Here we are at the end of a very strange year. 2020 has been so challenging for us all, and tragic for some. It is impossible to adequately cover the range of emotions we have all experienced. At least we can take some small comfort in knowing we live in wonderful, supportive communities, surrounded by beautiful countryside. Research has demonstrated that access to green space and to wildlife has had an increasing importance for many people this year (you can read more about this here). So we are blessed in many ways. Our TDEG members have certainly demonstrated their enjoyment and love for our local wildlife, with so many photos and comments posted on our TDEG Facebook page and the wildlife sightings page on our web site. Many thanks for all your contributions.
Of course we also know that although we live in this breathtaking landscape (even on a grey, snowy day in December), our wildlife is still in decline, and there is much we need to do to address this issue. Our members have got involved in many practical projects this year, and lobbied decision makers, to try to make a difference. You can check out all our activities on our Wildlife group web page. Many thanks to everyone who has been involved. We will be doing more in 2021 – so please join us and help to make a real difference for nature in our area.
November and December are never going to be the most fruitful of months for wildlife. Our wild flowers are past their best. Birds and animals are getting ready for winter. So our sightings have been few and far between over the last two months.
Many birds are on the move. We have continued to see huge flocks of pink footed geese flying over the area. These geese are over wintering in the UK, and apparently move from the east coast to the west coast (and back) as weather conditions change. Many of you may also have noted the large flocks of mixed gulls gathering on local farmland to feed. Most of these gulls are black-headed gulls, with common gulls and great black-backed gulls also often present. But occasionally, real rarities turn up in these mixed flocks – although you have to be a real expert (and very keen!) to tell them all apart.
Other birds which create a fantastic spectacle `on the move` at this time of year, are our local starlings. In the winter months, starlings often collect in small flocks to feed on farm land, but then at the end of the day they gather in huge groups to roost in specific safe sites. If you are lucky, they sometimes circulate in these huge groups in the sky, before plummeting down into their roosting sites, and they create the most amazing patterns – known as murmurations. We are fortunate to have one of these sites in our area – close to Wardlow, in the reed beds at Cavendish Mill. People often gather at dusk, just off Thunderpit Lane, to watch out for their stunning displays. A local photographer, Richard Bowring, has given us permission to share his photos (some of which are created by merging many photos together to show the trails made by the birds as they fly around before settling).
Phil Grainger saw these wonderful buzzards near Wheston in November. They were probably searching for mice and voles disturbed by tractors ploughing local fields. The increase in buzzards over our area has been a real success story in Derbyshire, and shows that nature can recover when the right circumstances allow.
Winter is an important time to feed our garden birds, and you will be rewarded with some amazing sights. Many people have asked us about keeping our local jackdaws and grey squirrels away from their bird feeders. There are lots of different products on the market to do this. We use both the “cage” type – particularly useful if you want to try fat balls. And also a “spring loaded” feeder for sunflower seed, which closes the feeding holes when heavier birds try to land on the feeder (all available on line from the RSPB, on local garden centres). These both seem to work well.
But how about this Christmassy idea (shared on Facebook by Sue Barber) – a Christmas tree for the birds!
If you are providing bird seed and peanuts for your garden birds, please remember to clean your feeders regularly. We had an outbreak of a very sad finch disease last year, which meant we had to stop feeding our birds for several weeks. You can wash and disinfect your feeders, or buy a vet and RSPB recommended brand of cleaner (such as Ark-clens) to do the job easily.
We’ve been particularly thrilled to have a treecreeper visiting our garden regularly in the last month. The treecreeper isn’t using the feeders, but it seems to prefer to visit at the same time as the flocks of small birds which do come to the feeders. I imagine it feels safe in their company! Our feeders are in a large elder bush, and this shrub has very fissured bark, which the tree creeper works its way up and down, searching for insects and grubs.
We have also seen a great spotted woodpecker briefly, but Adam Saunders managed some great shots of this bird with his new trail camera.
I get the impression that quite a few of us received trail cameras as Christmas presents (including me). It might get quite competitive as we share our images on line and try to work out how to get the best out of our new toys!
So we look forward to 2021, and a whole new year of enjoying and celebrating our local wildlife. Please keep sending and posting your sightings. Maybe we will even manage to meet up in person more often. We have put all your 2020 sightings together, in a single record for the whole year. What an impressive record this is, with over sixty species of birds and a similar number of wild flowers, seen by our members over the whole year. Maybe we can do even better in 2021!