WILDLIFE ROUND UP
November 2021 by Jonathan Lloyd
Fourteen ravens flew high overhead, almost blackspots against the grey sky. They were given away only by the cronk, cronk high above the village and the frantic dashing around by our usual local birds nearer to ground level. They became very agitated as the highflying crew made their way west across the dull autumn sky. The territorial invaders passed by but our local boys remained very vocal throughout the rest of the morning. The ‘conspiracy’ eventually subsided!
These early autumn months are really quite exciting and we are never quite sure what birds are going to turn up locally. Autumn brings the first winter thrushes and this last week I have seen several small groups of Redwings and Fieldfares flying over the village. The number of winter thrushes depends greatly on how the trees on mainland Europe have cropped. If the crop is good and there are plenty of berries then fewer birds will venture across the North Sea. The movement and timing of their arrival is further influenced by the wind direction. Easterly winds favor their travel to Britain and easterly winds have not been prevalent in recent weeks, so we not seeing these birds in any great numbers.
Favorable autumn weather has meant land preparation for autumn sown crops has progressed at pace bringing large Lapwing flocks onto newly turned soil. These flocks are joined by the usual mixed flocks of gulls which are predominantly black headed and lesser black backed. I have recorded a flock of around 140 lapwings on the Weald Moors this week. Together, the flocks of gulls and Lapwings, are joined on the Weald Moors by flocks of smaller birds. There are now significant groups of both Skylark and Meadow Pipits on the Weald Moors. Numbers of these birds can get into the hundreds during the winter months. A flock of 42 Pink Footed Geese flew over the village in the last few weeks. They, like all birds, have very distinctive calls. These passing flocks of geese tend to fly very high and very purposefully, unlike out local flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese which stay with us all year round and on most days, they can be seen noisily passing over the village.
....there are now significant groups of both Skylark and Meadow Pipits on the Weald Moors.
Whilst the winter thrushes come to Shropshire other birds use our local fields and woods as a stopping off and refuelling place on their migration south. In October we heard lots of Chiffchaffs singing in the small copses around the village. I have also found one or two Wheatear in the open fields. I haven’t spotted any overwintering Stonechats yet but they always a feature of the area on both sides of the Strine from Newport down through the Weald Moors.
There are definitely lots of Jays around. This is the season when Jays plant acorns! According to the scientists about 7000 by every bird and each season. Surprisingly they remember where most of them are! Without Jays there would be no oaks in Britain. Jays take acorns away from the main tree where they cannot grow and plant them in thickets and brush where grazing animals can’t eat them. Brush in the UK is almost a forbidden habitat now, untidy, unkempt and a symbol that land has been left uncared for. But brush, mixed small shrubs, blackthorn, hawthorn and briar for example are a habitat in their in own right. They service a wealth of plants and animals including small mammals, butterflies and moths.
The small family groups of Starlings are joining up into bigger and bigger flocks and soon battalions of these birds will be passing over the village on their way to roost at Aqualate. If you’ve never been to Aqualate it to see the murmuration of starling’s you should make a special effort to go. You need to get there about an hour before it goes completely dark and sit and wait. If you're lucky many thousands of Starlings will fly in from the surrounding countryside and provide you with an aerial display of shifting patterns which can mesmerize you.
In late October we were still seeing the odd dragonfly in the village together with a few butterflies. It’s been a good year for butterflies but in recent weeks we have had some good frosts so that will be last of them although this week I have still seen wasps flying around the garden. You could still find White Deadnettle and White Campion flowering in the hedgerows during October.
Our hedgehogs are still active in the garden though I think the time for hibernation is fast approaching. If you find any small animals in the garden best to box them and feed them up. Need to get over 500gms in weight before they can go for a long sleep! We hope your hibernation boxes will soon come in handy for our local prickly friends. The cameras on our boxes have picked up some new small residents.
Groups of Long Tailed Tits, Chaffinches and Greenfinches have returned in larger numbers to our garden. We recorded our first winter Brambling which is our earliest every recording here in Edgmond. Stock Doves are now visiting the garden regularly again, though the number of Collard Doves seems to have fallen off. I suspect, judging by the scattered feathers in the garden, that they have become a target for Sparrowhawks.
Male and female Tawny Owls have been very vocal in and around Edgmond lately. Young birds were heard calling in the early Autumn so I guess they have had a good season.