Ben Waddams writes in ” The Journal ” about wildlife around Shropshire and the Welsh borders. This post is about the wildfowl during the winter months.
Winter can be the most beautiful time of the year in these areas but difficult for wildlife, whether it is very cold or very mild. But generally speaking what can one see and do during the winter months that perhaps you can’t at other times of the year.?
Well with a county blessed by some fine watercourses, January is a great month for ducks,geese and swans Wildfowl are both numerous and the drakes are in their brightest and best plumage of the year.. Huge flocks of migratory geese are a common sight in some coastal areas but there are treats to savour inland too. Whooper swans are regularly seen at places such as Venus Pool now and an early start can be both exciting and beautiful to behold.
For some of our less common ducks, including, pintail, goldeneye,, long-tailed duck, red-breasted merganser and goosander, the Severn and the meres as well as other ponds and lakes can be a magnet for few individuals. When snow falls it provides a wonderful opportunity to study animal tracks, frost can also turn up a few pretty prints. It may not be the most welcome substance, but mud is easy to come by at this time of the year, and badger, deer fox and even otter evidence can be observed, or even better, plaster casted. Rooks, jackdaws, carrion crow and ravens gather at communal roosts. Their aerial acrobats at dusk may not be on the same scale as a starling murmuration but can be almost as spectacular.
Courtesy Ben Waddams.
Golden eye Duck.
Red Breasted Merganser.
Great- spotted woodpeckers begin drumming on dead wood as part of their territorial display. A morning walk through a quiet oak woodland is almost guaranteed to produce a sighting or hearing. Another famouse bird to start its courtship in winter is the tawny owl. These fabulous birds of prey are at their noisiest from December and can be tracked down on a moonlit night by listening for their various calls.
To attract the aforementioned species to your garden, why not make your own bird feeder or buy one. Either way feeding garden birds at this time of year can make a real difference to their survival. Most garden birds are insectivores but, for obvious reasons , have to switch their diet in the winter. Having seeds and nuts readily available for them in your garden is a great help.
Tawny Owl. Courtesy of the RSPB.