Autumn can be such a beautiful season, and the weather in our area can certainly bring surprises. Whilst October was relatively benign, I think everyone was surprised by the heavy snowfall at the end of November. Combined with some stunning sunrises at the same time, many local residents captured some lovely views of our surrounding area.
The sightings listed below (or alongside – depending on your device!) are those seen in addition to species already seen previously in 2021 – so the list gets smaller as the year progresses. The complete list of all the species seen by our members in 2021 can be seen here – Species List 2021.
The early autumn brought us quite a bit of worrying news as the new UK Red List for Birds and also for Mammals were published. The former highlighted how some of our most loved birds – such as Swifts, House Martins and Greenfinch, are now critically endangered. The latter concluded that a quarter of all UK mammals are in danger of extinction.
Biodiversity loss is as much a threat to our way of life as climate change. So we must continue to take action and lobby decision-makers to try to make a difference to this situation.
We are fortunate in our area to continue to see some enadangered mammals – such as hedgehogs and hares. But others seem a lot more rare than only 25 years ago. I can remember seeing Weasels in our back garden in Tideswell. But Adam Saunders wondered if anyone had seen these marvellous tiny predators more recently? Kevin Dilks did report seeing a Stoat up at Summercross – so that is great news. Do let us know about any other mammals you see in our area (and photos always welcome!).
There are quite a few birds which migrate to our shores during autumn, and several of you were looking out for the first of these to arrive. One of the great migration sights is to see and hear the skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead. These geese sometimes can be seen resting or feeding on the ground, on their travels. Adam Saunders reports seeing Pink-footed Geese in local fields near Little Hucklow this autumn.
We also look forward to the murmarations of Starlings often seen at Cavendish Mill, near Stoney Middleton (although numbers seemed to be much lower this year). David Horne saw his first Brambling up near the Anchor on 13 October. And these were followed by Fieldfare and Redwing later in the season. Adam Saunders also saw some mixed flocks of these winter thrushes along Meadow Lane.
Autumn can be an excellent time for seeing and hearing our most common owls. We have had reports of the three main species of owl in and around our area. Tawny Owls are more often heard than seen, as they are quite secretive and prefer more woodland. But they are often heard calling at night, with their distinctive “twit – twoo” around all our homes. This call this is actually made by both a male and female owl calling to each other – the female makes a ‘ke-wick’ sound and the male answers with something more like ‘hoo-hoo-oo’.
Sue Milroy reports Tawny Owls were very active throughout December around Wheston Bank. We could even hear them down in Fountain Square, both in the woodland along the Cliffe and in the trees along Hardy Lane. Apparently, we hear so many Tawny Owls in the autumn because the young birds are trying to establish new territories for nesting next season. Let’s hope they take advantage of some of our new owl boxes, fixed by Josie Kilner along Manchester Road, and also up at the Tideswell Community Park.
You are much more likely to see Little Owls in our area. These tiny owls like to nest in very old trees, but in our area are also found nesting in rocky holes and cavities in our local limestone. We have had reports of Little Owls on Meadow Lane and in Hay Dale, near Wheston. They often perch for long periods of time and are quite visible during daylight hours – dawn and dusk are good times to see them.
Perhaps the most majestic of our commoner owls is the Barn Owl. Often seen flying low at dusk, like a ghost across open fields hunting for voles and mice, Barn Owls are very pale and have a distinctive screech. Their numbers are in decline, due to the loss of old farm buildings and changing agricultural practices, but Richard Bowring (an excellent photographer based in Stoney Middleton – do follow him on Facebook) has reported several around Wardlow Mires and seen flying along the main A623.
Other notable birds seen by our members this autumn include this lovely Sparrowhawk spotted by Dorothy Whitehouse in her Tideswell garden. Several of us see Sparrowhawks in our gardens locally, often taking advantage of the attraction of our bird feeders to smaller song birds! But I wonder if it is the same pair, basically making the rounds of known bird feeders. Difficult to tell.
Nicky Whittle also recorded her first sighting of a Jay in her Tideswell garden. Pete Hawkins reports seeing a Snipe in Tideswell Brook along Manchester Road.
Phil Grainger obtained some lovely photos of this tiny Goldcrest, in his Townhead garden and trying to look in through his window (although it may just be interested in its reflection). The Goldcrest is apparently quite common in Derbyshire – but so elusive and secretive, that capturing such good photos is really tricky. We have also heard of Goldcrests seen in the woodland along Buxton Road at the other end of Tideswell.
It is always worth a walk along our local dales. Millers Dale and Tideswell Dale are often good for Herons, Grey Wagtails and Dippers – whatever the weather. John Youle saw both Grey Wagtails and Buzzards in Tideswell Dale at the end of December. We also saw a lovely Dipper, Heron and a spectacular aerial display by five Buzzards together in Millers Dale in mid December. Buzzards seem to be far more common in our area than ever – so there is also good news around.
The end of another challenging year for everyone. We hope your family and friends have stayed healthy – here’s hoping for a less stressful year in 2022. Whatever faces us, wandering in our beautiful surroundings, observing our marvellous wildlife, is certainly one way of re-gaining some peace and serenity.
The full list of species seen in 2021 can be seen here – Species List 2021 .