Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Wonder of Winter Wildlife

Mild weather and a lot of birds at Paxton Pits.
The year is coming to an end with only a few nights of frost so far. There are cherry trees in bloom locally and farmers are harvesting spring veg. I had a very pleasant picnic in the sunshine on the 23rd and a garden full of flies on the 24th. This is good news for wintering birds like goldcrests, wrens and kingfishers that suffered losses during the past two winters. It may not be such a good thing for insects that do better in dry, cold winters. Mould and damp are their enemies.

Last summer was a great one for Arctic lemming populations and and for the predators that feed on them. Good lemming years may also benefit ground nesting birds because the predators might home in on the lemmings rather then their chicks. The result locally has been an unusually high number of sightings of short-eared owls, hen harriers and rough legged buzzards, but not at Paxton, yet. You can monitor what's being seen locally by going to the Cambridge Bird Club site. They have some amazing photos on their site too.

The December bird here at Paxton Pits is a solitary corn bunting that is hanging out with over 100 yellow hammers on the arable fields by the road leading up to the works. Jamie Wells from the RSPB has been feeding them some waste seed to keep them there, but you need patience. It's definitely a bird for my New Year's list.

Speaking of New Year; don't forget to come along to our annual Winter Wildlife event on January 1st. We start at 10 am with tours departing from the Visitors' Centre at 10.30 and 2.00 pm. Experts will be on hand in the hides and there will be hot soup and refreshments waiting for you when you return after your walk.

My special sponsored twitch starts at 10.30. It's free and you don't need to book, but I'm asking for you to pay 10p for each species that we see. I reckon this could cost you 5 pounds at the most but we have seen 57 species just from the hide on a previous New Year's Day.

The weather forecast isn't good and the track is quite muddy so I recommend that you wear wellies and warm, dull coloured clothing. Don't forget your binoculars either.

Wouldn't it be great if we saw a smew?