What an extraordinary year for weather this has become, with Christleton Parish already recording over twice the annual expected rainfall by the end of October. The Pit at Little Heath is full and the overflow working for the third time this year. The River Gowy has also overflowed its banks five times since June, making entry to the reserve at Hockenhull impossible, and creating huge lakes along its length, as could be seen at Stamford Bridge and on farmland around Stapleford & Walk Mills. Fortunately the wet meadows are doing their task and absorbing the excess water, with little damage to property. It is rare to see river water under all three bridges at Hockenhull, but this is now happening more frequently.
Thousands of migratory pink footed geese from Iceland have taken up residence in the area, and can be seen in huge skeins across the sky most mornings and evenings. They are very noisy, and fly in distinctive V shaped formations, sometimes with hundreds of geese flying together. They often twist and turn in flight, calling to each other and changing leaders as they fly. Canada Geese which are much bigger, and can be recognised by their black heads and long white necks are also flying around in large groups, but they tend to fly much lower, and have a deeper throated call. The rare sight of 25 smaller Brent geese, were spotted flying south to north along the Gowy corridor in the middle of October. This sighting was later confirmed by a birdwatcher from Great Barrow, who had seen them on the same day. As far as I am aware this is the first sighting of Brent geese in the area.
We had great excitement at Hockenhull at 9.00am on 4th November when three young otters appeared swimming and playing in the river, coming from the Walk Mill direction towards the middle bridge. Several times one appeared to climb up onto the bank, but then would reappear with the others as they playfully dived and swam together. We watched them for what must have been three or four minutes, in perfect sunny conditions, a truly beautiful morning. This was one of the most exciting and thrilling wildlife scenes I’ve ever witnessed and luckily I managed to capture it with the long lens camera, until the otters came so close, (about twenty feet away) took one look at me standing on the bank, dived under water, and then disappeared from view.
Other interesting sightings these last few weeks include the appearance of hundreds of fieldfare and redwings, wintering thrushes from Scandinavia, flying over the Christleton countryside and the canal at Rowton, together with a good number of mistle thrushes and jays in the churchyard. Groups of lapwing or (peewits) have come back, with as many as four hundred seen on land between the reserve at Hockenhull and Tarvin Road. Buzzards again dominate the skies in the Parish, and their calls can often be heard from quite a distance. Sparrowhawks on the other hand are far more secretive, and swoop swiftly into gardens to catch their unsuspecting prey. Examples have come from gardens throughout the parish, the ones shown from Vicars Cross and Rowton.
The small group of shoveler ducks have once again taken residence at the pit this winter as has a lonely grey heron, clearly an indication that there are a large number of fish present. I’ve also heard recently that several of our young teenage fishermen have caught some of the big carp that exist there, and they have been seen delightedly showing off their prize catch for cameras.
Bridge over the flooded Gowy
Pink Footed Geese
Pink Footed Geese Feeding
Pink Footed Geese in Flight
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