately, but with new partners. It's not completely unheard of for a swan to find a new partner following the death of their previous mate, but for them just to go their separate ways is a little unusual, and has only been seen on one previous occasion in the last 40 years at Slimbridge. Out of the 4,000 pairs of swans that have been monitored at the site it is certainly a figure that is much lower than the UK's average divorce rate.

Both members of the previous partnership are currently at Slimbridge, with their new partners in tow. Like at the celebrity parties they are apparently yet to acknowledge each other, despite being on the same small bit of lake. There is no news as yet for the reason behind the split, but the lack of children from the relationship may be a possibility. Certainly in their previous trips to Slimbridge they did not arrive with a cygnet at any point.

We'll keep you posted if we hear of any further developments with this couple!


As the winter months drag on, I look forward to the spring and have been perusing photos from last year. Above is a Kingfisher (click for larger version) taken in February 2009. I've actually seen them in the same place throughout this past winter, fishing on the same stocks as yesterday's Little grebe.

This is about the best shot I've ever got of a Kingfisher, requiring many months of half-chances at too great a distance and in poor light before finally getting a good bright shot fairly close up. You can tell that it's a male because it has an all black bill whereas in females the lower mandible of the bill is red/orange.

22. January 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Birds


At my favourite local nature reserve there are currently Little grebes fishing successfully in the margins. To be clear a "Little grebe" is a specific species of diving duck bird, not just a Grebe that's little. It's sometimes known as a Dabchick. They really are very little – only about half the length of a Mallard, and extremely cute. In the breeding season they have a more distinctively marked and coloured head and neck, but retain a fluffball appearance most of the time. It's amazing that they can spend so much time scooting around underwater but still maintain such a soft and downy look.

The picture above was actually taken in a previous year, but this is exactly what you'll see on many a lake in the country right now. They quite often seem to struggle to get the fish down their throats, spending literally minutes juggling them, or bringing them back up for another try.

Update: 'Blackbird' correctly points out in the comments that a Little grebe is not in any way a duck!