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Wildlife in late winter

Conservation Officer Julie Garlick highlights the wildlife she’s spotted in February.

Although spring is officially still some time away, the natural world is already responding to the lengthening days. We are somewhere between winter and spring, a time of year the Celts marked with the festival of Imbolc on 2 February.


At this time of year, when grand summer vistas and spectacular wildlife aren't competing for our attention, it makes you appreciate the smaller things. You stop to admire a single primrose, a flapping flock of lapwings overhead and the smell of a gorse flower.

You have time to admire the common things which you take for granted at other times of year – such as the striking markings of a magpie or a robin’s song.


The snowdrops are well underway now and the first primroses can be spotted here and there. Many trees are sprouting new buds and bluebell leaves are appearing in the woods. Red campion flowers dot the hedgerows. Frogspawn is appearing in ponds (it seems a little later this year). Woodpeckers have already started hammering to mark their territories ready for the breeding season. Ravens are one of the earliest nesters and can often be seen now in pairs along the coast and in the hills, calling with their distinctive ‘honking’.


Even at this time of year, there is still plenty of conservation work afoot. We are busy pony-grazing wildlife sites which need a rest from grazing in the summer, such as hay meadows. Now is also the best time to graze sites which may get too busy during the holiday season.

Welsh mountain ponies helping to keep coastal habitats open and rich in biodiversity
Welsh mountain ponies helping to keep coastal habitats open and rich in biodiversity.

Winter is the time for carrying out our scrub control work, such as gorse and willow which will encroach onto grassland habitats given the chance. Scrub is a very valuable habitat in its own right though, so we always make sure we keep plenty of it in the right places. Dartford warblers, stonechats, adders – all rely on shrubby growth to thrive.

Volunteers clearing blackthorn to restore flower-rich grassland
Volunteers clearing blackthorn to restore flower-rich grassland.

We’ve been out checking some of our barn owl boxes recently for signs of activity. We’re building up a picture of where the successful boxes are, ready for inspection in June to check on breeding success.   

Local ornithologist Paddy Jenks helping to check barn owl boxes with a phone on a stick!
Local ornithologist Paddy Jenks helping to check barn owl boxes with a phone on a stick!

Our knowledge of how these owls are faring in Pembrokeshire is pretty limited at the moment, but a new Facebook site is being set up for people to record their sightings.

Barn owl (C) Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
Barn owl.

Please keep an eye out for the Pembrokeshire Owl Group on Facebook in the near future and share your observations to help us understand more about how they are getting on!

National Park Nature Diary
Published 25/02/2019


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