Walking in short strides through the dense throng of bare, shivering trees. The whispery crunch of crystal coated leaves underfoot, my heavy boots pressing into the frosty, leaf littered ground and leaving a trail of shallow imprints in the cold, tough soil.Clenched hands pushed into the depths of my pockets, my rough fingers stretching to seek the warmth – I slowly raise my head to a cloudless sky, breath leaving my body in clouds of warm steam as I trudge through the birth of what could be a winter wildlife wonderland.
And I have yet again managed to execute an over exaggerated, highly dramatised entry into yet another article. But apart from that it is just as I have described- a winter wildlife wonderland is teetering on the edge of the great cliff of time (that basically means it might snow…) but most of the people I speak to when I’m out and about are of the opinion that in terms of wildlife, this is a cold, dead age…of course they are undoubtedly wrong, and after I have told them in no uncertain terms their mistake (retorts including great cries of, “Well how was I supposed to know?!” and also various clever clogs diving into the grey area of “I thought you were asking for a general view!”) I explain to them the great abundance of winter.
The coming of the days of winter in my garden is one of great excitement, of course it drags along a wet, irritating menagerie of coughs, colds, sneezes and also getting hurt a whole lot more for the very smallest of accidents- but it is just plain thrilling. The land is not dead, it’s in hiding, and even that word I use in the very loosest of the sense; a closer look at the bare branches of a recently autumnal tree can reveal the beetle grubs tucked away beneath its rough bark, the even smaller beetles of different kinds scrabbling to get into the crevasses and cracks.
The branches of trees that splay across the sky can no longer hide much, but the wintering birds of the United Kingdom now come into the spotlight. As I turn my head towards the weak foliage in the half light I can just catch the wheezy nasal call of a Brambling, I may even see the flash of white from his underbelly or the orange of his chest as he flits and dances through the trees. I could even be lucky in the coming months to see the magnificent Waxwing (I really do long to see this bird) it’s crest raised and smooth, pale pink feathers ruffled in the cold wind, these starling sized birds are a winter goal for me in the world of birding.
And then there’s the high pitched, orange splashed Redwing- a petite thrush that darts in amidst the upper branches, calling furiously at newcomers as it asserts it’s pugnacious authority!. Of course you cannot mention the term winter bird without a word about the swift Tree Sparrow, a common visitor to my back garden with its tufted brown helmet and jealous calls.
Impatient grey squirrels are acrobats in the whippet like twigs above, bouncing to and fro gracefully as they make the most of the time they have before the great sleep happens, but although I strive to observe more fellow mammalians I think they’ve taken the hint the bitter wind has thrown at them and hit the hay.
Buts for all of that its not yet fully hit winter, the sun still shines brightly and green is still very much the dominant colour; so I think I will check on the local badger sett (you don’t what to expect with badgers, especially these days when they’re being blamed for killing cows and what not!).