Saturday, 29 December 2018

Early Songsters

As soon as I get to the Solstice I get excited as it is the start of the new year, and the 25th has a special significance as it is the first day when you can actually detect lengthening day light, as there is a minute more of the stufft! Not much I know, but at least it is heading in the right direction.

It even seems to me that our avian songsters detect this lengthening in the day and more and more species start to sing. Whilst out and about this past week I've had, in no particular order, singing Song Thrush, Great Tit, Wren, Robin (Robins do sing throughout the winter though), Dunnock and drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. It certainly lifts the heart, even though I know we have a couple of tough winter months ahead of us.

Just before Christmas, on Christmas Eve in fact, Gail and I had a walk down to the estuary and it didn't turn out to be the successful birding walk we planned, as Gail took a tumble crossing a particular muddy bit near the saltmarsh and hurt her hand. Nothing broken, just a bad sprain, but she wasn't overly enthusiastic about the rest of our walk, not just because of being in some pain, but she was covered from head to foot in mud!

 The view across to the Lakes at the mouth of the estuary (above) and 
Bowland to the east (below)



Before her tumble we had quite a few Blackbirds, fifteen to be exact, walking through the Hawthorns. Winter Thrushes have been scarce of late, so it was nice to record so many Blackbirds. As we approached the saltmarsh a Water Rail called from the reedbed and 129 Pink-footed Geese came from the coast and headed inland over the river. It was just about at this point when Gail went bog snorkling!

 High flying 'Pinkies'

Bravely she soldiered on, but she wasn't enjoying scanning and counting the wildfowl on the river, so three hundred each of Wigeon and Teal had to do, but there was a lot more. I managed to enter 80 Redshanks and 200 Lapwings in my notebook, before I decided Gail had suffered enough and we headed home. A quick detour past a regular Waxwing spot in recent winters revealed zero Waxwings, but I will be keeping an eye out over the rest of the winter.

It's funny that I mention a lack of Winter Thrushes as a few days later whilst surveying in Cheshire I did have a few Fieldfares and Redwings, but only 17 and 10 of each respectively. Three Buzzards made there presence felt calling away, as did a couple of noisy Jays. Jays always seem excitable, and give the impression that they are permanently cross about something. I've ringed a few Jays in my time and in the hand they are just as excitable!

 Jay

I know I've said before, but the habitat at this particular survey site is intensive farmland consisting of maize stubbles, rye grass desert and hedges flailed within an inch of their life, so it was nice to record 48 Meadow Pipits in a wet bit of maize stubble, and Grey Wagtail and Raven are always a bonus.

The weather is looking settled for a few more days, so I'll try my best to get out in the morning and northwest Cumbria beckons for some survey work on New Year's Eve.

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