The Wildlife Garden in January

Misty Shropshire Weather

As is always the case at the beginning of a new year, the weather here in Shropshire during January was initially very cold!  However it was also very clear and dry and there was no sign of snow, except a little on the Long Mynd. Temperatures dropped even more overnight of the 3rd/4th and the following morning saw large numbers of tits and chaffinches feeding in the garden, but there was no sign of any bramblings, even though elsewhere in the county large flocks of these beautiful finches were being reported. A lone fieldfare was still with us in the apple orchard plus our ‘resident’ marsh tit and a single coal tit both came to the feeders daily.  A pair of carrion crows continued to feed on any remaining fallen apples in the orchard and as the week progressed very large numbers of blue tits and great tits were feeding around the garden, at one point more than twenty blue tits were counted.  A second coal tit appeared from time to time but no mammals were seen around the garden except the bank voles and the local grey squirrels.  On the 7th of the month the weather briefly changed. There was a little snow on the Long Mynd and there were bitterly cold winds from the west.  Large numbers of goldfinches came to the feeders, and some were also seen feeding on the seeds of knapweed in parts of the big meadow that are left uncut through the winter months.

Large Numbers of Blue Tits in the Hawthorn Hedges

In the second week of January the weather again dominated the garden and determined what wildlife I could expect to see. This week it was milder and damper than last and neither rain nor snow put in an appearance.  The large numbers of blue tits and great tits continued to use the feeders, especially in late afternoon as the light began to fade. The orchard was now home to three fieldfares arguing over the apples and they were joined by several male blackbirds, so plenty of squabbles ensued.  There were still very few mammals around the garden though, except for the bank voles, and for a few days, a single rabbit. On the 12th the weather was extremely cold but beautifully bright and I was disappointed to find there was still no sign of our snowdrops!  Several red kites and buzzards were flying around our little valley but in general it was a quieter week for birds and mammals apart from the bank voles, blue tits and a single grey squirrel which was seen in the garden daily.  However, tawny owls were heard calling from the woodland next door most evenings.  Chaffinches were observed feeding on the seeds of the plant Phlomis fruticosus in the garden at the back of the house, skilfully extracting the seeds from the seed heads.  On the tall hazel close to the house, and in Dormouse Wood, the catkins were now in glorious full flower.

Marsh Tit

The third week of January continued to be bright, cold and sunny with no rain or wind – in fact rather lovely winter conditions!  On the 15th a song thrush was seen on our long hedge – the first for many months, but no song was heard.  Large numbers of tits continued to dominate the feeders and there were good numbers of chaffinches in the garden too, but no fieldfares or redwings were around except for ‘our’ single fieldfare that has made the orchard his temporary home.  Two bank voles fed at the back of the house most mornings and one was seen making his way into the house through a small hole in the brickwork at ground level!  On the 20th a pair of siskins was seen in the big hazel outside the kitchen door – the first I have seen in the garden this winter.  After the good numbers we had here last year I have been surprised to see so few. I also saw the first yellowhammer in the garden for several months, sitting on the long hedge where they have nested in the past.

Treecreeper in the Bramley Apple Tree

The mild weather continued with almost spring-like conditions at the start of the last week of January but then conditions rapidly changed to dull and overcast. A pair of bullfinches was seen around the garden on the 24th and marsh and coal tit continued to feed with the huge numbers of blue tits and great tits every day. On the 26th – a bright sunny day – a blue tit was seen cleaning out one of the garden nest boxes – always the first box to be occupied here.  The weather continued to be cold but the garden seemed lively with so many small birds around.  By the end of the week the snowdrops at the front of the house were in bud and a handful of fieldfares returned to the orchard, although the majority of fallen apples had now been eaten by blackbirds and the local pair of carrion crows!  The month ended with two yellowhammers on the long hedge on several days, a treecreeper in the big apple tree, lots of tits around the garden but still, sadly, no bramblings.

About Dinchope Diary

I am a plant ecologist, specialising in wildlife gardening for more than 30 years, writing books and teaching. My blog is about the two acre wildlife garden I have created in South Shropshire.
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