Sunday, 7 February 2010

Gatley Carrs in December 2009 & January 2010

This is Peter Wolstenholme's midwinter report from Gatley Carrs at the eastern (Stockport) end of the Mersey Valley:

Early December temperature remained largely above freezing point. Several flocks of Pinkfeet flew high overhead in a westerly direction. Again there were small numbers of Canada Geese which were either at tree top height or on the pool when it was unfrozen. The first signs of spring were along the stream with blooming alder catkins and pussy willows. Siskins, Redpolls, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch fed among the alders.

Very cold weather with heavy frost and deep snow in early January brought Redwing and Fieldfare foraging in gardens for berries and apples. One or two Blackcaps appeared after the snow - probably winter visitors from central Europe. A Kingfisher on Christmas Day on the stream brought a flash of colour but there have been few seen since the very cold snap. The stream hosted Snipe and Gray Wagtail. During the colder weather Herons visited the stream and garden ponds and even foraged for carrion in the snow.

Throughout the period there were Kestrel, Sparrow Hawks and Buzzard visiting the Carrs. Birdsong has come from Collared Doves, Wood Pigeon, Robin and Dunnock but the numbers of singing Wrens has dropped as numbers have diminished with the cold weather. The milder weather of January has brought back the bright cheery phrases of song from the Song Thrush for the first time since very early autumn. During the next two months there should be plenty of new songsters as the spring chorus of birdsong begins to get established.

Bird feeders have attracted Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Blue, Great, Coal and Longtailed Tits. Birds have fed on Fat Balls, Peanuts, Pale bird seed and Blackbird seed. Some species especially Goldfinch are doing very well with flocks of 60 to 100 gathering in the treetops while others such as Wren seem to have dropped in numbers. Goldcrest have held on in the conifers near the entrance.

In the morning of mid January up to 30 Blackheaded Gulls fed on the playing fields - still in winter plumage. Flocks of up to 80 Jackdaws flew over to roost in late afternoons in a northerly direction and in the evening the hooting of Tawny Owls has come after nightfall.

A bird visit to the Solway Estuary in January brought sightings of an American Wigeon among European Wigeon and over 300 Whooper Swans at Caerlaverock, Purple Sandpiper and Greenshank on the shore at Southerness Point and over 10,000 Barnacle Geese on Blackshaw Merse

With best wishes,

Peter Wolstenholme RSPB Manchester and SK8

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