Monday, 12 January 2015

Wet Days and Bird Days

January would appear to be turning into a month of wild weather! We have had plenty of rain here in Sussex, and although it has been very windy, the weather reports for Northern England and Scotland look unpleasant. Hope you are all staying safe out there? 

We have had one break in the weather, and, I think, we made the most of it! Yesterday (Sunday 11th) I headed out from the local patch with a group of other local folk, into what proved to be a cold and windy, but sunny day. We were taking part in an annual tradition, the Sussex Ornithological Society New Year Bird Race. Perhaps you haven't heard of a bird race before? Well, the basic idea is to see as many species of bird as possible within a set boundary of time and location. We headed out into West Sussex, to watch birds for a day, from dawn to dusk. So what was our final total? I have shared the whole story over on my other Blog; You can read a brief write up, and the other team's stories on the Sussex Ornithological Society's website too.

But what about the patch, what's been happening with the wildlife here during all this rain and whilst I've been off chasing birds across the county?  Well it has not been quiet by any means. 

On drier cold nights, when the moon was near full, the local dog fox could be heard barking. On one dark night two foxes could be heard, yickering, whining and yapping in the street. 

The fox isn't the only one to have possibly found a mate. A grey heron visits a neighbour's pond from time to time, but a few days ago it was the huge wingspan of two herons that blotted out the sun as they aimed ungainly for a nearby rooftop.

A little gang of starlings has been visiting the feeders most days, squabbling and bickering, whilst other smaller birds including goldfinches wait in bushes to the side. A goldfinch was on one of the bird feeders a few days ago, swinging in the wind, but it was so wet that its feathers were streaked and it looked as if it's colours had run like a painting in the rain!

I have also seen one of my first signs of spring today along the main road into town, one that seems to get earlier every year; yellow lambs-tails, or in other words, hazel catkins. The catkins are actually the male flower that produces wind-blow pollen. Look carefully at the photo, can you see the tiny red 'sea-anemone' close to the stem, near the top of the catkin? That's the female flower which catches the pollen as the wind blows it. 

Hopefully the weather will improve soon and we can head out onto the patch again under brighter skies. Maybe we will find out where the herons are building their nest (they are usually busy with this quite early in the year), or find out if the rains have wetted up the Cowdray flood meadows enough to attract anything unusual... 

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis