Dave Dawson’s natural history notes for 27th January 2017:-
Much of the lake was covered in thin ice, but it could be that more significant freezing elsewhere brought in the 21 Shovellers seen on the lake, the highest January count since 2012. However, the 9 Gadwall on the lake seems to continue the great recent increase in the numbers of this duck. National statistics for this species also show considerable increases both for breeding numbers and those in winter, supplemented by cold weather refugees from the Continent. The opposite is the case for the Pochard, for which all the high January counts have been made in the last 5 years, this January’s 7 birds continue that pattern and our local results fly in the face of a national decline. January Woodpigeon counts over the last 30 years have been very variable, ranging from 270 birds in 2014 down to just 6 birds in 2006. This year’s 12 birds is a low figure. Many of these are also cold-weather refugees from the continent moving around to avoid bad weather, perhaps they were off somewhere else this January. This autumn and winter there have been around 110 Canada geese visiting the park, which is double the 30 year average of around 55. However, numbers visiting were somewhat higher in the late 2000s. The attempts by the Golf Club to deter geese seem to be hardly affecting the total, but perhaps serve to push the birds onto the public park more often than in the past. The Mute Swan and Coot numbers remain similar to last month. Perhaps bread from the public is maintaining the high numbers of these two species, as there seems to be little waterweed now? Perhaps, however, the birds might be better at finding the weed than am I? A single Sparrowhawk was seen flying off high with three Carrrion Crows in pursuit. There was a party of Redwings in Ashen Grove Wood, but alongside these winter visitors, some resident birds are beginning to get ready for breeding. Chaffinches were singing in Ashen Grove Wood and Great tits and Robins in several places. Just a few Sweet violet flowers on the southern edge of Horse Close Wood are the very first floristic sign of Spring.