Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Guide: The best places to visit in February
- Credit: Archant
Let Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Julia Gow be your guide to the best places to see wildlife this month
This time of year is an odd mixture of winter weather and signs of spring. Some of our seasonal visitors are still arriving, and others will be making their way to even colder climes. Why not head north of Belper to one of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s most important nature reserves: Wyver Lane (SK 345 493)? Wrap up warm, pack a flask and a pair of binoculars, and spend an hour or two in the hide looking out over this meadow and wetland reserve.
Black-headed gull occur here in their hundreds, roosting away from the attention of predators. As the breeding season approaches, they develop a dark chocolate hood and dark red bill and legs.
The teal which have been present all winter will be starting to pair up before they set off for their breeding grounds. Although some birds breed in Britain, many travel as far as Siberia to have their young. Male birds develop a teal-green flash across the eye and a mustard-yellow rump, which they display to a potential mate. Other courtship behaviour involves fanning their plumage both on the water and in flight. Teal feed on plant seeds and some animal matter, which they find throughout the day and night by dabbling or upending.
If you are lucky while you are down at Wyver Lane you may see a flock of whooper swans which overwinter in Britain. Whooper swans are slightly smaller than mute swans and have yellow and black bills.
There is no access onto the reserve but you can watch the wildlife from the lane or from the Trust’s hide. A permit is required for the hide (contact the reserve manager on 01773 881188 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org). The hide and lane are accessible to wheelchairs and it may be possible to access the new viewing mound with assistance.
Elsewhere in the county at Woodside Farm (our farming enterprise with a mixture of habitats including grassland, wetland and woodland, map ref: SK 448 436), and Mapperley Wood (east of Mapperley Reservoir, on the southern edge of Shipley Country Park, near Ilkeston, map ref: SK 439 433), that much-loved winter visitor, the waxwing, sometimes arrives at this time of year. This exotic looking bird is so named because the tips of some of its feathers are bright red and look like pieces of sealing wax. They come in small groups and eat vast quantities of berries, and then leave for the next available food source.
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There are feeding stations at Woodside which attract birds from the surrounding land. Blue tit, great tit and coal tit all congregate here, feasting on the seeds we provide for them. Up among the trees, you might hear the high-pitched calls of a flock of long-tailed tits. These lovely little birds have tails that are almost twice as long as their bodies. In the summer they feed on beetles and flies, but at this time of year they often visit bird tables.
There is a lot to do on a visit to Woodside Farm nature reserve, to find out more and download a guide go to www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/woodside-0