As February begins, we start to glimpse primroses, snowdrops and daffodils appearing in larger numbers. The air can be balmy and daffodils can be too keen to flower, and then die off when the inevitable blizzards come. This month signals the ancient time of Imbolc, dedicated to Brigid, the Mother Saint of Ireland. The old goddess figure, Brigid, was associated with learning, poetry, prophesying, healing and metal working. Traditionally people would plait a St Brigid cross, woven from rushes or straw, to hang over their lintels or
stables, blessing both animals and people. February is a month for birdsong. Saint Valentine’s Day falls on 14 February, a time for love in the animal kingdom, with mating calls ringing out and birds choosing their mates. The male chaffinch can be heard in the trees beginning his song slowly then increasing his speed with a strong finale. Wrens, who are usually quiet throughout the winter, call for a mate in mid-February. To tune your ear to all this, The British Trust for Ornithology (the BTO) has an excellent library of images, videos, calls and songs that can be found by going to their website (bto.org).
Positive Ecological News
Rewilding Nottingham city centre
The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has laid out its vision for a post-retail urban landscape: to replace the city’s shopping centre with a natural greenspace. “Transforming the Broadmarsh into a natural greenspace would bring people together and start putting the city’s nature into recovery at a time when natural greenspace has never been more valued or needed,” said Nottingham Wildlife trust CEO Paul Wilkinson.
EU oil producer to stop drilling
Denmark has announced it will end oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, and phase out existing production by 2050. The Nordic country is the largest oil producer in the European Union. “We are now putting a final end to the fossil era,” said Dan Jorgensen, Danish Climate Minister.
Antarctic blue whales return
Up until industrial whaling, which started in 1904, blue whales were abundant, with sailors the world over bringing home stories about the large leviathans from the deep. By the 1970s they had almost vanished with very few sightings. But this year there have been over 50 new blue whale sightings, hopefully a sign that the banning of commercial whaling in 1996 is having a positive effect.
Kakapo saved from extinction
The Kakapo from New Zealand is the largest parrot and the longest-living of its species (it can live for up to 100 years). It is flightless and therefore extremely vulnerable to predators. Years of active conservation has saved it from outright extinction, but recently the few that remained were struck down by a respiratory disease. However, the disease has been contained and the population now stands at 213 and is growing.
The best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters will be on 11 February (new Moon), a perfect day to try and locate the North Star, or Polaris. Once you locate the “Big Dipper” (picture it as a saucepan), you will see that the “handle” of the saucepan has two stars. Draw a straight line between those stars, continue upwards about five times the distance between the end-stars, and you will locate the solitary North Star. This star is always in position above the axis of the north pole and can help you navigate at sea and on land.
On 27 February there is a full moon named the “Snow Moon” by many Native American tribes as the moon usually arises during snowfall. Earlier in the month, on the 18th, there will be a close approach of both Mars and the Moon: both being strongly visible at
dusk on this day.
1st to 2nd – Spring, 3rd to 13th – Neap, 14th to 15th – Spring, 16th to 28th – Neap.
February moon phases
Andreas Kornevall is a Swedish storyteller, writer and ecologist. He is Director of Operations for Earth Restoration Service, a charity based in the UK