Storm Doris was the cause of some disruption to life in the parish, with storm force winds bringing a number of trees down across lanes, roads, buildings and the canal. Thankfully no one appears to have been hurt and the damage has largely been cleared as I write. Sometimes strange events happen because of extreme weather, and I’ve had a report that a bittern was seen at Christleton Pit during the storm. Sightings of bitterns in Christleton are very unlikely, but not impossible, with one sighting being made at Hockenhull in the 1970’s. I can’t confirm the recent sighting, but it is possible that a migrating bittern was blown off course and landed at the Pit for a break during its flight. No other sightings have been recorded in the area as far as I know. However the count of eight shoveller ducks at the Pit last month has been increased to twelve, with six males and six females being seen in mid February which is extraordinary.
Both green and greater spotted woodpeckers have been seen in local gardens, and a buzzard regularly visits gardens in Pepper Street and Birch Heath Lane. Several can be seen flying low over the village on any day, and I’ve recorded both male and female sparrow hawks this last week, with the smaller male flying alongside my car at eye level for two hundred yards on Rake Lane. A number of friends have recorded both male and female black caps, whilst long tailed tits have also been seen in good numbers. One rare visitor to our garden feeders was a reed bunting, whilst groups of tiny green siskin have also been recorded locally. Several people have reported seeing jays in the village and there are still a number of fieldfare (wintering thrushes) about.
A large poplar came down over the passageway during the storm and cut off access to the reserve for a while, but with the area flooded the mud has largely put people off venturing down the path anyway. Barn and tawny owls have been seen and heard recently, and little owls seen along Hockenhull Lane for the first time for a number of years. There is still a flock of 500+ lapwing to be seen over the lake, and although the river level has been high signs of otters can be found. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust team has been carrying out a great deal of necessary conservation work in the wet meadow, with willows pollarded or removed, and tall grasses scythed down. The reed bed on the northwest corner of the reserve has been thinned out, and the northern ditch cleared so that water is flowing through to the Gowy. We’ve had more standing water on the big meadow than I’ve ever known, and this too is draining into the northern ditch. The wetness of the area has created an excellent habitat for wading birds and attracted a good number of common snipe, with up to twenty being recorded during the last month, together with at least one jack snipe. Several grey wagtails have also been seen in the area. Two ravens were calling in mid February creating a raucous noise in competition with at least five greater spotted woodpeckers drilling holes in the poplar trees. A lone nuthatch was also seen, and up to five goldcrests, and three treecreepers were frequent sightings.
A short visit to the RSPB Burton Mere’s Wetlands on Wirral yesterday was very fruitful with hundreds of waders, ducks, geese and swans present. Recent arrivals on the nearest island to the main hide were fourteen beautiful black & white avocets, no doubt preparing to have another successful breeding season on the reserve. Incidentally there were noticeably more shoveller ducks present than usual. The water levels across the reserve indicated how wet these last weeks have been, and newly dug drainage ditches were already full of water. Numbers of wintering swans have been down this year, no doubt partly to do with the erection of a huge field of solar panels creating a vast solar farm, but in litigation other fields nearby have been planted with crops to cater for the wintering wildlife for the next 25years. I saw 20+ Bewick and whooper swans yesterday, but I understand there have been counts of up to 150 during the winter months, so all is not lost.
Black Cap Female
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Hockenhull Storm Damage
More Storm Damage
Long Tailed Tit
Wild Swans on the Dee