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Monday, February 9, 2015

Carrie's February Nature and History Natter.

Sometimes February can be a harsh month with snow and freezing winds however if you look closely, you can sometimes spot the first signs of spring.  Hazel catkins have begun expanding into golden tassels to release their pollen to the wind, beautiful and delicate snowdrops now poke their heads above the cold earth in abundance, and winter aconites are showing their cheerful yellow buttercup like flowers.

In the world of birds the winter migrants are still in Britain, with estuaries full of waders furiously feeding for worms and other titbits in the mud, ducks in large flocks on estuaries, with geese and swans at some locations.  Other birds have already begun their songs, with mistle and song thrushes proclaiming their territories from high perches, and a sunny day may reveal the repetitive “tea-cher tea-cher” song of the great tit.

In gardens, small birds are more than ever in need of the food put out to see them through the cold nights; siskins may be a treat at this time of year for the garden bird watcher, while others such as blue tits are already prospecting for nesting sites.  If you are very lucky you may spot a visiting waxwing, as these Scandanavian visitors work their way through the country feeding on any berry laden rowan trees, starting in the north east and moving to the south west.  Although normally birds of the wild, to some extent they seem to ignore humans, which can permit great views as they feed in bursts, then rest and preen for a period, only to start feeding again. Often travelling in large flocks, they call to one another with a pleasant piping chatter.

February was added to the Roman calendar in 713 BC,changing its length over time, and once had as few as 23 days.  When Julius Caesar remade the Roman calendar, the month was assigned 28 days during normal years and 29 days during leap years which occurred every four years.
It is the third month of winter, and named for the Latin word “februum”, which means purification, and together with January was the last of the months added to the Roman calendar. The Welsh call February "y mis bach" which means "little month", while the Saxon term Wol-monath means “cake month”, due to the practice of offering cakes to the gods during this month. In Finnish, the month is called helmikuu, meaning "month of the pearl"; when snow melts on tree branches, forms droplets which re-freeze and look like pearls of ice.  In Polish and Ukrainian respectively, the month is called luty or лютий, meaning the month of ice or hard frost, and in Macedonia it is sechko meaning month of wood cutting.

Many thanks to Carrie for the above.

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