Winter warmth in numbers
WHILE it is sad to think of our wildlife having to hunker down to find a bit of warmth in the colder winter months, some of them do seem to be enjoying themselves at this time of year.
Yes, I am talking about whole gangs of birds getting together for warmth and for safety as temperatures plunge.
While it has been mild so far in autumn, I am sure colder times will come to our region and flocks will be more obvious.
Already, we are seeing murmurations of starlings swishing and swooshing around – it’s one of the great delights of winter. Some these gatherings seem to have the same effect on humans who turn up to murmuration sites in their hundreds to watch the displays and drink mulled wine!
Experts would have us believe that the reason for birds getting together in huge numbers has not been nailed down. Yet if you have seen how they swoop and pack together in a couple of trees, there must be warmth in scrudging* up to your best mates. Obviously there is also the defence aspect. It must be pretty confusing for the local sparrowhawk, out for lunch, to watch its prospective meal swirling around in front of it.
While I love the aerial displays of starlings, flying with such dexterity in their thousands, my favourite bit is definitely the landing in the tree. They almost funnel into the branches. Heading for the tree at great speed and then slamming on the brakes as they land – sometimes scattering neighbours. So there will be a few arguments in all that chatter you can hear.
I proudly think of our garden starlings, 20 plus at the moment, joining up with their far-flung friends to produce a display so breathtaking. Where do they learn these skills?
Other birds will be more obvious now in flocks around the region. The noisiest in our area will be clatterings of jackdaws, cawing and croaking in the woodland. I saw 500 and more in a park in Bamber Bridge, it was an awesome sight and sound.
You will see flocks of pied wagtails and waxwings on retail parks’ berry bushes and groups of tiny long tailed tits in woodlands. Sparrows will gang up and appear on your bird table and other small birds will come together at this time of year.
Head out to the coast and you will see thousands of geese, which have flown over from colder Scandinavia for a warm up. Waders are also getting together, last year I saw a picture of hundreds of oystercatchers huddled together on a Lancashire harbour wall on a stormy day. So while you are moaning about the temperatures dropping, you will have opportunities to witness how our wildlife just gets on with it.
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. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers. To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www. lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
●● A starling murmuration