Throughout January the weather was rather inconsistent here in South Shropshire, ranging between mild spells, very heavy overnight frosts and the occasional windy period. This variable weather meant that the wildlife in the garden was different every day although there were some constants – in particular the numbers of fieldfares feasting on the fallen apples. At the beginning of the month there were usually around twenty of these noisy thrushes here while twittering goldfinches and chirping house sparrows meant that it was pretty busy bird-wise. Large numbers of chaffinches fed under the feeders and a few greenfinches came to the sunflower hearts daily. Once again a tawny owl flew across the garden at dusk, again perching in our ash tree for some time, and a red kite touched down in the garden one afternoon, apparently to pick up some small item of prey.
The weather became colder and brighter as we moved into the second week of the month with clear skies and very heavy frosts overnight. Siskins – possibly my absolute favourite UK bird (although I say that about several different species!) started to visit the bird feeders in some numbers this week with a count of 20 on the 14th. Their favourite spot to perch and twitter was the tall hazel outside my kitchen door, which is close to a couple of feeders, and the noise when I opened the door in the early mornings was quite extraordinary. As the weather continued to be cold numbers of other bird species built up, especially finches and thrushes including redwings and a single lesser redpoll – a favourite bird – visited the feeders every day. No mammals were seen in the garden this month with the exception of grey squirrels and the constant evidence of the local moles.
The cold weather persisted and bird numbers continued to rise. A small flock of starlings, quite an unusual bird here, visited the garden on the 21st. For the next four days I was on Anglesey where the wildlife, as ever, was rather different from my garden in Shropshire. Red squirrels were very obliging where photography was concerned and birds such as curlew, shelduck, redshank and pintail were highlights. The local golf course provided a feeding ground for a great many song thrushes and mistle thrushes and both species were at times, singing from the nearby tree tops.
On returning home numbers of birds in the garden had dropped but snow at the end of the month brought a few beautiful bramblings and I counted 183 fieldfares in the garden one morning! Siskin numbers continued to rise and could only be estimated – probably between forty and fifty – the males all twittering beautifully in the cold sunshine, and a single redpoll was a regular visitor to the nyjer seed. The weather became a little milder at the end of the month and hopefully this trend will continue into February and we will start to see birds investigating the garden nest boxes as spring arrives.