Win­ter warmth in num­bers

Rossendale Free Press - - Wildlife -

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.

Carl Part­ing­ton

●● A star­ling mur­mu­ra­tion

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