Warming themselves in winter
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.
A goldcrest perched on a branch