Posted by: Ross Gardner | January 11, 2012

The countryside confused?

A winter that just now more feels like spring and the countryside confused, or merely relishing these softer climes while it can?  I’ve had reports of January Red Admirals and have seen for myself a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) nectaring on Pyracantha flowers that probably should not be blooming.  The Mistle Thrush is the early breeder and normal purveyor of thrush-like winter song, yet in the woods today the bare boughs of the old oaks instead reverberated with the music of the Song Thrush.  No-one answered him but I got the impression, or maybe wished that it were so, that he didn’t much care; just to sing.

But winter it is and, in spite of its ‘unseasonalities’, it still feels like it.  Not least for pleasures to be gained feeding the birds throught the (in theory) colder months.  At work I observe and record the winter activities  of the birds that visit our bird feeders.  We have erected a hide, constructed from 95% recycled (wooden pallets, scraps of roofing felt, bits of wood, old tree stakes) and renewable (it is clad in faggots made from annually cut Dogwood stems) outside of which is provided a ready supply of niger seed, sunflower seed and peanuts.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). Ross Gardner

Blue Tits and Great Tits provide the mainstay of observations from the hide.  It is often the most familiar that can become the most overlooked.  One must remember sometimes, to look at at things, like the Blue Tit and Great Tit, as if one has never seen them before.  They are beautiful little creatures and wonderful entertainment.  All the same though, the more unusual must always have their own special delights.  Alas, my camera wasn’t to hand as I watched four Lesser Redpoll crowd onto the niger feeder, one a splendid, rose-chested male, already in his spring garb.  Not that I would have been quick enough to capture the male Sparrowhawk that on one occasion shot across my vision and effortlessly among the trees on an unsuccessful fly-past.  In truth, I don’t have the lenses suitable for proper bird photography, but I was happy, all the same, to be able to capture a fine looking Great Spotted Woodpecker busy at the peanuts.

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