December was a very cold month in my South Shropshire garden with plenty of snow and frost. The weather brought large numbers of birds to the feeders and the orchard, while goldfinches fed on the seeds of lavender and teasel. The lavender in particular is left uncut after flowering and the seeds never fail to bring a small flock of these lovely birds close to the house windows – perfect for photographing them.
There was snow in the first week here but with windy weather conditions only a little snow actually settled. Even so this did give me the opportunity to look at footprints of birds and mammals around the garden, especially when yet more snow continued to fall. A fox was visiting every night, often taking a walk to the big wildlife pond for a drink, plus footprints of a rabbit were rather a surprise as we didn’t know this mammal was around in the garden at the moment. Lots more snow arrived over the night of the 7th and effectively snowed us in – our narrow steep single track road seems to trap snow and generally it doesn’t thaw until temperatures rise considerably!
The snow persisted for the next week and feeding the birds in these wintery conditions was a priority. Large numbers of great tits, blue tits and a couple of coal tits visited the sunflower hearts and there was a small flock of long-tailed tits feeding on the fat blocks, with tails poking out at all angles! There were fewer thrushes than in previous weeks with just a handful of fieldfares remaining under the apple trees and no redwings at all. Blackbirds however were feeding avidly on the berries of various shrubs around the house.
As we moved into the third week of the month the weather was overcast and cold. The garden at the back of the house was dominated by a gang up to fourteen squabbling male blackbirds. Around twenty goldfinches were using the nyjer feeders and the whole garden seemed to be full of tits, chaffinches and dunnocks, plus a few robins chasing each other about. The field next to my garden had a large flock of jackdaws and rooks feeding. The rook is one of my favourite birds and I was pleased that one came into the garden this week to probe its huge beak into the short grass around the wildflower meadows. Kites and buzzards flew over the garden regularly, the former becoming ever more numerous in our area.
The snow had completely melted by the 18th and the weather became quite mild compared to the last few weeks. It was good to see a couple of siskins and a lesser redpoll on the feeders this week and the local female sparrowhawk continued to visit. Rain dominated the weather here in the last week of January although snow was still visible on the Long Mynd where temperatures were considerably colder.
This winter has brought an amazing number of hawfinches to the UK and with a flock of about 40 in my local area it was inevitable that I would visit several times to see them. Twice this bird has been been seen in my garden – once feeding in the company of a small flock of chaffinches and also another which managed to fly into one of my windows and sadly died. I am looking out for hawfinches here in the hope that this most beautiful of the finches might come looking for food in my garden sometime soon.