Yes it seems that winter has come early this year with nighttime temperatures over the last few days plummeting below zero helping to freeze the ground solid for the first time since 2010! Of course this means that many of our waterbirds seek refuge on the river and so turning the focus of the reserve onto the bird of prey roost and the few hardy passerines that often show a little better in the cold.
Just before the freeze Mike let the Koniks back into Ousefleet where they looked very nice on Friday in the mid afternoon sunshine, lovely to see them all getting along now as one herd after the introduction of Theo and Splat last year.
The marsh harrier roost has really been spectacular with a fantastic count of 37 birds on Friday, there's also a good chance of seeing barn owl and merlin while watching the marshies in to roost but remember to wrap up well if visiting on a late afternoon as it can be bitterly cold.
A tower of marsh harriers - if you look closely there are seven!
You can also get great views in the daytime too
Alarmingly though this year we currently have no hen harriers roosting at all, a very sad and damning reflection in the current totally unacceptable levels of illegal persecution of this magnificent raptor, where will it all end before people realize their selfish folly? The total eradication of a species within the UK for the benefit of grouse shooting, a sad reflection of where we are in the current enforcement of UK wildlife protection law and humanity in general.
Equally as nice as the harrier roost but in a very different way has been the continued excellent views of fieldfares and redwings as they gobble up the remaining berries along the hedgerow. They have certainly been helped by Scandinavian blackbirds and song thrushes but I also watched one of our regular robins swallow down a haw berry whole the other day!
Redwing and fieldfare at a drinking pool
And at least on Friday there were a few berries left!
A lovely 'red' female blackbird - when I was ringing I always wondered if these redder birds were continental
Plenty of tree sparrows are now present around the feeders and at least a pair of bullfinch persist within the willow scrub. Other birds to look out for include stonechat, and with the cold I suspect a few bearded tits will start to emerge from the reedbeds as are a few water rails.
If the lagoons thaw then the wildfowl will return from the river, but with the weather forecast this looks likely to be a fair time away! But off course cold weather isn't always a bad thing, I'm really hoping that it will benefit some of the meadows that we manage by helping to slow down the grass growth for the spring and allow the wild flowers to flourish.
Greylags from before the freeze
I'll leave you with a final bit of Christmas Market birding in York, its always amazing to see the pied wagtails roosting in the trees in the center of York but even more so this weekend when the Christmas market was packed full of shoppers all jostling and buying presents, oblivious to the 1000+ pied wagtails all asleep above their heads!
A pied wagtail decorated 'Christmas' tree
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