Come on, February!
Well, what a January that was on the . Seemingly constant heavy rain and strong winds throughout the month on Exmoor, left sunshine a very rare visitor. Life goes on, though, and wildlife can't afford to wait around for the better weather.
The ponds on the League's Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary are steadily filling with masses of frogspawn. This clandestine activity goes on under the cover of darkness and it is rare to see an adult frog out in the daytime.
Another animal that carries out exclusively nocturnal ramblings at this time of year is the . These mammals still do well on the League's sanctuaries, despite the wholly that goes on all around us. A big spoil heap of fresh earth outside a sett entrance is a sure sign that spring cleaning is taking place below ground and a new generation of badgers is about to be born.
This is the worst time of the year for , as the winter seems to drag on forever and the last bit of nutrition drains out of the remaining vegetation. Their dark winter coats look as dull as the weather, as they spend the day sitting around and conserving as much energy as possible. A pair of Roe Deer have been hanging around on the League's Baronsdown sanctuary too. The male Roe buck is sporting a set of furry antlers that are still in the process of growing, whereas the Red Deer stags will shortly be casting off their old antlers.
Whilst small resident birds are desperately trying to survive until the better weather arrives, bigger birds, such as the ravens that frequent the sanctuaries, are already nesting. Hopefully, the Peregrine Falcon that launched an unsuccessful attack on a Wood Pigeon flying overhead will do better in future and it will return to nest too. Technology means that it is now possible to track summer migrant birds from their wintering grounds and it is great to see that some have started the precarious journey back Britain.
February does bring the end of the season and a break from the incessant sound of gun fire. Judging by the number of pheasants roaming around on the League's Baronsdown sanctuary and elsewhere, it hasn't been a good shooting season. That is good news for the , but potentially bad news for the amphibians, reptiles, butterflies and even small mammals that they will eat. The environmental impact of large scale pheasant shooting is having a devastating effect on our wildlife, but for those in power short-term financial gain for a few seems to be more important.