Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow pays dividends

Last night a drive that usually takes me 10 minutes lasted almost an hour and a half, and then I had to abandon the car and walk the last quarter of a mile home. Why? A not too heavy fall of snow - not too heavy except, that is, for the London Borough of Haringey, whose habitual failure to respond to winter weather resulted in numerous collisons, abandoned buses and other rush-hour mayhem.

The absence of grit on local roads has resulted in near-total snow cover, and today the birds responded to the sub-zero temperatures by invading suburban gardens. Here in Muswell Hill, north London, Redwings are everywhere - there must be many, many thousands across the city as a whole. In our small suburban garden, an initial three birds this morning rose to 25 by the afternoon. This gathering also drew in 10 Starlings, six Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush and, best of all, two Fieldfares feeding on the rowan berries.

While watching this thrushfest, I was astonished to see two flocks of waders (or rather lines) pass overhead in shallow v-formations: the first-ever European Golden Plovers for the garden list. They headed high south, towards Alexandra Park, so I quickly phoned Andrew Gardener; unfortunately he couldn't relocate them (a single Northern Lapwing was some compensation), but it turns out that Ian Lycett had the same flocks from the Birdwatch office window moments before they flew west over the park and into my airspace.

Rounding off a great birding day for the garden was a pair of Blackcaps, our first of the winter, that appeared briefly in the cotoneaster and devoured a few berries before moving on. The day's total species count was a record-equalling 22: Golden Plover (25), Black-headed Gull (2), Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet (1), Wren (1), Dunnock (1), Redwing (25), Blackbird (6), Mistle Thrush (1), Fieldfare (2 plus 2 more over), Blackcap (pair), Blue Tit, Great Tit (4), Long-tailed Tit (1), Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Goldfinch (1) and Greenfinch (1). The photo highlights shown here were also taken in the garden today.


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