Early February is the time siskins appear at our garden feeders. It’s a bit hit and miss, but a couple have arrived and taken up residence. Like goldfinches they sit quite still, taking the niger seeds and adding to the untidy mess on the grass below. The BTO’s Garden BirdWatch tells us that they peak in gardens from now until early April, when food is scarce in woodlands.
I learn that a friend’s garden is awash with them. Inspired, I head for Millwood in the centre of Gower. Elegant wood carvings decorate the gated entrance to a mix of larch, pine, spruce and native trees, that was once a part of the Penrice Estate and is now managed as amenity woodland by the Forestry Commission. With a vague hope of otters and kingfishers, I walk along the stream past the old restored trout hatchery, but am content with a motionless grey heron. A favourite log under the alders is the place to peer up and watch siskins. Twenty or more are busy amongst the cones in the very top branches, and I’m reminded of aching necks in the USA looking for warblers. There’s less chance of finding redpolls, but they do winter here.
The circular walk from here can be long or short; I opt for exercise. This is where the redwings are hiding; probably a hundred or more deep in the foliage, stripping away at the abundant crop of ivy berries. Blackbirds abound and encouraging numbers of song thrushes are here too, no doubt a legacy of the influx during the bad weather.
Apart from robins, occasional blue tits, coal tits and scalding wrens, silence is my only companion on parts of the walk as the birds flock and move as one through the woodland. I find no redpolls, but the glimpse of a fox amongst the trees compensates. Nature is always unpredictable.