28th February, as if by magic a pair of Lapwings appear, up from the south over Surney and continue north along the valley. This looks like a genuine sign of spring but a couple of hours later I see five hunkered down in a high-hedged paddock, and wonder if they are on the move having been displaced by the weather. The east wind brings freezing conditions, and rolling snow storms. Even with sunny intervals, the temperature stays below zero. Dave sends me a photo’ of a Redwing in his garden. Several Fieldfares are also about. The persistent winds are holding these thrushes in the UK, interrupting their migration back to Scandinavia.
26th February, I’m checking the condition of the Three-cornered field at the bottom of The Banks. It’s been very wet and I’m thinking about drainage when a Snipe gets up in front of me and zig-zags away. A snow squall sits over the village and a Red Kite drifts in accompanied by a handful of playful Jackdaws. Alan reports a pair of Mute Swan from a canal lock pound at the Wharf. A Stonechat is briefly seen.
25th February, DW does it again, not only is he our number one volunteer at the park but he keeps coming up with wildlife sightings as well. This time he describes a bird flying up from the waters edge that sounds like a Green Sandpiper. Buzzard, and Kestrel are in the air, and although the sun shines and we are sweating as we move brash, it’s still freezing. The Canada geese are about in pairs looking for territory.
24th February, an impromptu meeting at Cotton End Park, with Mill Park Reserve manager Richard. We watch 3 Reed Buntings, two male and one female as they sing, display and chase each other around the wildlife area. 5 Yellowhammer, 30plus Fieldfares with 10 Starlings are spread over the meadow and Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Redwings are heard. With our Park manager hats on, we discuss the future.
15th February, singing Chaffinch and Goldfinch reported from Station Road. Lots of Yellowhammers and Chaffinches reported from a grain dump off the Brington Road, and at least two reports of Song Thrush in gardens where they haven’t been seen for a while.
13th February, I see two Song Thrushes in my garden which is unusual. They are also singing from The Leys and The Banks. Stuart sends me an excellent photo’ of a Barn Owl. Our one and only Gorse is in Flower and looking fine.
10th February, 2 Grey Partridge at Cotton End Park is a good record. There are also 30 Fieldfares, 150 Woodpigeon and 2 Snipe. The Catkins are out and as I stare I notice someone has kindly thrown a pop bottle into the pond. I make my way carefully to a place where I can remove it from the water but find the water frozen. Gloves off, I break the ice and suddenly hear a ‘plop’ that makes me look up. Swimming across the pond is a Water Vole, it gets to the edge of the ice, jumps out, runs along and drops in again eventually going out, up the opposite bank, and out of view. This is a first for the site and perhaps the first record for many years in the parish. I am pleasantly surprised but remember that over the last few weeks, there has been a massive excavator ditching the whole of the valley back towards the village, Foxhill, and West Haddon.
6th February, Alan reports a large female Sparrowhawk through his Garden, “even frightened the Mallards”. Dean reports drumming Woodpeckers from Vanderplanks Covert, and David sees a Blackcap in his garden on Ashmore.
4th February, I am at the farm with Peter. He is showing me the Nuthatch, and Long-tailed Tits on his window feeders when up pops a Tree Sparrow. Excellent. We then feed sheep and listen to a Great Tit singing.