There is a real lack of colour in the February aerial photo. Noticeable are the darker patches of surface water and also a green shape in the top right which was caused by a rainwater drain overflowing during storm Ewan. The nutrients that washed out onto the wetland gave the grass a boost and it was able to produce lots of chlorophyll again. This gives it a richer green colour than the grass around it.
I breathed a sigh of relief today when I realised it would not be necessary to make any excuses in this blog for our continuing dry weather. No more cheesy elephant jokes, no more 'maybe it'll be wetter next month'. Finally, the rains arrived. Monsoon season. Or so I thought...
I got my hopes up until I looked up the monthly weather data on Met Éireann's website to see that, amazingly, February was actually a little drier than normal. Doh! I just hate data sometimes.
February brought wetter and windier weather and of course we had storms Doris and Ewan in the past fortnight. I have to say it did feel a bit like normality. Though with the level of variability in our weather (as we can see with the rainfall data above) you wonder what normality is anymore.
The rainfall in the past weeks gave our wetland a little top-up. It swelled a bit but nothing spectacular as you can see from the aerial shot above. At this point we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that, saving an extremely wet March, our wetland may have already peaked this season. Our winter is technically now over in terms of monthly data, and we have only received approx. 70% of our long term average rainfall.
February was a very quiet month project-wise overall. Other than following the weather and logging the data we have put it on the back burner. The first two weeks we were consumed with preparing for the confirmation which took place before our mid-term break from which we have just returned. But there were some other nature projects that we were busy at this month.
It is in February every year that we turn our attention to the outdoors and what's happening in nature around us. I mentioned in January's blog about the optimism that this time of year brings, and we can see the evidence of this starting to show with the daylight hours lengthening, and plants and animals reawakening after the winter. A wonderful project that focuses us on this reawakening - a project we have been doing for a number of years now - is the 'Greenwave' Project. The purpose of the Greenwave project is to look for six key signs of Spring in nature around us. It asks the children to look out for such things as the Primrose plant beginning to flower, the 'bud burst' of the Hawthorn tree and the appearance of frogspawn. The whole notion of Spring and nature reacting to improved conditions is closely linked with our Wetland Project.
It is always nice to observe and pay so much attention to something that rarely even gets noticed. For example the buds on one particular branch of a tree, one Primrose plant or a little clump of frogspawn. You can't help but wonder at the millions of other buds, primroses and frogspawn, in fields and ponds around the country, that no-one ever sees. Like the line by poet Thomas Gray in 1751:
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air".
There is also a wealth of opportunity for posing and figuring out questions such as how do frogs know when to have their frogspawn? Or why do the trees grow their leaves at this time of the year and not during December?
In previous years there was a central Greenwave website on which schools could post up the dates of their sightings to make an interactive map. Two years ago this website closed down but we still see the value in doing the project.
Another thing that we turn our attention to at this time of year is our Outdoor Classroom. This is an an area with raised vegetable & fruit beds, a pond, a poly-tunnel and a recreational area to name but a few. It's from this time of year onwards that jobs need to be done to ensure a successful growing season. The outdoor classroom is right outside our window and we busied ourselves before the mid-term break with a good tidy of the poly-tunnel, planting our fruit bed with raspberries, blackberries & blueberries, and the important job of planting our flower seeds for the wildflower bank.
In a matter of months we'll be eating freshly picked berries as we relax and take in the beauty of the wildflowers! Here is an image from last July with the bank almost in full bloom and buzzing with insect life.
In the next few weeks the vernal equinox will be upon us, the clocks go forward an hour and we will hopefully spot some of our six signs of Spring. So that's all for now, another update to come in late March / early April.