Tony Drakeford's nature notes

Dreaming of spring


I had been dreaming of a white Christmas, not a warm windy one! Nevertheless, whatever winter still has in store, the shortest day is behind us and despite sharp frosts, welcome signs of spring are everywhere.

Buds on trees are swelling and my daffodils are already peeping a few inches above ground, those not dug up by squirrels that is.

Some black-headed gulls already sport almost perfect black, or to be more precise, dark chocolate brown crowns. Mallard are paired up; robins flirt and blackbirds bicker and chase and sometimes a female chases a male!

Great and blue tits examine nest boxes and early morning birdsong, especially blackbirds and dunnocks, tentatively test tonsils preparing for the big singalong in a few weeks’ time.

The tit family too are honing vocalisation skills. Great tits call 'pizza-pizza-pizza'; blue tits 'tee-tee-tee-tiddleiddlee-' and coaltits  cry 'pitu-pitu-pitu'. Bird feeders are busy. At this time of year natural food is harder to find so our offerings are most welcome.

My goldfinches are back while all the tit family plus the occasional nuthatch raid feeders in early morning. One bluetit has even learned to access the tiny opening of a nyger seed feeder while patrolling below for spilt seeds are dunnock, four stock doves and two wood pigeons while a dainty collared dove sometimes joins them.

Sadly two song thrushes that once sang locally disappeared after a severe December storm three years ago and none have replaced them.

One of the most endearing birds to visit the feeders is the coaltit (pictured) with a head that seems a little too big for his body!