Linnet by Nick Appleton
Barn owl by Geoffrey Tibbenham
Winter in the Gaywood Valley, and the biting wind cuts in from The Wash, bringing with it a blast of northern climes. Despite the cold though, there’s a remarkable amount of wildlife activity.
Out on the open heath, small numbers of rare hen harriers and dashing merlins come in during late afternoon to roost, having spent the day quartering nearby coastal saltmarshes and arable fields. Barn owls drift lazily above the heather, or along hedgerows in the dying light, almost ghost-like. Occasionally a lone great grey shrike takes up residence on the heath, an attractive, but fierce, songbird that hunts other birds, like linnets and meadow pipits, that it is barely bigger than.
Barn Owl by Nick Appleton
Great Spotted Woodpecker by Pat Adams
Great flocks of pink-footed geese pass noisily overhead as they search for suitable arable fields to feed upon. On the Valley’s gravel pits and man-made lakes, ducks gather to feed.
In the woods, lively mixed flocks of finches and tits group together: chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins, redpolls, blue tits, long-tailed tits and great tits are all possible. Sometimes a resplendent great spotted woodpecker will join them, its distinctive black-and-white plumage (with bright scarlet highlights) making it stand out. On the heath, the larger green woodpecker will be seen if you’re lucky – a streak of lime-green as it flaps and glides above the winter-brown heather.
Plants and invertebrates are not much in evidence during these cold months: insects are mostly hibernating; deciduous trees bare, but beautiful. Adders and lizards are hidden away too, and most plants have died back, waiting to re-emerge when the weather gets warmer.
Spring will be soon on the way.
Wildlife explorer, Winter, Gaywood