News from February 2012

Well what a dreary month February has been. Out of the 28 days on 18 of them we had 100% cloud cover. It was also wetter than December and January with 130mm of rain. The average daily maximum temperature was 9.60C and the average night time minimum 4.60C so things are gradually warming up. Despite the poor month there are signs of spring all around us. I saw my first crocuses and daffodils in flower on 23rd February. The daffodils were at Barnoldby-Le-Beck and for some reason these are always early. The hazel catkins are now finished but pussy willow began to be seen in late February. I have also seen the leaves of the unusual cuckoo pint or Lords-and-ladies in the woods and hedgerows. In the spring these will produce large unusual flowers shaped somewhat like donkey’s ears. I find them fascinating. In the autumn they have bright red berries which are poisonous. We have an attractive variegated version in the garden. Primroses are also making an appearance now and I saw my first on 3rd March. I am also starting to hear birds singing now and was delighted on 4th March to hear a blackbird in full song for the first time this year! I love to hear their rich melodious warble sung from a roof top or telegraph pole in the evenings. Magical. I have just been out for a walk and heard my first song thrush of the spring from St. Giles churchyard.
I have had one or two visits to Worlaby Carrs during February but the short-eared owls are gradually being seen less often and will soon be off to their breeding grounds. It has been pleasing to see small groups of roe deer feeding in the fields and skylarks are now singing regularly as they soar above the set-aside fields, their beautiful song cascading down to we earthbound humans.
We still have large numbers of birds visiting our bird table, the most common species being chaffinches, closely followed by blackbirds. I have been delighted to have had regular visits from two male and a female blackcap over the winter as these warblers are normally summer visitors although small numbers increasingly overwinter with us. Normally we see no house sparrows at all in our garden but on 4th March we had a fleeting visit from about a dozen or so. I was delighted this morning to watch a stunningly coloured male brambling on the bird table. This is a first for our garden and I haven’t seen one of these colourful finches at all for several years. We don’t see them here in the summer as they only visit us during the colder months and can be seen in mixed finch flocks.
After not visiting for some time I enjoyed a visit recently to Far Ings nature reserve near Barton. The light was absolutely stunning (for a change!) and I was pleased to obtain pictures of willow tit and tree sparrow at the feeding station there. I was particularly pleased with the willow tit as they are always difficult to photograph and it was a first for me. On the Ness Lake there were large numbers of wild fowl and I managed to get shots of teal, pochard and gadwall. The highlight though, was watching and photographing great crested grebes displaying. I have since been to see them in Cleethorpes Country Park where there are four pairs displaying. These birds have a beautiful colouration with stunning head plumes which are used in their courtship dance. As a lead up to the display they often dive under the water and surface facing each other. They then swim close to each other bobbing and waggling their heads and displaying the plumes occasionally with weed in the bill. This is amazing to watch and a real privilege. The photo I have added is a pair displaying at the country park silhouetted against the light.
Last weekend I took my sister-in-law to Bradley woods hoping to show her the nuthatches which visit the feeding station. Birds began to appear as soon as I put food out and we were thrilled to have three nutchatches down at once. It was also very pleasing to get good views of treecreeper.
The following day we paid a visit to Frampton RSPB reserve just south of Boston. What a wonderful day this was. The reserve seemed to be thronging with birds. Giving most pleasure were the large flocks of brent geese and golden plover resting on the scrapes. There was a general low murmur emanating from these flocks – the golden plover producing a constant low level whistling as they jostled for position in the flock, counterbalanced by the deep grumbling of the geese. Every so often a raptor would speed over the scrapes and huge flocks of birds would leap into the air whirling and wheeling in acrobatic coordination before settling down to feeding and resting again. There were also large numbers of, perhaps, my favourite duck, wigeon, on the scrapes. These are beautiful birds with grey backs, chestnut head and creamy yellow crown, the high whistling ‘whee-oo’ of the males carrying across the marsh.
Despite a month of poor weather there is always something to see and photograph and tomorrow I am keeping my fingers crossed for some warm sun as I am heading to Kirkby moor hoping to find adders.