I am pleased to say that nature always has the capacity to surprise you when you least expect it. For the last two months when I’ve arrived in the village to help at the Parish Hall, I’ve looked up into the dark moonlit sky to see the outlines of hundreds of pink footed geese flying with their shadows across the moon. They call to each other as they change position at the head of the V shape formation, and make it the most magical experience. These pink feet are from Greenland, and as many as 2,500 are thought to be present in our area. I guess that the geese I’ve seen at night are going back to a roost site somewhere on the meadows of the Dee valley or maybe out onto the estuary.
Early one Sunday morning at Hockenhull recently whilst doing a check of the wildlife on the reserve, we counted about 1,200 pink feet flying in huge skeins from the direction of Stanlow towards Beeston and the south of the county. On another occasion last winter I saw an estimated 3,000+ geese between Bar Mere and Bickley Mere flying northwest across the A49 and the fields of Cheshire Wildlife Headquarters reserve. This is just another amazing wildlife experience that I’ve had the pleasure to witness.
I also delighted to say that the shoveler ducks are back on the Pit again this winter. These extraordinary ducks with large black shovel like bills are best recognised by the way they swim around. They circle each other continually, usually whilst in pairs of males with females, but I’ve also watched two females produce the same pattern. The males look like shelducks with a green head and this peculiar shovel like bill, but the females are rather drab, speckly brown in colour with a more orangy coloured bill. Stately grey herons stand like guards as they hunt for prey, and large black cormorants too can often be seen hanging their wings out to dry on some logs in the centre of the pit. Hundreds of starlings are now flying around the area, as are similar numbers of fieldfare. These colourful thrushes can be most easily identified in flight by their “chack, chack” calls. They are easily disturbed from treetops, but can be seen all over the parish, they have frequented the tops of the poplar trees at Hockenhull on my recent visits. The smaller redwings, also members of the thrush family, best identified by white stripes above and below their eye and a vivid orange patch under their wings are more often found in gardens searching for rotting fruit on the ground, but there seem to be fewer around than expected at the present time.
The mistle thrush, another large member of the thrush family, can be seen most days in the churchyard or on top of the trees on the village green. They have a distinctive throaty “thrrrrr, thrrrr” call and will also be found among the tops of yew trees, eating the seeds, but leaving the soft red flesh on the gravestone or the ground. They also perch on the ridge tiles of the church roof, and sometimes on the small crosses at either end. I’ve also spotted two very highly coloured jays in the churchyard and village recently. They too have a distinctive call, but also fly low and flat across the road, canal or along the hedgerows.
Finally notice the loud calls and sounds of blackbirds at present. I suspect that this is all a prelude to a territorial claim over a patch of ground, and although nest building will not take place for egg laying at the moment, they are preparing the way for a partner to join them next spring.
Pink footed Geese
Pink footed Geese in flight
Pink footed Geese formation
Pair of Shovelers