Finally the sub zero temperatures are breaking, the night before last was minus 9 down here, and even my conservatory which I decided to close up to save heating it, was minus 1.... brr. Despite what the press say though, it's not that cold really, the coldest I've ever been was minus 21, in the Highlands of Scotland in the mid 1980's and boy oh boy you know it's cold at that temperature. Golden rule, never touch anything metal with bare hands at that temperature. Yes I learnt from experience.... I was only young, that's my excuse. Talking to a colleague recently who's just back from filming in the Antarctic, they experienced night time temperatures of minus 48, and that's in the summer !!!
I actually like cold temperatures, and not that good with hot weather, so being out in the field at this time of year I'm quite happy. Wildlife though has a different view. It may be mid-winter, and smaller birds may be feeding like mad to survive, but many birds are now beginning to pair up ready for breeding. In recent days I've noticed Rooks and Carrion Crows are now pairing up. And on Christmas Day a Collard Dove was gathering nesting material, but they're not the brightest bird in the park. If you notice when out and about Corvids, one of our earliest breeding birds, are sitting in cosy couplings on wires and trees. I also saw a Rook pair mating on Tuesday.
It's actually a bit lighter in the evening now than before Christmas, and this increase in day lenght (known as the Photoperiod) is triggering an ancient responce to breed, for northern Hemisphere wildlife. Likewise a reduction in photoperiod will cause things like Deer Rutting, hibernation and so on. Many wildlife life-cycles are triggered not by temperature but by increases in daylight length, which is why a prolonged cold snap in April can be disastrous for birds like blue tits if the emerging insect food source is delayed.
So with that in mind, when I'm out and about, it feels like Spring is just around the corner! Next time you look at a male blackbird look at it's eye, if it has a yellow ring, it's a UK bird, fit for purpose, and showing off to a lady. If it hasn't got one, chances are it's a Continental bird, and won't go into breeding colour for a few more week when it returns to foreign climes.
Finally, have a peek at Joe's Blog In the spirit of my last posting and encouraging young beginners, Joe has videoed a magpie in the bird bath and Santa gave him a video nestbox kit. Looking forward to seeing what moves in Joe. Which reminds me, don't forget to clean out nestboxes before too long, ready for the coming season.