March 2016 - Mild Winter

Blue Tit - Photo with thanks to Dominic Gwilliam-Bell




With the mild winter, daisies, dandelions, even ragwort have hung on all winter in hedgerows and sheltered places. Now real signs of spring are here - with primroses, lesser celandine, daffodils, crocuses, wild pansies and blackthorn providing a show.

Blue tits and great tits are showing great interest in the nest boxes in our garden, and robins are pairing and starting to show their characteristic territorial behaviour. We have many birds mostly tits and finches currently in the garden, still enjoying feeding at the feeders and bird tables. We have blue tits, great tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, gold finches, reed buntings, a nut hatch (only ever seen one), dunnocks, wrens, jays and jackdaws, great spotted and green woodpeckers (the latter never on feeders or bird table, always on the grass and under bushes), and of course blackbirds. I haven't seen any waxwings, thrushes or fieldfares in the garden this winter, presumably because they are still feeding elsewhere. Of course we always have wood pigeons, and collar doves, but their numbers have decreased significantly from previous winters. It is interesting that we also haven't had the numbers of pheasants come in to feed from the ground feeders this winter. Usually we have around 20 to 30 but this year we have only had around 5, presumably they are still feeding in the fields. With the mild weather, I have seen many slugs, lots of flying insects in the winter sun, beetles and worms, even the odd bee and ladybird, so the birds still have ample supplies of natural food, and because of the lack of fieldfares, the crab apple tree has kept its fruit all winter. The sparrow hawk takes the odd pigeon or two, which I am more than happy for it to do (I do get a bit upset when it takes the tits or finches, but then I have to remind myself that it is survival of the fittest out there).

Interestingly I haven't seen the foxes or rats this winter, although wood mice are very much in evidence in our sheds, presumably coming in to try to get to the bird seed which I keep in large bins (I must admit I may drop some when I take seed out to feed the birds).

There were a few toads and frogs coming out of hibernation in January, and then presumably being shocked by a subsequent cold spell. Any spawn which was laid at this time will not survive. 

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