Frosty Wild Carrot Seed Heads
As we moved into December and the end of the year, the impact of the weather dominated my exposed garden. Temperatures were dropping and it was very cold at times, plus conditions were windy as we moved towards the end of the year. There was a very heavy frost on the morning of the 2nd but it was wonderful to see that the hazel catkins outside the kitchen window were already formed and developing in spite of the cold! There was some snow on the Long Mynd at the start of this week which is always a lovely sight, even though I am not very fond of cold weather! A single resident male blackbird was still vigorously defending ‘his’ berries on the Cotoneaster in the garden at the back of the house and many blue tits, almost too many to count, were flocking to the bird feeders. Two great spotted woodpeckers were seen around the garden regularly and the bluetit numbers continued to increase with twenty six counted using the feeders one day – the whole the garden seemed to be alive with birds. Blackbirds continued to congregate under the orchard trees to take advantage of the fallen apples and I was surprised to note that they were all males. I counted ten or twelve most days. I was pleased to see that a single marsh tit and two coal tits were feeding daily – two of my favourite species. The week continued with snow on the Mynd every day and at times the weather was very windy. By the end of the week the blackbird numbers were up to twenty individuals but only a single fieldfare was seen.
Early Hazel Catkins
The second week of December began with more very windy weather and more snow on the surrounding hills. Again large numbers of bluetits were counted in the garden plus a good flock of goldfinches. There were still very few fieldfares in the orchard compared to previous years in spite of plenty of apples there. Pheasants, mostly females, that had escaped the local shoot were seen around the garden, eating the dropped seed under the feeders and anything else they could find, which deprives our native bird species of food and therefore is not very desirable! Sadly there is little that can be done and these non-native birds are tolerated. Blue tits and goldfinches were still with us in large numbers at end of week plus the marsh and two coal tits. Few mammals were seen in the garden except for a couple of rabbits, some grey squirrels and the usual bank voles. The weather continued to be very cold and dank.
The third week of December was mild, especially at the beginning of the week, and all the usual birds were around with good numbers of blue tits and goldfinches. However there were no redwings and only a couple of fieldfares, so it has been an unusual year in the respect. The local kites were seen less often over the garden but buzzards were around every day and a single jay was seen feeding in the orchard. We had fewer pheasants as some managed to work out that they could actually fly over the hedge into the adjacent field! On the 15th a large number of kites gathered in our little valley – at least twenty were seen soaring above us with a few buzzards, in what was now mild, still and dry weather. Just two fieldfares continued to feed in the in orchard – quite a difference to the large numbers we usually see at this time of year and more than 20 blue tits were again counted, mostly using one of the window feeders. On the 19th a male sparrowhawk was seen grabbing a blue tit from the feeder outside my office and flying off with it.
Red Kites and Buzzards over the Garden
The last week of the year was generally overcast and very cool and we were still looking at mainly tits feeding in large numbers on the bird feeders. No bramblings or siskins were seen at all which was disappointing, but chaffinches fed in some numbers under the feeders. Few mammals were seen around the garden with the exception of one rabbit plus the usual bank voles that were still enjoying their home under the patio. With no snow now and very little frost, the year ended quietly with the wildlife in our garden enjoying the mild conditions. No doubt the New Year will bring us something more wintery.