We have 0900 starts for now until the days lengthen but amazingly or not, our garden Dunnocks and Great Tits are already in song? How do they know?
Great Tit - CC-BY-SA-3.0
There was sunshine this morning so I kicked off at Linnet Square and dropped yet another bucket of seed at the catching spot where dummy poles mark the line of our whoosh net. Tracks and holes in the soil told me that our seed had been found by small mammals and deer.
Trouble is, the mild, wet weather and the Linnets themselves have conspired to make catching impossible since August. The past three winters have seen a number of counts around the 400/500 mark but this season’s average is around 130 only with and a total catch of just 28, way below our target. The count this morning was 150/160 very mobile Linnets and several Chaffinches, none of which stopped to use our seed while natural food seems still plentiful. The sowing mix the farmer uses is so good that the resultant seed seems to last right through the winter until the flock disperses in March.
There was the usual Kestrel, 2 Stock Dove and a single Little Egret.
When fifteen minutes later I stopped at Conder Green the effect of the continued mild weather was noted again by way of a female/first winter Marsh Harrier. A "Gold Top", circling over the back of the pool and behind the bund, pursued all the way by a complaining Magpie.
It was roughly 20/25 years ago that Marsh Harriers were something of a rarity in this part of Fylde, central Lancashire. It was around that time that Marsh Harriers began to breed in the northernmost part of the county at Silverdale, since when the species has never looked back by increasing its spread and numbers into more southern parts of the county.
In recent years the harriers seem able to survive through the winter months by preying on the abundant wildfowl in their chosen wetlands. There have been sporadic attempts to breed on farmland here in Fylde but with very limited success.
The harrier was the highlight of the pool with little else to cheer except the continued and consistent presence of 140+ Teal in the tidal creeks. Otherwise it was 15 Redshank, 4 Curlew, 24 Wigeon and singles of Little Grebe, Little Egret and Grey Heron.
There was a second Grey Heron at Glasson Dock along with 25 Tufted Duck but zero Goldeneye. The Goldeneyes tend to fly into Glasson Dock at the onset of ice and snow. Our wintry days with zero temperatures have so far been counted on one hand.
I looked for the harrier in the fields beyond the pool with no luck except for two quite separate gaggles of geese, 20 Greylags and 19 Pink-footed Geese. Never the twain shall meet.
By 11am clouds rolled in and rain began to fall. I reluctantly headed home after an interesting few hours and a forecast for Tuesday of a decent day.
Andy thinks we should try for a catch of Linnets but I’m not so sure.