Warm­ing them­selves in win­ter

Stockport Times West - - WILDLIFE -

WIN­TER has fi­nally ar­rived and all the wildlife has gone to sleep.

Ac­tu­ally that’s not true, things may have slowed down a bit but there is still plenty to see in the coun­try­side and our gar­dens.

And win­ter is a re­ally great time of year to see lots of birds, gen­er­ally be­cause they are hang­ing around in gangs.

On the coast, thou­sands of geese, wild­fowl and waders are ex­cit­ing birds with as­ton­ish­ing dis­plays.

The north west coast is in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised for over-win­ter­ing birds avoid­ing harsher win­ters in north­ern Europe. It is recog­nised by bird ex­perts and, ob­vi­ously, by the birds. While many of us waved ‘au revoir’ to swal­lows, swifts and martins, do you re­alise that some of your gar­den birds have ac­tu­ally ar­rived here to en­joy a warmer win­ter?

Red­wing and field­fare join na­tive thrushes in our gar­dens, fly­ing in from Scan­di­navia and adding a lit­tle hus­tle and bus­tle. We have seen flocks of thou­sands of th­ese birds on our re­serves over the past few weeks. They are both re­lated to the thrush.

Redwings have red patches un­der­neath their wings and field­fares tend to be more spotty than your av­er­age thrush.

In au­tumn, huge num­bers of one of the UK’s small­est birds, the gold­crest, fly in across the North Sea and move across coun­try to the north west. Th­ese lit­tle fel­lows have just been sit­ting wait­ing for the cold weather to move into the Con­ti­nent so that they can pack their bags and head to Blighty. I have this im­age of mil­lions of the lit­tle birds wait­ing ex­pec­tantly on branches on the Dan­ish coast, and then some­one shout­ing: ‘Right chaps, tally ho.’

Gold­crests can gen­er­ally be seen in conif­er­ous wood­lands be­cause their thin beaks are great for get­ting at in­sects in pine cones.

They are named be­cause of the won­der­ful golden crowns. They also have gold, black and white mark­ings on their wings. A small bird that is more no­tice­able is the won­der­fully fluffy long-tailed tit. Th­ese beau­ti­ful birds do flock to­gether in win­ter and are eas­ily seen on branches of leaf­less trees. Long-tailed tits look like pom-poms on sticks.

Another in­ter­est­ing thing to look out for on your lawns is for tourist black­birds, over here for a win­ter warm. Con­ti­nen­tal black­birds can be spot­ted be­cause the yel­low ring around their eyes is not as strong as those of na­tive birds and their beaks are not as bright. They also ap­pear in groups of 10 to 12 as op­posed to our soli­tary birds.

With huge mur­mu­ra­tions of star­lings, mur­ders of crows and clat­ter­ings of jack­daws the win­ter months are ex­cit­ing in the north west. So for­get the swal­lows un­til spring and re­joice in our won­der­ful cold weather wildlife, who are only here be­cause it is warmer than where they came from.

Another bless­ing we can count.

Jean Price

A gold­crest perched on a branch

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