Top wildlife to see on Valentine's Day

Two red deer with the moors in the background

While couples' thoughts are turning to love, Valentine's Day is still too early for many species. However, some birds and bees are beginning to wake in February. Our wildlife experts pick their wildlife highlights to see around Valentine's Day.

Snowdrops at Hughenden, a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire

Snowdrops in ancient woodland

You’re guaranteed a good display of Snowdrops by February. According to 16th century floral calendar, the flower first appeared on Candlemas – 2 February. But with warmer winters and earlier flowering varieties of the plant, snowdops are being seen earlier and earlier. As well as offering a beautiful backdrop for a Valentine’s Day walk, snowdrops are also an important early source of pollen and nectar for honeybees. Visit our top spots for snowdrops.

Single rook sitting on a branch

Rooks at Attingham Park, Shropshire

Rooks begin to rebuild their nests around Valentine’s Day – marking the beginning of spring. The British bird, which makes its home among dozens of others in tree-top ‘rookeries’, is best seen whirling and cawing in flocks in March. See them at Shropshire’s Attingham Park and Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire.

Black grouse

Black grouse 'lek' in Snowdonia

Valentine's Day comes late for the black grouse in north Wales. From early March the male birds will strut and spar with their rivals for the right to mate with the female grouse. The males - known as blackcocks - gather at dawn on an open grassy area for the 'lek'. They run and jump at one another, making a bubbling call - competing for the best spot in the lekking site. See them at dawn on Snowdonia slopes with large patches of grass, like the Berwyn mountain range.

Dipper

Dippers in the Yorkshire Dales and the Cotswolds

Visit a clear stream in the Yorkshire Dales or the Cotswolds and you’ll often see a black bird bobbing above the water. Dippers nest early – with some laying clutches as early as February. The bird is monogamous, staying together for the breeding season – although some dipper pairs stay together year after year. See dippers at Elterwater in the Lake District.

Forget-me-not

Forget-me-nots in the Mendip Hills, Somerset

A local early flowering forget-me-not can be seen in the Mendips, with the blue flowers beginning to appear from mid-February. The flower grows on patches of bare ground and short turf on carboniferous limestone. You can see the plant – which is often associated with lost love – from Crook Peak to Shute Shelve in the Mendip Hills, Somerset.

Several wild goats running down a hill on Ventnor Down in autumn

Feral goats on the Ventnor Downs, Isle of Wight

February is a critical time for feral goats. It’s when the nanny goats give birth to their kids. Feral goats, like those on the Ventnor Downs, Isle of Wight, breed relatively early – around October time and generally only have one kid each year.

Wicken Fen - Mist on Sedge Fen

Green willow at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

Green willow has a reputation for lost loves and infidelity. In Shakespeare’s Othello a heartbroken Desdemona sings of ‘a green willow’, fearful that her husband Othello thinks she’s unfaithful. But green willow is also the whippy sticks cut from a willow tree in the run up to Christmas and used for weaving into baskets. At Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, rangers cut whips from osier willow trees that have been coppiced for decades. The coppicing helps stimulate leaf growth – good blue Willow and brassy willow beetles.