What a strange year this has been with grass still growing as quickly as ever with farmers taking silage cuts in late October, and our lawns needing to be cut. Flowers you would expect to see in spring such as jasmine, cowslips, primroses, ornamental poppies, snowflake bulbs etc. are all in flower, and roses still growing in profusion. Autumn colours in the countryside are only just appearing at their best, much later than usual and small birds seem to be about in larger numbers than ever. Although there is still plenty of natural food in the countryside, these welcome visitors are only now coming back into our gardens. We have had a really good collection in the last week with blue, great, coal and long tailed tits squabbling with sparrows, dunnocks and robins for the best pickings, and several colourful starlings have just joined the party. Starlings are really quite interesting birds, and although we haven’t got the numbers in the area as in previous years, I’ve noticed that there are larger gatherings building up most evenings. Starlings are also great mimic’s and will often call as if they are home or even mobile phones, even pretending to be buzzards, and in the past I’ve also heard them mimic a curlew.
Lots of friends are reporting hearing and seeing the huge skeins of geese that are flying around the area at present. They pass over Christleton in the mornings and evenings in search for feeding grounds and roost sites. They fly in big V shaped formations and call excitedly as they cross the skies. The pink foot is a smallish grey goose with pink legs and bill-band, and they have come south from their Arctic breeding grounds to join us for the winter. There are two distinct populations, one breeds in Iceland and Greenland and they fly to the UK for the winter, with as many as 360,000 birds thought to visit us. The pink foot can be seen mainly in Scotland, Lancashire and now in recent years have come as far south as Cheshire. The other population breeds in Spitsbergen and they are believed to fly south to Denmark, West Germany, Holland and Belgium.
The pink foot that we see over Christleton have grown in numbers over the last three years, with an estimated 2,000 birds being here last winter. They are exciting to watch as they call to each other in flight, regularly changing directions of flight, and constantly switching places in the V shaped skeins. Last Sunday morning they were directly above our house as can be seen from the roof and television aerial in one of the pictures and then I followed three or four groups of them as they flew towards Hockenhull Platts and Cotton Edmunds. They seem to have landed on fields between Hockenhull and Tarvin Road Littleton, and were joined by other groups flying over from the Beeston direction. They are a wonderful sight to see, so keep your eyes and ears open for their magical passage over the area during the winter months.
Good numbers of fieldfare and redwing, colourful members of the thrush family, also flew in from the Arctic in the last week of October, and within days had stripped the berries in the hawthorn hedge at Hockenhull, and if you walk through St James Churchyard be careful not to slip on the red flesh of yew berries scattered across the paths near the Yew trees. This is the work of a party of mistle thrushes who arrive each October and strip the berries off the trees, but eat only the hard inner stone and leave the berries on gravestones and pathways including the Lychgate.
Chicken in the Wood
Pink feet geese over Platts
Pink feet geese over Rowton
Pink footed geese
Pink footed goose
Goldfinch and Coal Tit
Bird Feeding Station