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Winter Birds

Waxwings were still around in March. Adrian Warrington notes, “a flock of rare waxwings were seen today, March 10, mid morning, on Crossways Drive, Harrogate, the third sighting this season and third year running’.

Tony Rogerson lives in Bilton, Harrogate and wrote on March 14, “I’ve had a flock of about a dozen or so waxwings hanging around for a few days, which have almost stripped my cotoneaster. They have left a few berries and this morning there was a fieldfare helping itself to some of the remainder. I watched a grey wagtail flitting around off Leeds Road, in the Oatlands area, earlier in the week, while today, as I watched a red kite over Fairways Avenue, a woodcock flew over in the direction of Harrogate Golf Club.”

John Cornforth writes, “We live in Woodlands Avenue, Harrogate. During the recent wintry weather, I looked out of the kitchen window and counted 13 male blackbirds in the back garden. No hostility - just guys hanging out together.” I reckon that one of the best ways to tell Scadinavian blackbirds from our resident or breeding birds is by the lack of hostility they show to each other, I’m not sure whether this is a philosophical issue or not!

Stephen Mobbs from Felliscliffe writes, “It is interesting to observe that the recent cold and snowy weather has attracted different birds to our garden in Felliscliffe. Spells of cold weather this past winter have attracted the usual thrushes (mistle, redwing, fieldfare). However, during the recent cold spell, which follows early hints of spring, we have seen a number of different birds not seen throughout the winter. In the attached photograph, taken last week, a siskin and a redpoll are feeding alongside the more predictable greenfinches. Siskin are quite rare in Felliscliffe and we haven’t seen redpoll since last summer. Presumably these rarer birds have already started to move to their summer habitats and have been taken by surprise by the late cold weather, taking advantage of our feeders as a result. The cold weather has not deterred the curlews, which have taken up their summer residence in Felliscliffe during the past week.” 
I’m surprised that Stephen hasn’t seen so many siskin because other readers and myself (but not everyone) are seeing good numbers. My redpoll sightings are few and far between and personally I haven’t seen any this year. Great news about the curlew, a sure sign that despite the snow, spring is around the corner.

Mammals

Margaret Bleasdale has sent me a photo of a mouse for identification. “A mouse last week eating the sunflower seed from our squirrel proof feeder just outside the kitchen window in our Pannal Ash (Harrogate) garden. It stayed for about 10 minutes. I did not see it arrive but it must have climbed all the way up and over the pole to get to the hanging feeder. Is it a house mouse or a field mouse? Last week we had 21 waxwings on the lawn eating apples that I had put out for the blackbirds. They stayed for about 15 minutes. I suppose all the berries are gone now hence them coming down for apples. It was a great sight.” The mouse is neither a house or field mouse but a wood mouse and can be readily identified by the huge ears and big dark eye. The official mammal society description is, “A small rodent with sandy brown fur (darker towards the spine) with a white/grey underside, protruding eyes, large ears, long tail. Juveniles are greyer overall, still with larger ears, hind feet and tails than house mice.” In fact we don’t have a field mouse, but there is a field vole and mice and voles can be distinguished by the voles being stouter and with a shorter tail and I reckon a somewhat blunter face. Voles also have rootless molars that continue to grow their entire life. I suggest that you don’t investigate this unless you are interested in small mammals’ biting skills.

Jan Ainscough, who lives near Harrogate Stray, writes, “When we had our last lot of snow, I wrote to you about what looked like deer prints on our front lawn. Then you carried a report about someone who had had the same experience on Victoria Road. Well last night it snowed again and this morning there were the prints again. I was able to compare them with one of our local cat prints and am now convinced that it is a deer. It meandered about going next door then down the drive obviously browsing on bushes. It was snowing when we went to bed so the track was made probably early morning. Fascinating – we really have little idea what goes on around us.” Deer are really more common than we think, probably why folk see them as the next target for shooting.