Starlings- I was lucky to be able to watch Catsfield’s own modest Starling murmuration from my friends farmyard yesterday! They congregated around the pylons at first before flying on their swooping way into the woods to roost. In the distance, another murmuration was also displaying- wonderful stuff. Conditions: Sunny yesterday afternoon but bleak, wet and gloomy today. Temperature: Max 11- Min 9c.
I’m about to go down south again so I’m posting a few recent shots of the lovely Long Tailed Tits, showing their gorgeous markings. Historically, these birds didn’t visit garden feeders but the fat and high energy foods put out can be vital for their winter survival. Being such small birds they are very vulnerable to cold weather. Like Wrens, they huddle together at night to help keep warm. With such small round bodies and long tails, some call them ‘flying teaspoons’, while I like the older ‘Bumbarrels’. They begin to nest earlier than other Tits so will start to pair up in February or early March but right now they are still in large, family groups. Conditions: Showers and blustery winds. Temperature: Max 13- Min 2c
Look what briefly landed on our hedge today- a gorgeous Sparrowhawk. Probably a
female (although male juveniles are also this sort of colouring), it swooped down onto the privet hedge, wobbled around trying to balance (as you can see),then flew off again. Females weigh more and are 25% bigger than males, and have browner backs. It is thought that the males are smaller in order to be more agile and manoeuvrable- they need to hunt more during breeding to supply the female on the nest. Sparrowhawks are doing well in the UK, and are one of the birds on the ‘Green List’, meaning their numbers are stable. Conditions: Mild and dry with a strong breeze. Temperature: Max 13- Min 6c.
Reflections: At Old Moor RSPB reserve near Barnsley there weren’t many birds which led me to concentrate on the patterns they make in the water– Wigeon have such beautiful feather patterns anyway, and this pair drifted close to the Family Hide. They weren’t put off by the flock of garrulous men in the hide like I was! Even the Black Headed Gull, with it’s winter plumage of one dark cheek-spot rather than a fully dark head, looked beautiful. Conditions: Mild, wet morning predicted to brighten later. Temperature: Max 10- Min 4c.
Birds with their beaks in the snow. Before I could get out to warm up some of the frozen pond and birdbath the other day, all these common birds were busy eating the snow. They do prefer sources of water and can get some moisture from berries and fruits but they will eat snow, as these photos show. Conditions: The snow went quickly and today we even have sunshine on this spell of very still days. Temperature: Max 5, Min -1c
Fox- our first real covering of snow just brought this Fox through the garden. January is a lively month for Foxes. Last years’ young leave or are chased off the parents territory and mating takes place, with the blood-curdling nighttime calls heralding the process, though in fact they only call about one night in three. There is 50-70% Fox mortality each year though this is not usually due to lack of food- in cities it is estimated that there is 150 times the food required for scavenging foxes. Despite the way it seems, urban foxes are not thought to be on the increase, their maximum population density having been reached around 20 years ago. Conditions: Around an inch of snow last evening and night. Completely still days. Temperature around 1c day and night.
Bracket fungi: Along the Rivelin Valley, the fungi are looking good. ‘Many Zoned Polypores’ are common bracket fungi and come in varied colours, growing on dead and dying wood. They used to be used to make jewellery! The Jelly Ear grows mostly on Elder, as it is here, and though it doesn’t look very appetising, apparently it is a real delicacy in some part of the world. Conditions: Cloudy, still day. Temperature: Max 5-Min 3c.
Swiftly flowed the Don today. After the second wettest December for the UK, with extraordinarily mild times throughout the month, we really need the cold spell ahead to check some of the extraordinary early growth of plants. Hazel along the Don has kept a lot of last years leaves, is in full catkin blossom, with green buds already well developed. Lynn saw four Goosanders (seen on the Derwent often enough) on the Don- I’ll try to get photos soon. Sadly, winter reveals masses of plastic bags, along river and roads. Let’s hope these lessen now the 5p charge is in place. Conditions: Cooler and drier. Temperature: Max 6- Min 2c.