Nature Now - January 2019

by Sarah Dobson Nature Now

Happy New Year, with our best wishes for both people and nature in The Living Coast for 2019!

The weather remains typically wintry (which is of course as it should be in January!) and the days are short, but now gradually increasing in length following the winter solstice last month.

There’s plenty going on in the night skies this month! The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the night of 3rd-4th January. The first of three supermoons this year occurs on 21st January, and there will be a total lunar eclipse visible also early on that morning! The following day on 22nd January there is a ‘conjunction’ of Jupiter and Venus, when the two planets appear to almost come together in the pre-dawn sky.

In the countryside farmers are providing supplementary feeding of hay to their livestock, many of whom will be kept indoors due to the reduced grass growth and wet conditions. Arable farmers will have their autumn-sown crops well-established by now.

Many plants and animals lie dormant or are in hibernation during mid-winter, however some wildlife can be quite active, especially at night! You might hear the melodic hoots of Tawny owls (“ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo”) calling to each other in the darkness, or alternatively the much harsher barks and screams of Foxes on their annual search for a mate.

Birds are perhaps the most obvious wildlife at this time of year however, sometimes in great numbers including waders on the river estuaries of the Adur and Ouse, as well as the ‘murmurations’ of Starlings that gather to roost on Brighton’s piers. In gardens you should keep an eye out for unusual visitors such as Redwings and Fieldfares from Scandinavia, or even a Waxwing in cold conditions – and don’t forget to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for an hour over the last weekend of the month (26-28th January).

In woodlands you might hear the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker against a tree to establish its breeding territory. Other birds are starting to sing to hold a territory too, such as the Song Thrush with its loud repeated notes, as well as Robins, Blackbirds and Great Tits.