A gaggle of five greylag geese have been the surprise visitors at the Pit, being seen there for about six weeks now. Several big fish have been seen jumping high out of the water, and as a grey heron is almost permanently present I guess that the small fish population is also very good. Late butterflies seen in the village have included small tortoishell, red admiral, peacock and comma. Good numbers of fieldfare have already been heard flying over the village indicating that autumn migration from Scandinavia is well on the way, which somehow seems to be much earlier than usual. Parties of starlings have also been seen more regularly in the area, and these too are probably migrants from eastern Europe. Common snipe also visit us for the winter from the same south easterly direction, and several are now present on the wet meadow at Hockenhull. They are so well camouflaged that they can disappear in the reeds and tall grasses very easily, and it is only when they are disturbed and fly away, that they can be more easily identified by their peculiar flight pattern. They also have a very unusual breeding display in spring, when the males fly around the reserve in a zig zag pattern and making a distinctive drumming sound as they do so. Another fascinating feature this autumn has been the roost of up to 80 pied wagtails in the reed beds along the Gowy, and although good numbers of lapwing were seen earlier in September, they now seem to have moved on.
The reserve has also been very interesting in the last month, with two rare water rail being present, and both barn and tawny owls being seen throughout August, September and early October. The otters are still very active with fresh spraints being left on their favoured ledge under the middle bridge most days, and a fox has been sighted regularly stalking the meadows and reed beds. The Hockenhull otters had two youngsters this year, which have now almost certainly been driven off to find their own territory and a fresh holt site. The Cheshire Wildlife Trust built three artificial otter holts along the Gowy about twenty five years ago, and it is probable that they are currently all occupied. This is excellent news, as they will finally drive out the wild American mink that were first released from fur farms in Shropshire twenty five years ago.
Good numbers of smaller birds are coming into our gardens after a partial summer migration. Robins are singing loudly proclaiming territory, with wrens also being much more active and vocal. Nuthatches too are very noisy, and greater spotted woodpeckers can be seen and heard drumming loudly again. A green woodpecker has also been seen and heard calling with its strange laughing (yaffling) call. The two main species of woodpecker you are likely to see are the green and the greater spotted. The lesser spotted woodpecker is only the size of a great tit, so although it is a possible visitor, it is really very unlikely. I’ve recently spotted several family parties of long tailed tits flying in the area, sometimes with as many as forty in a group. They have a delightful high pitched call as well as their distinctive long tails, as they flit from tree to tree. Both great and blue tits are active again, and I have had several reports of coal tits being seen in the village. Several people have also told me that buzzards occasionally visit their gardens, and you will also hear a lot of calling from them at present, with groups of up to five buzzards in view, floating above both Christleton and Rowton where there are nest sites, often being chased by jackdaws or crows.