Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Gatley Carrs in February by Peter Wolstenholme

I'm afraid I'm a bit late in posting Peter's report this month. This is entirely your editor's fault - sorry, Peter!

Between midday and 4 pm on the 6th at least ten flocks of Pinkfooted Geese flew west towards Martin Mere from East Anglia and towards month end two more flocks followed. Tens of thousands were still wintering in East Anglia at month end so there is still scope for further birds flying over in March before the flocks finally depart for Iceland.

Vegetation has been slow to develop because of what is billed as the coldest winter for thirty years, but the Alder Catkins are still to be seen by the stream and both Daffodils and Snowdrops were budding or in flower by month end. Birds of prey this month have included Sparrow Hawk, Buzzard and Kestrel.

By month end Robins are again present in pairs. Hedge Sparrows are in song as are a much smaller number of Wrens than in the autumn. Despite the cold weather there are plenty of species of birds in song, which had not been heard earlier in the winter. A pair of Mistle Thrush are in territory and their slurred song is to be heard at the west end of the poplar plantation. The repeated phrases of Song Thrush are now a feature in several parts of the reserve and the slow dreamy song of Blackbird is again a sound to be listened for from now until the summer. The cheery song of Chaffinch has been a sound we have heard towards month end. Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Nuthatch and Goldcrest have all joined the chorus and it is worth listening out for the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker against the trunks of mature trees. In the late evening listen for the hooting call of nesting Tawny Owls.

Do not forget to continue feeding the birds in early spring. Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Blue, Great, Cole and Longtailed Tits have all been visiting bird tables and bird feeders. Fat balls, peanuts and birdseed are all eagerly devoured as the number of insects for the birds to feed on remains pathetically low. During the latter half of the month a male Blackcap has fed on fat and once even ventured to sing for a few minutes. Blackcaps during the winter months are likely to have come from Germany or further afield. Our summering Blackcap are likely to come back in early April, together with other migrants from southern Europe or Africa.

When the pool has been unfrozen during February there have been up to four pairs of Canada Geese prospecting for nesting sites. Up to five pairs of Mallard are also there. Heron hunt on the pool and a pair of Moorhen are in the vegetation. The stream attracts a pair of Grey Wagtails. A Snipe has appeared on the pool but there have been no sightings of Kingfisher since December. Cormorants are still fishing along the cleaner waters of the Mersey.

Up to forty Blackheaded Gulls are feeding on the playing field to the west of the wildflower meadow and by month end there were already a couple with the blackheads of summer plumage.

With best wishes for the warmer spring weather.

Peter Wolstenholme RSPB, Manchester and SK8

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