The recent cold weather and snow has meant that my teaching jobs at Rainham this week, have been postponed. After all, trying to convince students that the ‘outside’ is wonderful, when you’re a step away from hypothermia yourself, can be an uphill task! So most of this week, it’s been homework and housework and all the things in between. But the cold snap does have its advantages.
I set up my ‘scope on the garden and I’ve had some of the very best views of Chaffinch that have come in to feed, ever. I’ve had a mainly male flock, resplendent in their peachy-pink plumage (try saying that with a mouthful of biscuits) with a handful of females joining them on some days. Chaffinch seem to be an under-rated bird, that really deserve to be ranked higher in garden favourites, in my opinion.
I’ve had a visiting Fieldfare that has eluded the camera and a Jackdaw that has attempted a silly balancing act on the feeders. Over-head, there’s been a continual stream of Woodpigeon and several Cormorants heading for the river.
On Wednesday to relieve the onset of cabin-fever, I decided to go to Shorne Wood Country Park, to see what was about. It was still covered in a blanket of snow as I set out and headed for the woods. It was eerily quiet and the snow in some places, quite untouched. The ponds had a thick layer of ice and I did wonder at the time how the fish cope in such conditions. There were footprints crossing the ice. Some were definitely fox and further along the path some broader ones which I did think may be badger. There were plenty of dog prints!
It was near here that I encountered a couple of Goldcrest, busily checking out the underside of leaves in the trees for tasty morsels and they kept up a constant ‘sip sip’ between them, to keep contact. Lovely tiny birds that have to eat to a huge amount daily to keep warm and survive.
Just as I was leaving this spot, in the quietness, a sudden twittering made me look up to see a large flock of Siskin, whoosh over my head and land in a tree further up the track. As I got to the tree, they were off again. I haven’t seen a flock that big before and it was wonderful to see.
Amongst the bushes, where there were a few rose-hips left, Fieldfare could be seen flitting back and forth. These thrushes are such beauties and a very welcome visitor during the winter months. It’s hard to believe that the weather in Britain is warmer than their countries of origin presently!
Today, after hearing that Common Crane had been seen on Sheppey, I decided that wimping-out in this weather won’t do. So I donned several layers and drove to Capel Fleet.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed, as the gathering group of birders was a sure sign I was in luck! And there they were, seven splendid Common Crane, in the distance, in a tight group that mobilised together. Sometimes they flew short distances and demonstrated beautifully how they use those big wings like parachutes to lose height before finally touching down with long elegant legs. They moved on the ground just as gracefully and appeared to forage in the snow for anything that was edible I’m guessing.
What a wonderful sight they were and alongside the other raptors, the gathering flocks of geese, the Bewick’s swans (I saw 3), the Meadow Pipits, finches and partridges, it all made for a splendid end of the week.
Here’s a very, very distant shot of the cranes in flight. Well worth hypothermia!
By the way folk, enjoy your Big Garden Birdwatch!
Pity we don’t get cranes in the garden….now that WOULD be something