This Diary was started in January 1999 as a weekly record of the changing wildlife in the Region. Whilst it is not continuous, the writer will try to make entries as frequently as possible.
During this weekend, the writer and his wife went to York, returning over the moors on the border between Cumbria, Durham and Yorkshire. That gave us the chance to look at some limestone and gritstone scenery, also the impressive viaduct at Ribble Head on the Carlisle to Settle Railway. Whilst we enjoyed this, greater fun was provided by a roadside spring that gushed from a cave/crevice system. The main visible fauna was sheep and crows; the area has been so keepered that there are very few raptors. On the positive side, this area has valleys with deciduous trees (mainly oak, ash and beech) although most roadside flowers have been eaten out by sheep. The scenery was indeed magnificent, but the wildlife was disappointing; it is a sad contrast to the Lake District, only 40 miles to the west.
The buds are at last starting to break; garden fruitbushes are cautiously going into leaf, the birch trees are changing from violet to green. Whilst the daffodils have been out for some time and the snowdrops are finished, other flowers have been slow to appear.
Weather cool but fine, light breeze, temperatures up to 9o Centigrade. This afternoon went to Barnbarroch inland of Kippford for an invigorating and very productive walk. The buds on Hazel (Corylus avellana) and the Willows (Salix spp.) are at last starting to break. 'Pussy Willow' is quite evident. The ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is still black-budded. Flowers of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) are out in the stony edges of forestry tracks. Broom (Cytisus scoparius)remains grey-green in winter hibernation, but Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is still blooming but without any scent. Frogs are very active but careful to stay in cover; their chief evidence is masses of frogspawn in still pools in roadside ditches. The flowing ditches run clear and clean, gravel bottoms tempting for kick-sampling studies of invertebrates.
A short second trip to Rockcliffe in its sheltered seaside location at the mouth of the River Urr. A show of Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), Lesser Celandines (Ranunculus ficaria), and Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) lined one side of the track from the seafront car park towards the Motte of Urr. We diverted to a cove where a jetty was built in the 1890s, its sides covered in Bladderwrack. The pier was repaired last year, and was liberally coated in broken shells from mussels and cockles. My wife Jenny identified the shells as the meals of seagulls, dropped onto the concrete jetty surface to break them open.
Weather mixed. The past week has had showers of rain, sleet, a little snow, sunshine and even some fog. Inland and in the uplands of Dumfries and Galloway there has been enough snow to briefly close a few roads, but this has not been for long. Daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses, are all out in the gardens of houses near the sea, but Dalbeattie is a little delayed and Castle Douglas is too cold and windy to have more than a few. The birds are still sorting out territories and relationships, - our Robin has not yet found a mate, though the blackbirds are pairing off, - and still make heavy use of the bird feeders.
A cold and very mixed day, with occasional periods of sunshine between grey intervals and very cold sharp showers of rain. Birds desperate for food, - feeders very low, - cats not keen on being out for long. Robins, blackbirds, tits, chaffinches and a starling. Lawn beside feeding frame pecked to bare earth by birds after food. Snow forecast for tomorrow. Snowdrops very evident and we may have early daffodils. Lawn showing damage from my footprints from frost two weeks ago.
Rather warmer night and morning. Sunlight ! The feeders consist of a freestanding bird table on a gravel path, a fence-mounted wedge-shaped feeder, a plastic and timber peanut feeder, a seed feeder and a fat and seed ball in a mesh bag. The back garden consists of vegetable/fruit bush patch (with a Hazel now standing to 4 metres), lawn, extensive herb beds and rockery and a rose bed. Front of house there is a Rosa rugosa rose hedge and an assortment of wild and hardy perennial flowers; we have one Rowan sapling now 3 metres high. The rowan berries and rosehips were deliberately left as winter food for the birds.
Much as the previous day, but with dense mist and much feeder-activity. Mostly the Chaffinches, but also a Robin and two Rooks. Family cats in evidence, but no problems as yet, - the kittens are still too young. Many damaged trees seen on runs to Dumfries and Dundrennan. A Tawny Owl was heard on the 31st (Sunday evening).
The weather today in Dalbeattie is damp and cool, at about 5o Centigrade. From the house, the hills about Dalbeattie are swathed in mist. However, despite frost damage to my lawn, the plants are starting to grow. The bird-table and the feeders have been well-subscribed by local Tits, Finches, a Robin, some Starlings, a Crow, two Rooks and a pair of Collared Doves.
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