Why an update now for Britain’s least consistent wildlife blog? Because I had a visit to my garden by one of my favourite birds in the whole world, a delightful autumn sprite called the firecrest. These tiny little birds (along with goldcrest, they are the smallest in the country) have moved from the continent for the winter and, because of their rarity, are always a treat to find. Traditionally, they have been thought of as continental birds and only very rare breeders in this country, but recently they have been discovered breeding in a number of Kent woodlands. They are difficult to see in spring, hanging around at the tops of trees and singing at such a high pitch that older people cannot hear them. They are much more visible at this time of year, and if you get a good view you will see the bright orange crest on top of the head that gives them their name.
Another noteworthy event was recently pointed out by a neighbour; large flocks of brent geese flying in V formation over the village. I have never noticed this before and can only assume they are travelling from the Swale Estuary, where they are easily seen, to an inland feeding site, probably an agricultural field of some description. These dark-coloured geese are winter visitors from the high arctic and provide a little taste of real wilderness
The world of nature has been so exciting recently that I have not had the chance to update this section of the website for some time. It has been a long, hard winter and this has been reflected in the birdlife. Over recent years, a series of mild winters have discouraged a suite of species to stay further North. This has meant that birds that would normally visit our relatively mild shores in large numbers, such as wigeon, teal and pintail, have stayed on the continent to feed. Not this year. There have been massive flocks of birds on the marshes around the Swale Estuary, along with some more unusual cold weather refugees, such as great northern divers and lapland buntings. Closer to to home, the orchards have been full of fieldfares, redwings and siskins. Because of a shortage of berries in Scandinavia, large numbers of waxwings have invaded Britain. These Northern invaders are very smart looking animals, with wax-like red drops on the wings (thus the name) and swooping, aquiline crests on top of their heads.
The first signs of spring are on the way. A few buds, a few more catkins and blackbirds, starlings and blue tits warming up for the looming annual dash to procreate.