Star bird of the month of November was a lesser spotted woodpecker seen in the garden of a house in the middle of the village. These miniature members of the woodpecker family are colourful and unmistakable due to their size, being only just bigger than a great tit. They do appear from time to time, the last being a pair seen in 2016, but this is an excellent sighting for the village. This last exciting record being closely matched by the appearance of a tiny goldcrest, the smallest bird in the UK, recognisable by both its size and golden yellow flash on its head, which flew into the kitchen of a house in Plough Lane. It stayed for a few minutes before heading back out into the cold. Green woodpeckers have also made appearances, being seen and heard in both the churchyard and at Hockenhull Platts. In size and shape they are similar to a mistle thrush, but their slow looping flight pattern is fairly distinctive. There could be some confusion if you are looking at these thrush sized birds as both can currently be seen in the churchyard. However the green woodpecker is much greener with red on its head, and has a call described as a yaffle, whilst the mistle thrush has an especially speckly olive green breast and has a call which sounds like a loud thrrrr , thrrrr, thrrrr.
I have also had lots of reports of greater spotted woodpeckers feeding on bird tables and feeders and also being heard drumming, a behaviour typical of greater spotted woodpeckers staking out their future territories. The smaller, noisier nuthatch a slim bird with similar habits to the woodpecker, often using old woodpecker nest sites for its own nests, is also very active around the village. It also has a loud distinctive call, and will be seen feeding on bird feeders, but also creeping up and down tree trunks. It has a balancing rear claw which enables it to do this, unlike the similar sized treecreeper which appears like a little brown mouse with a slightly down curved beak and a white underbelly but always seems to spiral up a trunk, and when it reaches the top, immediately flies down to the bottom of the next tree, before climbing back up again. The treecreeper nests in gaps in older tree trunks, often behind broken bark. It is an insect feeder, and is rarely seen near bird tables or feeders. There are still lots of the titmouse family doing the rounds and large groups of long tailed tits can be seen, with as many as twelve being seen in one garden recently.
I find it fascinating that over the years birds have acquired new feeding habits. Long tailed tits rarely visited feeders twenty or so years ago, but now are regular garden vistors. Robins didn’t attempt to tackle food in feeders, but would visit bird tables. Smaller birds such as wrens and dunnocks still remain feeders on the ground, but starlings, previously ground feeders will now tackle fat balls and nuts. Larger garden birds including blackbirds, thrushes, pigeons and jays are voraciously stripping berries from the pyracanthus; hawthorn and cotoneaster hedge plants at present and we rarely have any berries on our holly bushes at Christmas time, as they have already been taken by blackbirds. Out in the lanes and fields around the village, the wintering thrushes from Scandinavia, fieldfare and redwing have taken virtually all the available crop of berries, so are moving to new sites. They can still be seen from time to time, especially along the canal and at the Christleton Sports Club. They can also be found in the sunken lane that leads from the Hockenhull Bridges towards Tarvin, where they appear to roost.
The Village Walking Group had some excellent bird sightings on their last walk, which took place on Llandegla Moor, coming across a magnificent ghostly grey male hen harrier hunting over the jewel like grasses on the frost covered moorland, together with over 30 spectacular black grouse, several greater spotted woodpeckers and families of bullfinches, crossbills and meadow pipits. They also saw and heard a good number of tiny goldcrests flitting from the tops of the conifers, as they moved through the forest on what turned out to be a magical morning.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Long Tailed Tit