THE month of February just gone has been an astonishing one meteorologically. I have never known it so warm at this time of year and, not surprisingly, some official records were broken.

With the mercury reaching 20°C, Monday, February 25 was the warmest February day on record, only to be broken the following day when it topped 21°C. Deep down, though, we know that it shouldn’t really be like this. As a friend of mine writing from Suffolk put it, “Incredible weather here… all wrong but still pretty good”.

The problem is that unseasonable weather like this can upset the body clocks of our wildlife. Other organisms don’t have the luxury of our calendars to read.

The words February and March mean nothing to them but they are able to predict the impending arrival of spring using two other indicators, lengthening days and increasing temperatures.

The odd mild winter day won’t have a noticeable effect but this year’s sustained warm February weather did fool a fair proportion of Ryedale’s flora and fauna into thinking that spring really had arrived.

Shoots and leaves of our early flowers sprang up all over the place and insects, that would normally still be deep in their winter sleep, were buzzing around in the warm sunshine... and not just the usual dancing swarms of winter gnats.

On one of those record-breaking couple of days there were bumblebees and honeybees clambering down to the bottom of our back garden crocus flowers searching for nectar and, although I didn’t see it myself, I had the report of a peacock butterfly on the wing in Pickering.

The most noticeable harbinger of spring, and for me personally, easily the most uplifting, is birdsong. Urged on by their hormones, male birds announce their presence in the breeding season by singing and the strongest trigger for the start of this activity is increasing day-length, but February’s glorious sunshine seems to have even over-ridden this factor.

Blue and great tits shouted their short ditties from the hedgerows, robins and dunnocks voiced longer arias and starlings spluttered and mimicked from chimney pots as is their want. However, the bird that seemed to fall for this false-spring with the most gusto has been the song thrush.

This well-named bird usually delivers its song from the top of a tree, loudly and in clear-toned, short phrases that are always repeated once. The composition is not as complex or mellifluous as that of its cousin the blackbird, but it is just as delightful and evocative.

For most of that particularly balmy week a male song thrush sat near the top of one of my neighbour’s ash trees and sang his heart out, day after day and from dawn til dusk - he must have been exhausted by the end of it.

One of the reasons for his oratory performance is to attract a female song thrush to his territory and persuade her that he will make a suitable father for her chicks.

If and when she arrives, it will be interesting to see whether her body clock has been as wayward as his. If not, she won’t have been ready to mate and all of his vocal efforts will have been in vain.

If, however, her hormones were also flowing unseasonably, the pair will have mated, and will nest much earlier than normal, with her laying a clutch of four or five beautiful, sky-blue eggs, complete with black polkadots. A week or two later, her bald and helpless nestlings will emerge and we can only hope for their sake that winter doesn’t have a late March sting-in-the-tail in store.