WINTER IS COMING

Game Of Thrones fans will recognise the title of today's piece as the House of Stark's family motto. The weather forecasters would say that Winter is already here, meteorologically speaking. The first of December equals the start of Winter according to them. Most of us normal folks say that the seasons don't change until the Winter Equinox, the 21st of this month. Some Scandinavians claim that Winter starts on the 14th of October, in accordance with their old traditions. Call it Winter, call it Autumn, call it whatever you want. All I know is that I was frozen to the core last week, giving a teeth-chattering version of my usual cheery greeting to those hardy few who came out to visit. If that was you, thank you kindly for coming out and keeping me company as the snow blew sideways into the Welcome Shed. Even my thermal undies couldn't keep the chill at bay. You know that the temperature has plummeted to Baltic lefrtt5yyyyyyyvels when you have to plan a trip to the toilet fifteen minutes before you need to go.

So even our artificially created calenders can't tell precisely when the Winter season begins. This is all very unclear and puzzling for me and all us other humans, but I think nature has the best way of dealing with this confusion; it simply ignores it. Nature doesn't care about people problems at that level. For example, birds migrate when the temperature changes sufficiently or when their food supplies dry up. Just as they have no recognition of our artificial land boundaries, they also have no names for our artificially created calender months or seasons. They just travel when they know it's time to do so and for many species right now, it's time.

Recent arrivals at our Old Moor Reserve have included several overwintering SISKIN and REDPOLL. Those lovely winter thrushes REDWING and FIELDFARE have started to turn up too, as has my personal favourite, the BRAMBLING. A few of these streaky brown finches can be seen in the Farm area between our main playground and the Entrance Courtyard, mixed in amongst groups of CHAFFINCH on the ground beneath the bird feeders. These gorgeous little birds are all too often overlooked or mistaken for Chaffinches but look again and there's much more orange in a Brambling with a hefty splash of white too. They're gregarious and chunky, a bit like myself. Perhaps that's why I'm always delighted when they turn up at the end of the year. I'd love to see one in it's full much darker Summer breeding plumage but I'd have to go to the top end of mainland Europe for that. Sadly, Covid has made that a little difficult at the moment. I'm just glad when they visit us, they don't have to wear masks. My identification skills are poor enough as it is.

But it's not just the winter birds that have arrived in the lead-up to Christmas. Old Moor's newly refurbished shop has filled up with festive goodies too including a huge selection of gifts for young or old, human or avian. Like every other blog, website and TV show at this time of year I'm contractually obliged to include a sales plug, so come and do your Christmas shopping at RSPB Old Moor. From bird food to binoculars, clothing to calendars, you can get a Yuletide treat for those you love right here after you've finished a hard day's birdwatching on the reserve. Just imagine how your loved ones will enjoy unwrapping an eggcup shaped like a Kingfisher or a fluffy Puffin soft toy that honks authentically whenever you squeeze it. What more could any child want?

Seriously, we've got lots of wonderful bird-themed gifts, and whatever you decide to buy from us you'll 'Shop for Nature' (as it says on our posters), as funds from our shops and cafe help the RSPB continue its work here at Old Moor, around the UK and further afield. Winners all round. And did I mention that some of the cakes in our cafe have gone all Christmassy too? It's amazing how much difference a sprinkling of cinnamon and edible glitter makes.

That's my advertising done. It may not be Kevin the Carrot level but at least I made an effort. Sadly some of the aforementioned cakes didn't stay around long to make it onto our Sightings board. What can I say? I'm a growing lad. But many birds and other creatures have been seen this week. Here's the list...

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