Highwoods Preservation Society

WHAT'S about in January? The name for the month comes from Janus, the two-headed Roman god who looked both ways.

Friday, 9th January 2009, 8:06 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 8:14 pm

Appropriately, while there are still reminders of last year, fallen leaves etc, we also look forward to the New Year.

Though the worst of winter is probably still to come, signs of spring abound. Most obvious are the catkins of the Hazel, commonly known as lamb's tails.

They will gradually grow longer until the time is right for them to open and expose their pollen. This may happen before the end of the month if the weather is mild.

The lamb's tails are the male flowers of the tree; the female flowers are very small (inch/10mm) and are bright red.

They come out after the male flowers because they cannot rely on insect pollination at this time of the year, they wait until the air is filled with the pollen of the male flowers.

Hazel catkins are not the only catkins about. Silver Birches have small non-descript ones but Alders have large crimson catkins although they will not usually be obvious until next month.

An indication of the coming of spring is the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. They do this to advertise for mates and proclaim their territory.

January 10 is the earliest it has been heard in the Highwoods in recent years, but in any case there should be the odd burst before the end of the month even if it is cold.

The Mistle Thrush can often be heard with its harsh rattle of a song.

It sings however hard the weather, which gives it its country name of "storm cock".

The Robin is much more circumspect. If the weather is bad it will only sing from deep cover, but as soon as the sun shines it will be happily singing in full view.

Thus country lore credits the Robin as a weather prophet, so if it is singing from cover the weather may be about to get worse.

Many birds will be checking out good nesting sites and this leads to an increase in territorial song as we move further into the New Year.

If we get any snow, try and walk in the woods as soon as possible after a fall. Before the paths get walked on you can see from tracks, which animals have been about, such as rabbits, deer, badgers and foxes.

While the woods may seem uninteresting in their winter guise, there is still plenty around. Birds are easier to see, with no leaves on the trees. There will also signs of spring, and perhaps in the mud signs of other animals.

It is also a good time to try to identify wildlife by less obvious methods. Behaviour, flight patterns, silhouettes of wildlife and trees etc; know as 'jizz'.

Don't forget our first walk of the year on Saturday January 31 starting at 10.30am. Bring your binoculars.

The walk will last for about 1 hours, wellies best if it has been wet.

Meet in the car park (off Peartree Lane north). More details from Alan Malpass, 224785.