Cold snap!

We seem to be in for a cold snap. Time to winterproof your bird table with fatballs, high protein treats and a regular supply of ice-free water. Let’s look after our wildlife!

King Alfred’s cakes

Daldinia concentrica: known as King Alfred’s cakes or coal fungus grows on the park’s trees, in this case on a dead ash tree.

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Wolf Moon

The first full moon of the year is called the Wolf Moon, apparently after the howling of hungry wolves in midwinter. The name seems to be common to both old European and North American cultures, perhaps an indication of how shared fears of the cold and the dark have shaped otherwise disparate human societies.

This year’s Wolf Moon will be tonight at just past a quarter to midnight and, if the misty weather we have been promised by the Met Office permits, should be spectacular as the temperature falls toward zero.

Have the blackbirds started singing yet?

Young males will begin to sing this early in order to establish and defend the territory they hope hold for the rest of their lives. Older and more experienced birds will wait until February or March.

Winter badgers

Badgers don’t hibernate, even in January, but they sleep a lot. The dominant female is pregnant, awaiting the birth of two or three cubs in February, and the rest of the clan are living off their fat reserves. They will leave the sett to visit the latrines but in particularly bad weather will dig latrines in distant and otherwise unused tunnels inside the sett.

Like the rest of us, they are waiting for the spring.

On the twelfth day of Christmas

The park’s twelve drummers drumming are great spotted woodpeckers. They begin drumming at the end of winter as part of a courtship ritual in which the male marks out his territory and advertises his presence. He drums his beak against hollow wood 10 to 20 times in just 2 seconds, and the females replies briefly as she enters his territory.

Here is a video:

Video recorded in March 2019 by George Ewart

Ten lords a-leaping

On this, the tenth day of Christmas, here are the extraordinary flowers of lords-and-ladies, the wild arum (Arum maculatum), photographed in the reserve in April.

Pictures taken in the park by Suzanne Humphries

Seven swans a-swimming.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me seven swans a-swimming.

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) come to the park to graze, not to swim or raise chicks. They break their long journey to some faraway lake or river, to rest and eat in the park’s green fields. We are a swan service station.

Six geese a-laying…

…or not.
There are no geese anywhere on our species lists but we can offer you six species of corvid instead.

[1] Crow [2] Jay [3] Rook [4] Jackdaw [5] Magpie [6] Raven

Goldfinches of course.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me five goldfinches. . .

Pictures taken in the reserve by DKG.

Four calling birds

Not calling birds, according to the experts, but colly birds. Colly is an old word for soot or coal dust and a colly bird is a blackbird. We have tuneful blackbirds by the dozen in the park.

Audio by Beatrix Saadi-Varchmin (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) xeno-canto.org

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