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Wildlife - December

Now winter is upon us, and many visiting birds are here. Redwings and Fieldfares may be particularly noticeable around the Gully, feeding on the rich harvest of hips and haws, also 3 other thrushes: Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush.

Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks can be seen feeding in the meadows. Charms of Goldfinches on the Teasel heads, Bullfinches and Greenfinches flitting between the Hawthorn and Blackthorn bushes, while the "yaffle" call of the Green Woodpecker may echo across the meadows. A very lucky observer may see a Woodcock skulking on the downs.

Wildflowers are all but over, except for Old Man's Beard bedecking the bushes and Herb Robert still flowering under the sheltered hedgerows.

Dancing in the winter sunlight can be swarms of harmless Winter Gnats.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins are often seen from the clifftop path at this time of year. Please report any sightings to the Rangers.

Guillemots and Razorbills have started to return to the breeding ledges, while Fulmars may be spotted, prospecting the cliffs. Look out for Peregrines and Ravens, occasionally engaging in spectacular dogfights.

Further out at sea, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Scoter, Brent Geese and divers may pass in good numbers, especially during Easterly winds. Several over-wintering Great Skuas ("Bonxies") have been recorded in recent years.

Along the clifftops, Rock Pipits are never far away while Black Redstarts are sometimes seen around Tilly Whim.

Flocks of small birds foraging through the woods may include: Blue, Great, Marsh and Coal Tits, Treecreepers, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. With luck a rare Firecrest might also be glimpsed.

Early birdsong at the turn of a year is heard throughout the woodland with Robins, Great tits, Dunnock and Wrens in voice. Sparrowhawks are an ever-present danger for these smaller birds. Numerous Jays have arrived from the continent to partake of the rich Holm Oak acorn harvest, and a glimpse of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker may be caught.

A quick eye can often catch a glimpse of a Fox or Roe Deer wandering through the woodland.

Fungi emerges in the leaf litter, with Dead Man's Fingers and Chanterelle, while on the branches, left to rot on the ground, Coriolus versicolor and Bracket fungus.

Keep an eye out for a Stoat or Weasel bounding across a muddy path, and in the mud footprints of night-time activity.

 

ZoomClick images for larger versions:
Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit. Photo: Phyl England

Old Man's Beard
Old Man's Beard. Photo: DCP

Fox
Fox. Photo: Heather Bell

Lichen
Lichen. Photo: Dom Greves