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Of mumurations, amnesties and joiners

22 Dec

This will appear in the January Edition of the Sherston Cliffhanger magazine.

We are now in deep winter with many bird spending the winter here or changing their behaviour. Our native Goldcrest is the smallest bird that is here all year round (see photo taken on a copse on the Cliff) and weights half the weight of a pound coin. A pound coin weights about 9 grams while a Goldcrest weights about 5g – just pick up a coin…. What’s even more amazing is the the Goldcrest is joined by a close relative – the Firecrest – which migrates here although some do breed here. Can you imagine a bird weighing half the weight of a pound coin flying hundreds of miles!!

Goldcrest - the gold crest is distinctive - and they are SO small

Goldcrest – the gold crest is distinctive – and they are SO small

Our local population of Starlings are joined by others migrating from parts of northern Europe. In mid December a couple of people made me aware we had our very own mumuration of Starlings. As you may have sen on wildlife programmes, Starlings can gather together to form huge flocks which whoosh around the sky just before they roost at dark and form fantastic patterns. Sherston has (or had – as they may have moved since mid December) our very own near the vineyard on the back road to Brook End.

The amnesty in the title is about what’s in my garage. A couple of years ago I bought a number of nest boxes many of which have been installed. I do, however, have two sitting in the garage which I will be putting up in Grove Wood. If anyone has unwanted nest boxes would you let us put them up in the wood?

This brings me to the final point. Barn Owls are under significant pressure because of limited food supply at some times of the year but also a lack of nesting sites. Is there anyone willing, with reasonable joinery skills, to build a nest box for Barn Owls? I have some of the material and can supply the design and I am sure any other material can be scrounged from around the village. The next box is a bit bigger than a tea chest (for those who remember this endangered species) and would need to be ready by the end of January to be installed in the wood. It could make a great project for these long winter evenings so please let me know ….


Flocking mallards

1 Feb

Just before Christmas there were a number of reports of a large flock of Mallard ducks being seen to south of the village. As luck would have it I happened to come across them…. about 150 individuals


Flock Mallards Dec 2012

Wild side resolutions – Cliffhanger January 2103

1 Feb
Wild side resolutions
With the new year just starting it’s a great time to think about New Year resolutions. While it’s easy to think of many resolutions for yourself (must get fit, go on a diet, grow more hair etc etc) how about one or two to help local wildlife, and may help you get a bit fitter, such as:
  • Taking your children/grand children out walking (or even just watching your bird feeders) and have a little competition as to how many different birds they can identify. There are lots of easy to use guides from the RSPB and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust – some simple identification cards or guides you can download
  • Ask your local school if they would be interested in Wiltshire Wildlife Trust visiting to run a workshop
  • For adults, how about getting a copy of the Sherston walks guide (available from the Post Office) and walk some of the footpaths. Take your time, ideally with some binoculars, and it’s amazing what you can see – Deer, Foxes, Hare, Kestrels, Little Egrets, Lapwings, Badgers (maybe not at this time of year!), Kingfishers etc
  • Visit some of the great local wildlife reserves – easy to find on the web. Maybe even help out as a volunteer at the Cotswold Water Park
  • Keep your bird feeders topped up and, when it’s freezing, make sure there is water available for the birds.
2012 was a very mixed year for local wildlife primarily due to the very wet late spring, summer and autumn. This resulted in some quite odd sightings such as a young Hedgehog being found wandering around the village in late November. Luckily it was taken in, fed and given to a local wildlife rescue center to keep over the winter and build it’s strength. On a personal note both writing this column together with my blog ( has made me take time to better understand the fantastic wildlife we have almost literally on our doorstep.
Looking forward to 2013 is really exciting. Hopefully the spring and summer will be warmer and drier to encourage all the birds and insects which didn’t thrive in 2012. A number of scarce birds and animals were seen in or around the village including Red Kites and Otters and, with good weather many of the butterflies and insect eating birds will make a great recovery.
If you do see anything of interest please do let me know –


The Egrets have landed…

21 Dec

Having reported the first Little Egret arriving in the village a couple of weeks ago, there are now four (maybe five) over wintering along the river. Today I saw 4 together with one demonstrating very dominant behaviour repeatedly trying to drive the other ones away. Some 20 minutes earlier I saw another one just beyond Stanbridge. This may be an additional one  or may have joined the others.

Little Egret

Little Egret

Many other migrating birds can be found around the village such as Fieldfare‘s and Redwing‘s – both members of the Thrush family. A number of Jays have been seen – often quite hard to spot as they are very nervous birds –