This time last year I was writing about all the linnets and yellowhammers around Peter’s Field in January. There wasn’t one to be seen on the Third Thursday walk. That is birding! We walked up to Hayden hide, then back past the Environmental Centre down to Riverview point and back along the Heron Trail. We didn’t think we were going to break the 30 bird species, so were pleasantly surprised, back in the Visitor Centre with a hot drink, that we saw 36 species. The Heronries look quite empty, but if you look closely, you will see little grebe, as well as a good selection of duck, such as goldeneye, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, gadwall and shoveler. Another highlight was watching a treecreeper winding its way up a tree and never down.

Some birds are showing signs of breeding. A couple of great spotted woodpeckers were chasing each other up the Haul Road the other day. Dunnocks seem to be plentiful. I think of them as very smart little birds with their bright pink legs at this time of year. I suspect some of them may be thinking about going back to Europe to breed. The cormorants have their white patches and some of them are sitting on nests. Interestingly, Alan was telling the group on the Third Thursday walk how the white around the face varies in the coastal and subspecies of cormorants. Paxton Pits probably has both breeding here. I have also seen rooks exchanging food in courtship rituals.  I’d prefer a box of dark chocolate!

The cold weather brings animals out of the undergrowth. Mike has named one of the foxes “Hoppity”. It has been seen regularly on the trail cams for last 6 months, so its limp doesn’t seem to affect its ability to feed. We saw it on the edge of the Meadow this week. The Muntjac also are plentiful. They definitely don’t seem to be bothered by humans walking nearby.

Our Sunday work party took us to the Invertebrate bank near the quarry workings. A survey was done there over 10 years ago, and it was found to host some special insects.  We were able to have a bonfire and the willow & silver birch burnt very well. Shame we didn’t have any baked potatoes! It made a change from cutting hawthorn, which made us realise that the substrate is different on this invertebrate bank.  There is also a small pond that looks quite acidic. We’ll be going back in to do some surveying later in the year.

The weather for last month’s water bird count (WeBS) was very foggy. Let’s hope this months isn’t the same, as it is very difficult to count the birds!   If you fancy coming out, let myself on or Martin know. The more eyes we have the more birds we see!

Finally, on a different note, do you ever wonder what the Pits were like before the quarrying?  Have you ever wondered about the ferry at the Moorings? I find the changing landscapes fascinating. If anyone knows anything about ferries and the use of the Ouse River, I would be very interested in the information. I have been gathering some information together and will be putting an article together at a later stage.

Good wildlife watching.

Ann Thomas                                                                                

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