Flora and Fauna
Mid-January, here we are again, suddenly faced with a repeat of last February’s ‘big freeze’ which has now halted any opportunity for golf for four days. Up to Thursday last week when the snow descended on the SE, Dunstable Downs GC was probably one of the few courses to retain really dry and as a result we benefited from a large number of visitors from other courses.
A walk from the lower part of Dunstable up though the course to the Visitor Centre was clearly appropriate despite the cold, not only to identify winter wildlife and fauna but also to take photographs enabling anyone to view the stark winter beauty of this area at this time of year.
Well wrapped up against the cold the walk out didn’t produce anything other than the year round common residential bird species, however, on return there were flocks of Fieldfares flitting between the hedgerows busily feeding on the berries ( see photo) either side of the 10th fairway and in the car park.
Berry laden trees and shrubs exist on and around the course providing a vital winter food source when the more normal ground feeding sources (worms, insects and slugs etc.) are unavailable due to hard frozen ground or deep snow. Notably the snow depth varied as strong winds on Thursday night had blown snow into deep drifts some 0.5m or more deep at the top of the course.
Fieldfares’ are regular winter visitors to the UK and Ireland in autumn and winter. Abundant in Norfolk but in severe winters they are forced to retreat inland and head westward across to Ireland. Clearly the cold spell had been a major factor in producing such large numbers this weekend.
The Fieldfare is in fact a gregarious thrush and is distinguished by a combination of grey and chestnut brown colours. It is most distinctive in flight by its grey head, dark grey tail and light speckled underbelly so if you are walking along the footpaths look out for them (see photo courtesy of RSPB images web site)
Despite the winter setting there was already evidence of next spring with buds already formed on the horse chestnut (see photo).
Remember that birds need food during these long cold periods especially when the ground is frozen and/or covered by deep snow. Sunflower seed is especially full of energy for finches, robins, tits and dunnocks etc., source through RSPB agents or Wilkinson. Raisins and sultanas are also great sugar and energy sources for blackbirds and all species of birds…value packs are so cheap and birds consume large quantities. Don’t forget to provide water which birds still need to survive.
A bird feeder(s) could well be a temporary cold weather provision at the back of the 17th green where birds (finches) always flock and also allowing viewing from the clubhouse.
Not much else to report at this stage so enjoy the photographs which truly confirm that winter has arrived in earnest!