January has certainly been a windy month. Fortunately for us in Wyre Forest district, we have managed to avoid the severest gales that have battered northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Once gusts of wind reach 70mph there is a real risk that these will cause damage to buildings and trees. A couple of years ago, such winds caused damage on many of the nature reserves when some large trees came crashing down as a result.

These days, every effort is made to try and make sure all the trees on the reserves, particularly those near main paths, properties and roads have a regular safety inspection. It is impossible, however, to ensure that every branch and limb is secure especially in the large woody nature reserves.

For this reason, the district council closes its woodland reserves when the Met Office issues a warning that there is a risk to the area from severe gales.

Wet woods are at particular risk at times of strong winds as this habitat has large numbers of mature crack willow trees that are prone to unexpected collapse.

It is as the saying goes though, "an ill wind that blows no good" and providing there are no injures or damage when the trees collapse, the fallen tree can provide a wonderful mini habitat for wildlife.

When a tree is completely blown over, it usually pulls a plate of earth and roots up. On a visit to the wet woods at Hurcott you can see a few of these. Now the raised root plate forms a small pool that teems with wildlife.

The trunk and branches are encrusted in fungi and are home to millions of insects that feast on the rotting wood. The branches of the tree now form a great impenetrable tangle. This is added to by young tree brambles and other tall wetland herbs that are now thriving on the extra light, which has been let into the woodland floor by the demise of this tree.

Larger animals find homes and shelter in among this tangle and careful patient observation may well lead to the spotting of secretive birds such as the lovely, delicate pale blue grey water rail or, even the refuges of some wonderful, mature grass snakes.

Habitats like this are also exactly what probably our best loved wetland animal, the otter, likes.

I have yet to see one at Hurcott, but would not be surprised if they were already living here as I have encountered otters in the much more unlikely venue of Springfield Park, less than a mile away and in similar wet woodlands just outside Stourport.