Be on lookout for winter wonders
PEOPLE think winter is a time when wildlife suddenly heads off on holiday to sit by warm pools eating exotic insects.
Seriously, people have said to me: ‘There can’t be much for The Wildlife Trust to do at this time of year as all the wildlife has left or is asleep.’
Well it’s time for a bit of education.
This is probably our busiest time of the year as we are creating habitats for plants to grow and wildlife to breed and fledge.
And as for there being no wildlife, only a small number of mammals hibernate, most are still seeking food and we welcome hundreds of thousands more birds to the region than in warmer months.
The figure quoted to me is a third more birds in winter than in summer.
These are mainly geese and waders flying in to spend winter on estuaries and coastal areas which are much warmer than their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.
They can be seen on lower mosslands and this is more evidence that our work in Salford, Wigan and Warrington is improving habitats for all kinds of birds and other wildlife.
But you will also notice many more birds in your garden now.
Your usual blackbirds will have been joined by Danish and Swedish cousins, over here for the warmth.
Every month I receive a list of birds recorded on the mosslands in Salford by the wonderful birder David Steel. His most recent list included 60 different species...in winter.
There were the usual suspects – blackbirds, chaffinches, blue tits, kestrels and crows – and then the rarer subjects like the brambling, the chiffchaff and, the one that caught my eye, the golden plover.
The golden plover is not a rare bird in these parts in winter but it is more likely to be seen on the coast.
In summer about 100 pairs have been known to breed on the moors and then numbers can swell to 8,500, swooping down by the sea during autumn. That is around two per cent of the UK’s winter population.
During winter they can be seen in big flocks for protection and warmth.
When flying they flap their wings rapidly and stick close together, which is pretty spectacular stuff.
On the ground they rush around in short sprints.
Summer’s gold and black feathers are replaced with a white and light-brown appearance.
They are described as a ‘charismatic moorland bird’ in the local Bird Atlas, so to spot them in Salford is a pretty fantastic thing.
This is just a brilliant time of year to be out in the wild walking, cycling or volunteering and you will actually have a much better chance to see something quite special – your own golden plover moment.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.
To become a member of the Trust go to the website at lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.
For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshire wildlifetrust.org.uk.
Golden plover on mossland