December began as a very wet and windy month here in South Shropshire as the tail end of a westerly storm came through. This weather did bring quite a lot of birds, sheltering from the wind and rain, to the garden feeders, including twenty six goldfinches. These birds were also feeding on the lavender seeds around the garden as well as on nyger and sunflower hearts in the feeders. Other species were also feeding on the lavender seeds including blue tits, chaffinches and dunnocks.
House sparrows are a rare sight in this garden and it is always good to see them here. A couple feeding at the beginning of the month soon became a small flock of up to sixteen which was lovely to see. However common they may be in some people’s gardens I am always pleased to see them here. We are fortunate to have some bird species that other people rarely see in their gardens – in particular tree creeper and marsh tit are regular visitors, so I mind a little less that we don’t see some of the commoner garden birds.
The first week of December continued with quite frosty weather at times but there were damp and misty conditions on other days. There were no mammals around except grey squirrels. Strangely we now have at least three grey squirrels with very short tails – perhaps only a quarter or a third as long as ‘normal’ squirrels’ tails. I am still mystified by this and can find no reference to it anywhere!
As the month continued goldfinches still dominated the feeders in wild and windy weather. On several nights foxes were heard courting in the field next door, an eerie, screaming sound that never fails to make my blood run cold. Large numbers of fieldfares were soon feeding in the orchard on fallen apples, making a lot of noise with their ‘chacking’ calls. I spent the third week of the month not at home but in the Cotswolds. Here the weather was very cold and frosty and there were enormous flocks of fieldfares around in the countryside, plus redwings and bullfinches were feeding on the berries of Pyracantha in the garden where I was staying.
The fieldfares were mainly feeding on hawthorn berries or finding invertebrates on the local grassy sports field. Back home in Shropshire all our hawthorn berries had been eaten by the end of November, but there were still plenty to be found in Gloucestershire where these lovely thrushes were finding lots to feed on. On returning to South Shropshire the garden was rather quiet as all the food in the bird feeders had been eaten. Fieldfares and chaffinches were still in some abundance though as there was plenty of natural food in the garden for them, especially apples for the fieldfares and a few redwings. Once the bird feeders were restocked, goldfinches were back in abundance along with several siskins – one of my favourite birds. As the weather turned a little milder there seemed to be almost a hint of spring in the air, and a song thrush singing from the woodland next door on the 1st of January , made me remember that spring really wasn’t very far away.