During the first week of the new year the weather in South Shropshire was mild and dry – almost spring-like at times – with catkins lengthening on the large hazel outside my back door. A small flock of long-tailed tits fed daily at the feeders along with two nuthatches, a regular male great spotted woodpecker and all the usual birds for the time of year. Two tawny owls were heard most evenings and a male fox was also making a lot of noise from the field next door. A house mouse was caught in a live trap in our living room one night having eaten, or taken away, a large quantity of chocolate coins wrapped in foil!! A second mouse was caught the next day. Tawny owls and foxes continued to be noisy at dusk and birds were plentiful but we had no siskins at all which was disappointing as this is one of my favourite birds.
As we moved into the second week of the month the weather was mild but quite overcast. The welcome dry weather after such a wet December continued, but only for a short while, and we had more rain overnight of the 8th/9th. Thankfully there was not as much as was forecast as the garden was still sodden and bog-like, especially the wildflower meadows and the vegetable garden. As the week progressed the garden slowly filled up with the local pheasants, mostly females, which were intent on clearing up any dropped food under the bird feeders. A treecreeper visited daily, usually roughly at the same time every day, and long tailed tits continued to use the feeders. Mammals were few and far between with no bank voles at all seen this week. The local song thrush was still singing every morning from the hawthorns on the garden boundary – a wonderful reminder that spring isn’t far away.
More rain and exceptionally windy weather came through on the 14th but thankfully there was no damage in the garden. However there were very few birds about for a day or two as a result of the fierce weather but all the usual species returned to the feeders once the wind died down.
After the wild weather calmer, freezing conditions prevailed and temperatures dropped making the nights very cold. The stars however were amazing for several nights in the clear still air – Shropshire is famed for its wonderfully clear night skies. During daylight hours male and female blackbirds continued to feed on any remaining berries around our hedges and shrubs, and our small window feeders were being filled up twice a day to accommodate the small birds using them, especially blue, great, coal and marsh tits. A few goldfinches and a robin also used these feeders once they got used to them. This week the hedges surrounding our garden were cut, creating thick shelter for nesting birds as spring approaches. Late in the week a buzzard was seen on the ground in the garden plus a female kestrel continued to visit us most days.
The last week of the month had variable weather, sometimes mild but mostly cold and bright with a heavy frost at dawn. The local song thrush was still singing well every morning, usually from the old hawthorns on our garden boundary, but no mistle thrushes were heard all month which was disappointing. A robin sang daily however and the hazel catkins continued to lengthen, while buds were breaking on the white flowering currant in the garden at the back of the house. Snowdrops were in full flower although the majority seem to have escaped to the roadside verge outside! The weather continued to be bright but windy, and buzzards and red kites were displaying over an adjacent field. A single raven was seen soaring and there was a feeling of spring in the air in spite of cool temperatures.
At the end of the month a trip to Anglesey beckoned where red squirrels, choughs and a selection of seabirds would hopefully be the main attractions.