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Coping with Winter Weather

Notice Nature > Albert Nolan Essays


30/01/2015.
The month has flown and we arrive on the cusp of a new month and the welcome beginning of Spring. Snow has been falling and the day is bitterly cold with the wind adding a chilling icing. This is not a day for hanging around and I wonder how the creatures have fared on the open fields of the Pollagh.
We set off, wrapped up in several layers for extra protection. At least we can put on more clothes to keep us warm. Birds don't have that luxury and need plenty of extra calories during the harsh weather. We can all help by feeding the birds in our garden and having hedges with a wide base where birds can shelter from the winds.
The birds have taken to the woodland to escape the cold and we hear a Robin and Wren singing and a Dunnock and Bluetit calling. Like our hedgerows this type of habitat is very important as it can be several degrees warmer among the trees than the surrounding countryside. A small flock of 15 Rooks and Jackdaws are feeding in a field and these ground feeding birds must have to work really hard when the ground becomes frozen solid. Fortunately, their intelligence helps and they visit the nearby field that has horses. Their hooves break up the ground exposing worms and grubs for hungry beaks.
We quickly walk on and hear the warning call of the Blackbird and see another male on the path. These birds are woodland-edge specialists and have the skills to survive the cold weather. Three males have gathered in a sunny corner of a field. The ground is softer there and they have a better chance of finding food. The males are very close together and not showing any aggressive behaviour. A Robin gives a warning call as the kids run by and we see one more male Blackbird in a field corner.
We reach the crossing point and along by the hedge that runs to the river we see another male Blackbird. The dykes and drains are full of water but this does not bother the Alder trees as they can thrive in waterlogged conditions. We decide to eat our picnic on the go rather than sit down in the cold.
We reach the last trail and find the yellow flowers of gorse in bloom. The snow returns and flickers down through the trees and carpets the trail. The ivy has black berries and these are an important source of food for birds. On our way back to the car we hear two more Robins singing and a Wren and Dunnock calling.
Nature still clings to the edges of the Pollagh and these hardy birds will have the pick of the best territories and feeding grounds as spring returns to the Pollagh.
Comments/questions to albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 4230502.

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