I was wide awake in bed at 5am as the dawn chorus began this morning. Mum used to say that the dawn chorus always begins with a lone blackbird. That was certainly the case this morning. It was joined about ten minutes later by a goldfinch, then greenfinches, a dunnock, chaffinches and a robin.
The dawn chorus up here in the bleak Pennines is nothing like the ones of my childhood in the leafy Wirral, but it’s still pretty spectacular, once it gets going.
First update of 2012. What can I say? I've been busy.
January began with snowdrops. I spotted my first, under the smaller of our two sycamores on 5th—the earliest snowdrop in our garden ever, I believe. Two days later, and it was decapitated in a storm. But it was a welcome reminder that winters don't go on forever.
I have taken several walks on the moor. Ice and mud, mainly—and a few stalwart grouse. I also saw a flock of 48 fieldfares. (Yes, I counted them: sad, I know.)
I had a truly astonishing walk up on the moor on 11th February. The area had been hit by frozen ice, so every heather twiglet and blade of grass had been sheathed in ice. It was so cold that the grouse, which I could hear nearby, had taken to hiding instead of flying away—presumably to save energy. They couldn't have been getting much food, with all the heather frozen.
At home, we had our first siskin in the garden. Well, probably not our first—but certainly the first I recognised as a siskin! And we have had a small number of fieldfares and redwings in the front field, although those seem to have returned to Scandinavia now.
Then, this Tuesday, I was in the kitchen making a brew, when there was a tremendous crash against the window next to the bird-feeder. A sparrowhawk, I guessed. I ran over to the window, but there was no sign of anything, save for a few small feathers stuck to the window. But the blackbirds in the garden were going ballistic: they had clearly seen what had happened. I went back upstairs to work, but, 45 minutes later, I realised that the blackbirds were still going ballistic. I went to investigate, and found a little owl sitting in the thorn tree, getting mobbed by chaffinches. I managed to fire off a single, poorly exposed photo before it flew off.
I later read that little owls do indeed eat small birds. They also seem to have stolen a trick from sparrowhawks, and taken to ambushing small birds at feeders.
There are definite signs that spring is on the way. Our garden robin has taken to singing very vocally before sunrise, and is starting to get a bit bolshy. So I'm hoping I should be able to start giving more regular updates in this journal in the near future.