Spring begins in March (depending on which metereologist you are speaking to) – not sure that is the case in our area. We have certainly had some interesting weather during the winter months this year. There was only the slightest dusting of snow early in January, and February apparently completed the eighth mildest UK winter on record. Even so, there were still some nasty surprises. A cluster of three storms, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, in mid February will be remembered for their devastating impacts and disruption. We saw torrential rain and severe flooding across northern England.
And then the weather turned – the UK had its sunniest March since 1929 and its second sunniest overall, and daytime temperatures soared accordingly. Whilst we enjoyed basking in what seemed like an early spring, it does make for a confusing time for wildlife. If trees come into flower too early, their blossom can be destroyed by frosts. Birds can lay their eggs too soon to benefit from the profusion of insects later in the spring. Timing is everything.
As I write this in early April, the weather does seem a bit more `normal` – there are still cold nights to come and plenty of April showers. I’m not sure winter has done with us yet.
As usual, several us took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch between 28-30 January. Around 700,000 people nationally take part every year, recording all the birds they see in their gardens over just one hour. Our results are shown in the table below (or alongside – depending on your device!).
Our results are similar to the national picture – with House Sparrows featuring regularly (even though they continue to decline nationally). But also lovely to see some new sightings, such as Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Bramblings from Eleri Norris at Highcliffe
Traditionally – this is the start of our new species list for 2022. Do send us any of your wildlife sightings (within around five miles of Tideswell). You can submit them to our web site here. Or you can post images on our TDEG Facebook page, or just email them to email@example.com . We will always credit your photos (unless you ask us not to). If you would like to compare your own lists with our species lists from previous years, you can see the full annual summaries here.
We will gradually add to the list of different bird, insect, mammal and flower species, as the year progresses. Let’s celebrate all the wonderful wildlife we see in our local area.
The Big Garden Birdwatch focuses on those birds living closest to us. But we are fortunate to have so many other habitats close to where we live – wooded dales, farmland, and streams and ponds. It is certainly the bird life which figures in much of our wildlife watching during the winter months.
Nicky Whittle reported a Jay regularly visiting her Tideswell garden, and also a Red Kite flying overhead. Adam Saunders keeps records of all the birds he sees in his Tideswell garden and on regular walks along Tideswell Dale. On one early January morning, Adam reports seeing Mallard Ducks, Dippers, Herons and a Grey Wagtail. Adam also saw a flock of Pink-footed Geese flying over Tideslow Rake in mid January.
One of the delights of these wintery months is we can often see early spring-returning birds alongside some of the late over-wintering birds such as Redwings and Fieldfares. Large flocks of Fieldfares have been seen well into March on the fields around Occupation Lane and Wheston. And David Horne spotted a Redwing in his garden near the Anchor crossroads in Tideswell. We were thrilled to hear the evocative sounds of our first Curlews this year near Wheston at the end of March.
Adam saw both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Buzzards and a Raven in Tideswell Dale in March. Phil Riley was also able to capture this lovely photo of a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Litton Slack in the same month.
Phil Riley also captured this lovely image of two Mandarin Ducks on the River Wye in Millers Dale. These exotic looking birds are not considered to be truly native to the UK (originally they are found in East Asia). It is thought the wild population escaped from parkland estates in the early 20th century, and they are spreading north. But they are beautiful additions to our streams and lakes, and appear to be causing no problems, so are not classed as invasive species.
The Meadow Lane loop remains a popular walk around tracks between Tideswell and Millersdale, particularly for the wildlife to be seen there regularly. Little Owls are seen often, and Brown Hares have also been spotted in the fields this spring. Other mammals seen in this area, almost in Millers Dale, include an increasingly rare Stoat.
Phil Grainger and Leonie Redfern have both reported Hedgehogs increasingly active in their gardens, and Phil is still seeing his Badgers (Adam Saunders also reported a dead Badger in Tideswell Dale).
We had our first frog spawn in our garden pond in Tideswell on 14 March – which seemed quite early (if we ignore Phil Grainger’s heated pond luxury!).
Another harbinger of spring are the first butterflies – appearing after long hibernation or migrating here from further south. The very warm temperatures in mid March resulted in several of us noting butterflies in our gardens. Thomas Eccles had a Brimstone butterfly in his Manchester Road garden on 21 March (and is intending to plant Buckthorn shrubs, to try to encourage them to breed). Eleri Norris saw her first Peacock butterfly of the year on 23 March up at Highcliffe, and John Youle saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in Litton on the same day. Adam Saunders is one of our marvellous butterfly transect team, monitoring species recorded along Tideswell Dale, and he spotted Comma, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies all on 25 March (along with a Double-striped Pug moth).
Very few wild flowers have been mentioned over the last few months – not surprisingly. The first flowers to be seen are often the Lesser Celandines and Butterbur, along with the flowers of trees such as Hazel. But soon our woodland dales will be carpeted with Wood Anemones , Bluebells and Garlic. Chiff Chaffs will be heard in our gardens again, and hopefully Swifts calling and flying overhead. Who will be the first to see our returning Swifts?
Spring really is just around the corner. So keep your eyes peeled and keep those photos coming in!
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
Double-striped Pug moth
Frogs (with spawn)