Manchester Evening News

Cold comfort


- By ALAN WRIGHT Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside

WE HAVE had a bit of everything over the past 10 days – snow, blow, rain and, as I write this, it’s bright sunshine.

Storm Isha has blown trees and branches all over the place, while its showery skirt brushed away the remains of last week’s snow and ice.

This was good news for me and Alfie, my dog, because we looked a bit like a rubbish Torvill and Dean on a couple of our morning walks.

However, our wildlife must be a bit confused, having had their food supplies covered in snow and trapped in hard ground.

Then the ground softened but getting to it was a bit hazardous in 80mph winds. Small birds are easily grabbed by gusts and blown off course.

In fact, the North West coast is famous for sheltering birds that have been blown off their route and landed on a beach at Southport or Fleetwood. “I am just off out to New Jersey to get some grubs dear, won’t be long… Isn’t that Blackpool Tower?” We really do get some longdistan­ce mistakes on our shores.

Most of the visitors make themselves at home if they can find food and somewhere to shelter, wildlife is pretty resilient.

And our own native birds and mammals will have just puffed up their feathers or fur and accepted a couple of days cold and wet. The best place to avoid weather is to find a good evergreen bush or tree, hunker down until it gets a bit more settled and then hop out and look for some nosh.

There is a small retail park in Manchester which is surrounded by brambles, honeysuckl­e and other green, leafy plants. It comes alive in the early evening, when sparrows and starlings cause an absolute racket as they chat away before bedtime.

Wrens and blackbirds will join them and the floors will be great for hibernatin­g hedgehogs, as well as busy mice and voles. These bushes are great for shelter but insects and berries will be here too, so there is plenty of food for birds. Shelter and a larder all in one.

The big danger of changing weather is that those hedgehogs and bats will come out of their assorted sleepy states and find there is no food after expending lots of energy, that’s a killer. In the same way kingfisher­s suffer from long periods of ice, covering all their food. The latest short icy spell, hopefully, won’t have caused them too much hunger.

While weather will also have its extremes in winter, it is noticeable how we are getting more weather events this last few years. Changes in climate are not helping and will create more and more problems unless we get our fingers out and realise that our mismanagem­ent of the Earth is the problem.

We should all do our bit to prevent pollution and other bad stuff and to ensure that wildlife is getting a helping hand on our bird tables. It always pays us back, creating special, personal wildlife moments for all of us.

As I venture out into my wild and windy garden, I am greeted by the garden robin, who has no hesitation in scolding me if I haven’t been out at 7am with his food – and where are the raisins?

We had a robin with a white tail over summer and I have just been shown a video of a robin with a white breast and a blackbird with white feathers on his face, almost like tattoos. These are probably genetic problems, which don’t seem to be affecting the birds in other ways. Once again, if you don’t get outdoors you won’t see these amazing phenomena.

 ?? PETER SMITH ?? Robin in snow
PETER SMITH Robin in snow

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