WILDLIFE ROUND UP
December 2021 by Jonathan Lloyd
I thought I would do a quick round up of what has been seen and what you might see on your walk around Edgmond with family and friends during the Christmas holiday. A good excuse to get a little exercise and lighten the Christmas excesses.
Further afield on the Weald Moors there is plenty to see. There are now flocks of lapwings numbering 250-300. You should now see golden plover as well. I was lucky enough to hear a flock pass over the house the other night. They often overwinter on the fields between here and Crudgington, so keep an eye out. A pair of Stonechats accompanied our tree planting work party on Wall farm and Martin tells me a pair actually spent the entire summer here which is a first. Normally this is a bird that over winters along the Strine from Edgmond to the Weald Moors. If you are really lucky you may see barn, short eared and little owl locally (thanks Neil). The Weald Moors have been an overwintering site for short eared owls for many years. Unlike other owls they often hunt by day but especially late afternoon and evening. They are just wonderful to watch with their wonderful gold wing patches. They usually rest on the ground but occasionally come up to perch on fence posts alongside fields with long grass and plenty of voles. Peregrines are seen in and around the village and are frequently spotted resting in open fields on farmland. I think they are happy to be near the open water on Cherrington Moor where over 150 Teal seem to be spending their winter!
Birchmoor pool has visits from the occasional one or two goosander and there are currently 4 Little Grebes here. Cormorants can also be seen moving across the village from Aqualate to nearby rivers. There are geese about to. Usually, we record greylag and canada but there are also large flocks of pink feet about. They have been seen passing high and very noisily over the village and surrounding countryside. Wet fields will often turn up snipe at this time of year and Anne has seen them out towards Caynton and there are small numbers on the pools on Cherrington Moor.
'accompanying the chaffinch there have been some large flocks of Linnet'
A walk down the Rock Hole to Birch Moor will turn up some large flocks of Chaffinch. They are often found feeding in the cover crops sown around the field margins. Accompanying the chaffinch there have been some large flocks of Linnet, several hundred in some cases (thanks Anne). Linnets tend to flock tightly in flight and chaffinches in small loosely arranged groups. Corn and reed bunting and small numbers of yellowhammer can be seen in the same areas. You have to be a bit more diligent to pull out these birds from the large flocks but they are usually the birds in two and threes sat slightly apart when all the birds fly up into the hedge. Of course, if you know the calls of yellowhammer and reed bunting this will help. I have seen several bullfinches locally, one of my favourites. Usually, the bullfinch’s plaintive call helps me locate a bird which is surprisingly difficult to find and see! The numbers of skylarks on Birch Moor is growing with good numbers of meadow pipit usually in the same area. The sewage works is a favourite place for meadow pipits and a great place to find pied wagtails. I haven’t seen any over wintering chiffchaff here this year, yet!
Redwing and fieldfares are still moving through our hedges scavenging berries, though the berries on our holly were pretty much finished off by Woodpigeon and Blackbird in the last weeks of November.
If you have been following EWG Facebook pages you will have seen the video of a polecat recorded in an Edgmond garden (thanks to the Hogans for sharing this jewel) and also the photographs of otters seen on the Meese (thanks Tim). Unfortunately, an otter was recently killed on the road near the bridge over the Strine. This is the bridge that is near the water treatment works. Locals have recorded otters crossing here in previous years. Do we need an otter crossing sign here? Two mink possibly kits were seen playing on the Strine at the bottom of Pond Lane.
There are plenty of buzzards about including one individual that is very dark almost black. Variation I colour is very common in buzzards. Kestrels seem to have done well this year. You can usually find a kestrel on the road to the Red House but there are other birds out on the Weald Moors including birds at Wall Farm and perched on the Green Towers this side of HAU.
Closer to home, hedgehogs disappeared from most Garden end of November though Denise reported a small one in her garden well into December. These small hedgehogs typically fail to survive the winter but Denise was making every effort to fatten this one up. Small hedgehogs will go into hibernation but often die in their sleep. I took a dead hedgehog out of one my hibernation boxes this year.
One bird that does seem to have a bad year locally, is the great spotted woodpecker. They are normally frequent visitors to our garden and its very common to see/hear one when you are walking down Pond Lane. They have been conspicuous by their absence this year.
We have had first overwintering blackcap in the garden, well brown cap(female) actually. I will not go through why this happens in the UK. Check it out on the BTO website if you want to understand more about why our blackcaps fly south and Eastern European blackcaps come here! We had out first brambling in the garden in late November, which is very early.
Nuthatches are still in and around the village. Blue tits and house sparrows are already visiting nest boxes. This is a reminder to clean out your nest boxes in the next few months. Village house sparrows tend be rather scarce in the late autumn as the birds move out onto neighbouring farmland to feed on hedgerow fodder! They are very fond of blackberries and you can often find young birds with very black faces!” Anyway they are back in our garden now. On brighter days the cock sparrow sits in our very small hawthorn hedge, announcing to the world that the box up above is his, hands off!
Thanks to everybody who has contributed wildlife observations and records. Don’t forget, if you have anything to contribute, either add it to our Facebook page or email me.
Have a great Christmas and happy spotting.