It Blew the Cobwebs Away

Walkers in blustery surroundingsIt Blew the Cobwebs Away

The Winter Bird Walk at Hillhouse Wood this morning certainly blew the cobwebs away.  Steve Hallam’s account reports on an interesting walk.

Un-wintry Winter Walk

The 2019 Hillhouse Wood Winter Birds walk probably falls foul of the Trade Descriptions Act on at least two counts. Firstly, the weather conditions and bird behaviour encountered were hardly ‘winter-like’; secondly, at times a more accurate description of what we saw and heard would be the ‘high-speed Springer spaniel and dog whistle walk’.

The fact that we had chosen the day that Storm Freya passed through, accompanied by apocalyptical weather forecasts, hardly encouraged participation. The fact that five hardy souls came along is, presumably, a testament to my wildlife presentational skills. Either that or some people had nothing else to do that morning!  In reality, the weather was not that bad – intermittent light rain, a bit breezy, but very mild.

Birds Sensing Spring in the Air

As always, nature laid on something worthwhile for us to see. Many birds we did see and hear were indicating that, as far as they were concerned, Spring had arrived.  While still at the old church we heard singing Chaffinch, Dunnock and a Great Tit giving its ‘teacher, teacher’ call, which is as close to a song as it gets. As we walked down the track to the wood the birds that were most noticeable were Blue and Great tits.  These were in one’s and two’s, rather than the mixed foraging flocks which are their hallmark winter behaviour.

Inside the woodI had decided to walk down the field by the side of the wood, to see if there were any finches or winter thrushes in the large hedges and / or the Alder trees at the bottom. There were not. But what we did see were two of the local Buzzards, floating effortlessly in the strengthening wind. This seems to give them an advantage over the local crows and Jackdaws, as these find it more difficult to mob them when the wind is stronger.

Racing Spaniels

Walking along the stream, and then into the wood, birds were rather thin on the ground. The next part of the walk was largely accompanied by the racing spaniels mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, the wood was largely devoid of birds. As well as the odd Tit, the Buzzards reappeared, floating just above the tree tops, one calling loudly.  However, of Goldcrests, Siskins, woodpeckers, Treecreepers and Nuthatches there was no sign. On the way out we walked alongside a band of Long Tailed Tits, whilst on the far side of the Colne Valley, there was a large flock of gulls (probably Common) in a field of sheep. So a pleasant walk, with several highlights and a good blow, which set us up perfectly for a cup of tea before lunch!