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Just in time for February...Andy Ankers' Nature Notes for the month published!

With just a few days to spare, here are Andy Ankers' regular reflections on nature and the wonderful natural environment we live in across our villages. There's still just about time to see the Snowdrops at Ince churchyard too before the display is replaced by daffodils!

Nature Notes – February 2019

Andy Ankers

This last weekend we took part in the RSPB’s ‘Big Bird Count’ (26th to 28th January). We were asked to count all the birds coming into our gardens for just one hour. We chose 2pm to 3pm on the Sunday as this is a good time to see birds coming in to the feeders for a top-up before going to roost. We had a total of twelve species as follows: Magpie 3, Blue Tit 8, Chaffinch 5, Starling 3, Great Tit 3, House Sparrow 15, Goldfinch 11, Blackbird 1, Collared Dove 2, Nuthatch 1, Robin 3 and Dunnock 1. As usual during these short counts, there were several birds missing from our regular visitors including the Woodpeckers, Wren, Pied Wagtail and Greenfinch.

I mentioned in the December edition about the flock of wintering Pink-footed Geese on the River Mersey. At that time we had counts of 900 which has steadily grown over the New Year period. On one morning when the early morning sky was clear with no cloud, I counted a total of just under 4,000 bird leaving the estuary in nine separate flights over a twenty-minute period. On the monthly Webs count, on the 20th January, the team counted 3,300. As the days lengthen the geese leave earlier, now I have to get up at 7.15am if I wish to see them. It is worth the effort to see and hear them in flight. In years gone by my two birdwatching friends and I went to the Solway Coast to see the geese. The locals noted that they started to migrate north about the time of the March full moon. It will be interesting to see if these Pink-footed Geese leave about the same time.

It will soon be the ‘National Nest Box Week’ when people with nest boxes are asked to check them out and to remove any old nesting material if this has not been done in the Autumn. I have several which need attention after the Woodpecker tried to enlarge the holes. I had two open fronted boxes give to me this Christmas, one in the shape of a teapot, which is made of metal and ideal to encourage Robins to nest. This I have fixed to the front garden wall with the spout facing down for drainage, with the Virginia Creeper around it. The other new wooden box has a slate roof. This one I have fixed to the wall at the top end of the garden amongst the ivy. They are about 100 metres apart which is far enough to have two pairs of Robins nesting. I can only hope for some success!

On my daily walk I noticed a mature ivy bush covered in clusters of black berries with very few of them eaten. With the arrival of some wintery weather, it will be interesting to note how soon the Blackbirds and Thrushes take them as they are supposedly very nutritious to birds. Also on my walks I have heard several Robins singing which is a good sign that spring is just around the corner. Once again the Snowdrops in the churchyard at St. James’ are a lovely sight. Come and have a look!

Written on 26th Feb 2019

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