The February Report

Winter sea ice

Updated for 2018

The Final Lap Before The Finish Line

Winter in Connecticut can seem like forever, especially if you don’t get to enjoy what little sunlight there is during the day. February is not much better than January when it comes to enjoying nature and the outdoors due to February usually having some of our coldest days of the year and snow is very common. But there are a few things to look forward to February:

For those of us who leave work at 5PM, we get to see at least a little sun on our drive home, if only for a short time. Sunset is 5:14PM on the 1st and 5:46PM on the 28th. Just as we get excited about this small glimmer of hope, somehow the plants sense it too and in the last week of February, we will see the very first signs of the early spring flowers poking out the ground. Our own records show Crocus blooming as early as February 27th and daffodils just starting to poke their heads out of the cold ground around the same time. It’s not much, but 4 weeks from now it means we can put the dark and flower-less days behind us.

The winter migrant birds are still very much around in February, and virtually unchanged since January. Our records only indicate a few notable unusual species at this time of year that we will make note of below. Birds such as the American goldfinch, which has different winter plumage, will still generally have their winter plumage in February.

While I don’t think it’s a very notable statistic, we have cataloged a few cases of mammals such as bobcats and foxes making their way into the suburbs. Perhaps the long and cold winter has taken it’s toll and they have come out in search of food. So remember to not leave trash bags outside unsecured.

From a foraging perspective, it’s really no different from January, so that section will be very limited for this report. But March will bring some new wild edibles beginning to poke out of the ground.

February Species of Interest

We have picked-out a few species from each category that we think are important to look for and be aware of in the month of February. While there are many more species out there, this list should acquaint you with what you are most likely to see outside. For the sake of keeping it interesting, we generally skip-over most the year-round species such as squirrels, deer, blue jays, crows, and evergreens, but since February is often lacking in diversity we may highlight some of them.

Amphibians

We have not found any notable amphibian species for the month of February. They really can’t survive the cold temperatures and are still in hibernation.

Birds

The migrant winter birds are still around and we might get a few unique visitors in February if we are as lucky as we have been in prior years. Some of the year-round birds are now more visible due to reduced foliage.

Pink-footed goose
(Anser brachyrhynchus)

Greater scaup
(Aythya marila)

Canvasback
(Aythya valisineria)

Red-shouldered hawk
(Buteo lineatus)

Greater snow goose
(Chen caerulescens atlanticus)

Long-tailed duck
(Clangula hyemalis)

Trumpeter swan
(Cygnus buccinator)

Red-throated loon
(Gavia stellata)

Horned grebe
(Podiceps auritus)

Fungi

While there are some hardy polypores and crust fungi that remain throughout the year, we have no notable fungi species for February at this time. We’ll keep our eyes open for next year.

Insects

The only notable insects we are aware of for February are house pests such as stink bugs, spiders, centipedes, and pill bugs. But we have nothing notable to report at this time.

Lichens

Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months. We don’t have any notable lichens for the month of February.

Mammals

Many mammals go into hibernation during the winter months and most of what is left we tend to see year-round, such as squirrels, deer, and chipmunks. The only notable mammals during February have been foxes and bobcats venturing into neighborhoods, likely in search of food which is very scarce this time of year.

Bobcat
(Lynx rufus)

Red fox
(Vulpes vulpes)

Mosses

While many mosses may be able to persist through the winter, they are generally not in a growth phase. Most of the mosses encountered in the winter months will have turned brown. We have no notable species of moss for the month of February. We’ll keep our eyes open for next year.

Plants

We have a couple of hardy plants that have remained green throughout the winter, as well as a few early blooming flowers poking out of the ground.

Common greenbrier
(Smilax rotundifolia)

Daffodil
(Narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Woodland crocus
(Crocus tommasinianus)

Reptiles

We have no reptiles to report for the month of February and we really don’t expect to see any, even on an exceptionally warm day.

Sea Creatures

Seals (technically a mammal) do head-down to Connecticut around mid-November but we do not have any photos at this time. Otherwise we don’t have anything to report for sea creatures for the month of February.

Slime Molds

We don’t have any notable slime molds for the month of February. While it is possible to see them during a warm spell, they are generally dormant during the winter months.

Trees

In February, nearly all of the deciduous trees will have dropped their leaves. A few have interesting bark patterns that may be more noticeable in the winter. Otherwise all that is really left are the evergreens that persist year-round. We don’t have any notable trees for the month of February.

Foraging Tips

There really isn’t much for foraging in Connecticut in February. The ground is often frozen by this point and the first snow has probably ruined any nuts that may have been left over from fall. So all that is really left is hunting and fishing, which is really outside of the scope of this website. Please check back in March when more foraging options become available.

January Hikes

We have chosen a few recommended hikes and places to visit during the month of January. Since foliage is at a minimum, the focus will be on winter migrant birds which inhabit lakes, ponds, and coastal areas.

Veterans Memorial Park
Norwalk, CT

Let’s face it, there isn’t much foliage no matter where you go, so it might as well be a public park or the middle of the forest. In the case of Veteran’s Memorial Park, where the yearly Norwalk Oyster Festival is held, it seems to be a lucky spot for winter migrant sea birds in the month of February.

Newman-Poses Preserve
Westport, CT

On a cold February day, sometimes a shorter and less strenuous hike is more rewarding. The Newman-Poses Preserve, partially named in honor of Paul Newman, the actor, is just about the right size and terrain for a short but rewarding winter hike. Be on the lookout for old polypore mushrooms.

Preparing for March

I don’t want to get too excited, as sometimes we have a longer winter than usual and there is still significant snow on the ground in March, but we are nearly guaranteed to see our first spring flowers and the first buds starting to form on the ends of tree branches. The sunlight hours get a big longer and March 20th is the spring equinox, officially ending winter, if only astronomically speaking. It will also begin to open-up the spring foraging season and we’ll start seeing more interesting monthly reports. Only 28 more days so hang in there.

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