The beginning of December saw a change in the weather in South Shropshire with cool, damp and very misty conditions here at the start of the month. The mist at one point was so dense that I could not see the bottom of my garden – not ideal for wildlife watching! The foggy conditions prevailed but it was pleasantly mild for the time of year and as we moved through the first week of December the numbers of birds in the garden increased even more. Many different species were using the feeders and some were feeding on the dropped seeds on the ground. Chaffinches here were in abundance and one was seen eating seeds from the plant Phlomis outside my office window – something I had not seen before. Sadly there were no siskins with us which was a disappointment after the large numbers we had last winter. Siskin is one of favourite bird species so I am hoping to see some in the New Year! A single mallard visited the wildlife pond on the 2nd of the month but it flew off quickly. Also a singleton was the fieldfare feeding in the back garden for most of the month. This seems to happen every year – a lone fieldfare hanging around after the large flock has left us. I like to think it is the same bird that does this every winter – a canny bird who knows where the food is! Along with him was a good group of all male blackbirds feeding on the fallen apples. One male siskin did visit on the 7th – a bright cold morning – but was seen infrequently.
The second week of the month began with very cold and frosty conditions, and I began to feel that winter had really arrived. A large flock of fieldfares sat around in the beech tree at the bottom of my garden and at least forty birds were counted. The next couple of days were very sunny, cold and icy but the frosty garden looked wonderful, plus the big wildlife pond was completely frozen. Cold weather continued this week and a large number of blackbirds, again all males, were now eating the fallen apples in the orchard. There were still no bramblings, much to my disappointment, but large numbers of tits and finches were feeding all around the garden. This week saw some of the coldest weather conditions here for some years with icy winds but clear sunny skies. On the 15th of the month a buzzard sat around in the garden trees all day, the first we have seen in the garden for a long time as red kites are more common than buzzards around us now.
The third week of the month continued with the now familiar bright, sunny, cold weather plus there was plenty of frost but still no snow. No mammals were seen in the garden at all with the exception of a huge rabbit which I hope I can tempt out before vegetable gardening begins! All the usual birds were still feeding but not in huge numbers and all the winter thrushes had moved on with the exception of the lone fieldfare. Goldfinch and greenfinch numbers were good but there were still no siskins or bramblings. This week a fox scat was found in the back garden – the first for some time. The clear, sunny, cold weather continued and the first yellowhammer seen in the garden for some time sat on the long hedge for a while which was lovely to see.
The last week of December continued cold and clear with large numbers of finches with us. Also a gang of long-tailed tits arrived at the start of this week and visited the feeding table every day as well as the small tray outside the kitchen door. The weather was now remarkably mild for the time of year but a little rain and mist at times made conditions more wintery. On the 22nd of the month a grey heron appeared in the garden and stayed with us for a couple of days. It was not seen to catch anything but seemed quite content to hang around in the orchard. When disturbed it flew over the hedge into the field next door and then popped straight back again, but by the 24th it had left us. The month ended with no mammals around but plenty of all our usual tits and finches, blackbirds in abundance around the garden, a yellowhammer sitting on the hedge top daily, regular visits from a treecreeper and several greenfinches using the bird feeders every day.