Nature Notes: Plenty to observe during winter months
DURING the latter part of each year many species of wildfowl arrive in Britain when the freeze-up takes place in northern Europe.
Many move further south, some as far as the Mediterranean.
Resident passerines (perching birds) tend to form flocks. Long-tailed tits move about the countryside in family flocks and other members of the family sometimes join them.
Finches and buntings can be observed in large flocks roaming along hedgerows and woodlands in search of food to sustain them throughout the winter months.
Goldfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches can be seen among flocks of the bramblings from Europe.
During the time of the murmuration of starlings at Whorlton, quite close by a flock of greenfinches were roosting, numbering 200-plus. A birding friend of mine first noted them – a rare occurrence locally.
There is nothing better than to experience a “charm” of goldfinches, with their tinkling chirp feeding on heads of thistles.
During some winters that beautiful bird the waxwing irrupts from the forests of Scandinavia to the UK. It is thought this is due to the lack food where they breed.
With its pinkish-brown plumage plus its silvery crest it is a sight for sore eyes; nearly always noted in flocks feeding on berries, cotoneaster is a favourite one.
Some years ago, a flock was pressed in trees on Scar Top opposite the post office in Barney. They can literally crop up anywhere.
Now to the thrush family, blackbirds, redwings, fieldfare and robins.
Thousands of them arrive on the east coast during early autumn and winter. Fieldfare can be heard before seen by their “chack, chack” calls. It is a very smart looker with its plumage of grey and contrasting browns.
Redwings are more delicate than their cousins and we all know blackbirds and robins – regular visitors to gardens – but bear in mind they could have arrived from the continent.
Next of the winter visitors are wildfowl duck, geese and swans, plus wigeon – small numbers do breed in the UK.
One or two pairs have bred at Smallways lake but winter sees a rise in their numbers to about 100, mainly migrants from Iceland, one of the few ducks that obtain their intake of food by grazing on pasture.
A smart little duck with its chestnut head and a crown of yellow, their Latin name Anas Penelope refers to crown of gold she wore.
Up to 400 teal can be observed during November and December. The smallest of the duck species, they feed in the shallows.
With reference to geese, a few greylags hang around, with small numbers of pink feet that just pass through.
Smallways is a magnet for wintering wildfowl even a few whooper swans pass through.
As you can see there is plenty of birdlife during the winter months in Teesdale, just get out and enjoy it.
Dave Moore is a wildlife enthusiast from Hutton Magna