Long tail tits (Aegithalos caudatus)
For the third consecutive year, our Big Garden Birdwatch was counted in the rain. While this undoubtedly affected the variety and numbers of attending birds, it didn't prevent a hardy group of long-tailed tits from making an appearance. Nor did it stop the hungry goldcrests from taking advantage of the lack of competition.
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Sunday 28th January 2018
14 Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
07 Long tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
06 House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
06 Jacdaw (Corvus monedula)
04 Blackbird (Turdus merula)
04 Carrion crow (Corvus corone)
03 Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
02 Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
02 Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
02 Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
02 Magpies (Pica pica)
02 Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
01 Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
01 Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
01 Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus
03 Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)
As if to provide a contrast on how our Birdwatch count might have been, the following Sunday opened to a wonderfully crisp morning.
The sun was bright and the air was fresh, and as I pulled into the Sanctuary car park, two red kites were circling overhead, no more than ten metres from the ground.
Red kite (Milvus milvus)
Just one week apart, the change in the two days was dramatic. More than fifty jackdaws took to the air as dark, shape-shifting clouds in the clear blue sky, while a buzzard soared above the surrounding fields, widening its search for prey.
Dozens of house sparrows and chaffinches were busy darting around the Sanctuary in several sub-grouped cliques, venturing into the enclosures for a share of the residents' food.
House sparrow (Passer domesticus)There were coal tits, great tits, finches and thrushes. A couple of collared doves watched from the overhead wires, while several woodpigeons scoured the floor for just about anything that appeared edible.
Wrens and dunnocks also stayed low, carefully keeping the foliage cover of bushes and trees in close darting distance. A tapping nuthatch could be heard inspecting the surrounding woods, and identical robins popped-up at every turn.
(Robin - Erithacus rubecula)
Although there was no sign of the Canada geese, there was a significant rise in the mallard population who seemed to have welcomed in guests, while two extra moorhens were enjoying the hospitality of Baboon Island. Unfortunately, there were no starlings nor pipits in sight.
On the southern boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the most hardy and adaptable animals have the best chance of survival. These bright and sunny days are pockets of opportunity in what is a changeable environment, but the worst of the weather was still yet to come.
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
Upon the arrival of our meteorological spring, the temperatures plummeted to the coldest of the year so far, bringing a large helping of snow and further problems for the wildlife.
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
For the following week or so, the temperature struggled to rise above freezing, and the battle to survive was on. Much needed food was sparse and difficult to access, and the animals living in close proximity to humans took full advantage of the garden feeders, extra provisions of backdoor food and the inadvertent consequences of our lifestyles.
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
Male blackbird (Turdus merula)
Female blackbird (Turdus merula)
When the cold snap broke and the temperature began to rise, bright sunny skies returned with a bearable balance of rain, and the emergence of daffodils inspired hopes of spring. It wasn't to be. Just two days before this year's astronomical start of springtime, March 20th, winter reasserted its grip with yet another period of freezing temperatures and deep-lying snow.
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) and Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Long-tail tit (Aegithalos caudatus) braving the wind and snow in the search for food