Friday, 6 January 2017

Cardinals in the Snow

Although the snow’s mostly gone, reports continue to flood in of extraordinary sightings of birds in unusual places.  Flocks of bullfinches are really unusual, but are being seen regularly and there’s a woodcock feeding in the middle of a busy roundabout in the centre of town.  One of the best local observer calls to tell me that he’s heard of a black-throated thrush in west Gower.  This Asian species may herald other unusual sightings of continental birds driven west in search of warmer weather.

Bitterns continue to make the headlines.  Standing out in the open on frozen lakes and ponds, there are lots being seen at present.  They’re turning up not only in their usual reed beds haunts, but also on really small bodies of water.  Water rails are visible too, venturing out from the cover of reeds.  Foxes snoop about in broad daylight including the one in our garden, which each day sits boldly under the willow tree, as though asking for food.

There’s still a fair amount of snow lying on the common.  I watch a hovering kestrel and a buzzard; both drop frequently onto what maybe a bonanza of carrion emerging from beneath the vanishing white blanket.  Rabbit and small mammal tracks in the snow show that some have survived.

A few redwings are resident on the grassy spaces on our village green; elsewhere they cavort in big flocks, settle for a while and are gone, but there are still very few fieldfares about.  Having paired up and started to sing before the onset of the cold weather, mistle thrushes are flocking again.  But perhaps best of all are blackbirds; striking against the white snow, they remind me of the similar contrast of cardinals against the snow in the US.  There’s more bad weather on the way; this winter so far is breaking all records.

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