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

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

On the first day of Christmas

my true love sent to me

a partridge in a pear tree. The park’s partridges are Perdix perdix, the grey partridge, not the pretty little North American plumed partridge, Perdix plumifera, sitting in our Christmas card’s pear tree. Neither does the park actually have any pear trees: cherries, plums, sloes, apples and pedants aplenty but no pears at all. Nevertheless…

Christmas greetings from the Friends of Southwick Country Park.

Christmas robins

A Christmas Eve gallery of the park’s robins, photographed by DKG.

Reindeer

There were reindeer here in Britain in large numbers around the time of the last ice age, 35,000 to 50,000 years ago. There were wild herds of reindeer in Scotland right up until the 13th century when, like so many of our large native herbivores, they were hunted to extinction.

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Winter bees

There are at least two wild honey bee nests in the reserve, high up in hollow old trees. Here is a short video that shows how the bees are adapting their colony and their behaviour to the demands of winter.

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