As is so often the case, January is flying by, so apologies it's been a while since my last blog post. It's been a rather mild start to the year thus far, with the thermometer climbing to an unseasonal high of 15c on the 10th - clearly some flowers have been tricked into thinking Spring is already here, like this Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) on the verge near the front gate...
The longer days and spells of warm sunshine have been having a noticeable effect on the birdlife in the arboretum too, with Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Stock Dove amongst several species now heard singing most days. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, too, are getting territorial and have been drumming regularly, particularly in the trees around Badgers Bowl and in Bluebell Wood. On the 13th while I and a volunteer were protecting the emerging Snowdrops (picture below) on the front lawns a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called in the trees near the Winter Garden before flying north through the trees in front of the tearoom, where I lost sight of it.
Also on the 13th I added Raven and Kestrel to the Winkworth year list, the former flying south over the fields east of Phillimore and the latter low through the car park just after closing time. The only other raptors recorded so far this year have been fairly regular Buzzard, and a couple of Sparrowhawks, most notably the male I flushed from the top of Azalea Steps on the 15th, which flew off with a male Blackbird in its talons!
The squealing of a Water Rail continues to be a regular sound in Phillimore, usually north of the boardwalk, or at Rowe's Flashe Lake, where I witnessed the incongruous sight of one flying between two patches of reeds on the 13th. On the lake itself there are still regular Mandarin Ducks, with numbers fluctuating between 2 and 8 - wildfowl numbers have generally dropped away since the cold spell at the end of December, although there was one drake Pochard present on the 7th.
7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) found in a log pile in Phillimore
The best area for Firecrest continues to be the footpath that runs from the southeast corner of the main car park all the way down to the Hascombe Road, with one calling at the car park end on the 7th, and one at the other end on the 14th. Interestingly, a friend of mine who lived and worked at Winkworth during the 80s said that area was always a reliable spot for them back then too.
On the 12th I recorded my first Marsh Tit of the year, in the trees near the goblin houses along the footpath through Phillimore.
On the 14th I noticed this Peacock butterfly caught in a cobweb in our workshop. Knowing that they often seek shelter for the winter in sheds and outbuildings I carefully removed it from the cobweb and put it somewhere safe - hopefully it'll be out and about in the arboretum come the Spring!