Nature Notes article for December 2016/January 2017
Every month for our Parish magazine, Andy Ankers who lives in Ince and is a long-standing member of our congregation, writes a short 'Nature Notes' article for inclusion. This article, which typically includes reflections on Andy's enthusiasm for birds and the local wildlife around his home near the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and Mersey Estuary (and further afield) has proved very popular amongst readers.
Below you'll find Andy's article from December 2016 and feel sure you'll agree it is a really lovely read. We'll reproduce these articles on our website and Facebook page in the coming months as and when they appear and hope you enjoy reading them as much as we do!
Nature Notes: December 2016/January 2017
Very occasionally we have an unusual sighting at Wood Farm. While having breakfast one morning Barbara saw a bird walking across our lawn she did not recognise; I was called and to my surprise it was a Coot. They are not rare, actually common in the right habitat that has open fresh water close by. Where it came from is a mystery, as we have no standing water close-by, I assumed it was heading towards the Manchester Ship Canal as we watched the Coot continue to the far end of the garden then jumped over the wall and continued up the road towards the canal.
The local winter roost of Magpies has occurred again this year, they now appear to be flighting into an area of the Stanlow tank farm just behind the Wood Farm each evening. I have not counted them this year but one difference this winter is that many more birds are staying around the farm building, even going into the pig pens to help themselves to the pig food. It is normal this winter to see six Magpies around the garden bird feeder, so we have a cage to cover the food which stops them eating us out of ‘house and home’.
Following the Ladybird invasion last month I have been looking for winter hibernation gatherings. I have found one big group in Church in the Chancel doorway. It will be interesting to see how long they stay there.
In mid-November Barbara and I went to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Martin Mere in Lancashire. It was misty when we left Ince but this slowly cleared and the day turned out to be perfect, no wind, warm sunshine and good visibility. The reserve is known for the gathering of Whooper Swans. One of the volunteer wardens was telling us that a count of just over 1200 birds was made the previous day and they are expecting this number to increase as more birds arrive well into December. The Swans are drawn to the reserve because of the food handout. Local farmers donate loads of rejected potatoes which they enjoy, and they are also given two feeds a day of wheat, one in the early morning as the reserve opens and the other at 3pm. Whooper Swans have lovely bugling calls and you can imagine the crescendo of the birds as feed time approaches. Modern technology has come to the birding world - about 10% of the birds carry a plastic ring with large letters/numbers on them. With the aid of binoculars you can read the details on the rings then enter the data into a touch screen computer in one of the hides and it will give the life story of that individual bird, very interesting. Large flocks of Pink-footed Geese gather in the same area as the reserve, we watched several flocks over flying the reserve but some came down onto the Mere to bathe. Martin Mere is also known for attracting small number of a wading bird called a Ruff, they have several plumage colour phases from off white through to dark brown likewise their leg colours differ from red to pale green.
With 3 weeks to go to the shortest day I was very pleased to hear both Mistle and Song Thrush singing in the Churchyard while I raked up the leaves. At Wood Farm I have heard bursts of song from the Wren and the Robin. This is a cheerful omen as we approach the Christmas period.