What a crazy start to 2020’s weather! Still, it has been heartening to see and record an abundance of wildlife in my Whitley garden, and I am optimistic that spring will be very busy.
The end of last year was another month of weather extremes, from the very cold and frosty start to the month, the gales and heavy rain in the middle of the month to the warm days at the end of the month. It was 18°C in parts of the UK over Christmas, which apparently was the warmest December day ever recorded in this country.
My two regular hedgehog visitors had bedded down for the winter, the great tits were roosting in nest boxes and the foxes seemed to be pairing up. A male sparrowhawk started to make visits and a mouse had taken up residence in a nest box.
I had to cut down a silver birch I had planted some 45 years ago; it had died earlier in the year and had become dangerous. This tree was frequently used by squirrels, woodpeckers and all manner of other birds who now have to use a nearby Robinia tree instead. I have shredded the small branches and twigs into mulch and put the larger branches in a log pile. I will use the biggest parts of the tree to make a coffee table and a couple of chairs; this project will occupy me most of the spring!
January was mostly wet and windy, starting with storm Brendan on 13 January, but it was very mild, with temperatures never going below 9°C and a high of 16°C in the middle of the month. There were a few frosty nights, but daytime temperatures still held up.
It is surprising what animals you can see with trail cameras that you might have otherwise missed. I recorded the hedgehogs out on the evenings, as well as the UK’s smallest bird, the colourful goldcrest.
At the beginning of the month, I also photographed a female great spotted woodpecker, sparrows, dunnocks, magpies, long tailed tits, starlings, pigeons, doves, robins, wrens, goldfinches, blackbirds, blue tits and great tits.
It was a really exciting moment on 6 January when I managed to photograph that garden rarity, the green woodpecker. The trail camera also recorded a female black cap; the female has a brown cap as opposed to a black cap of the male.
The male sparrowhawk returned in mid-month. This bird is a winter visitor to my garden, and it’s always good to see such an imposing bird, even if they tend to receive negative reviews because they catch and eat other birds.
A male great spotted woodpecker also appeared, so I hope we will see a little mating activity during the spring. Afternoon temperatures in the sun peaked at 16°C on 9 January and bees started to emerge. Such warm winter conditions must be confusing to the wildlife.
The trail camera recorded two hedgehogs out each evening, and they remain active as I write this on 11 February. The two foxes are still regular visitors and have clearly started pairing up. Pigeons, doves, robins and blackbirds have already started pairing up as well; the magpies and pigeons have already started pulling at twigs for nesting material.
I will be back next month with more exciting wildlife moments from the garden!