Be on look­out for win­ter won­ders

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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 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 lanc­ or call 01772 324129.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshire

Golden plover on moss­land

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