1988 January to March

January 2nd
As we went along Longworth Road, David and I spotted three scraggly game birds on the grass pavement. On closer inspection I discovered they were Red-legged Partridges. David calls them French Partridge. They had distinctive red legs and one was larger and smarter then the others: I presume it was a cock.

January 25th
Tonight I heard a Tawny Owl hooting in the dark round the house. I can’t remember the last time I saw one. In the front garden the Primrose leaves are starting to show through. A week ago I saw one flowering in my friend’s garden at Adlington, which has a lower altitude and is nearer to the coast, and so gets milder weather).

A fortnight ago I heard and the next morning saw the Egyptian Goose after a long absence. A week later I discovered a possible explanation for this. I saw the goose in the field by a road in Belmont. The Goose was very close to me, three or four feet away, and about six feet away were five domestic Geese. The Egyptian Goose has more visual similarities with these geese then it does with the Canada’s. It has a similar shape and size and I think it feels quite at home with them. I don’t think any mating would be successful, but it might manage to get itself a partner.

January 31st
At eight o’clock this morning I was in Southport with David. The sky was overcast and the sea rough. On the fields just beyond the beach we saw hundreds of Pink Footed Geese grazing on the grass. I saw one black and white goose - I think it was a Brent Goose: and there were three or four large brown geese with orange bills, which I think were Greylags.

We were watching Black-backed Gulls scavenging on the beach and Oystercatchers feeding on the shoreline. There was a flock of small birds turning and swerving in the wind above the breakers like a silver scarf blowing. I think they were Knot.

February 9th
At work today it was very windy. From one of the back windows I saw a Grey Squirrel running down a tree trunk. Its bushy tail looked to have white fur underneath, and its head seemed to have a reddish colour to it.

February 20th
A frosty day with overcast sky. David and I walked round the Tip Field and saw several Mallard on the reservoir. David noted the abundance of Mole-hills which he informs me is a sign of a mild Winter. By the cairn on Hill Sixty, I saw a Fox dropping, and near the stream lower down was a large black Owl pellet.

February 25th
I took the dogs round the Back Field today. The sun was shining until some dark clouds came over. Again I found a Fox dropping by the side of a sheep’s carcass.

February 27th
This morning the sky was cloudy to the west, and blue with sunshine to the east. At nine o’clock David and I set out for Angelzarke. Before we left I saw a little Wren on the wood shed door, bobbing up and down. It seemed as though it must bend at the knees and bob its head down as though it were bowing.

On the moor the grasses were long thin and wispy: golden-brown strands blown by the wind. Whilst walking over the moor we saw five Grouse. David says the males are the only ones with white tips to their feathers. Cindy and Dusty disappeared with David in hot pursuit. Cindy found a dead cock Grouse and crunched its wings.

I saw fifteen Mallard on Angelzarke reservoir. The plantation near Manor House has altered considerably since I last saw it four or five years ago. Then the Pine trees were about a foot tall, now they are about four feet. In the long grass I saw a slender brown bird with a long tail, and it looked to have a dark chin. I think it might have been a Meadow Pipit, but I am not sure as I could definitely hear Skylarks singing.

On the bend on the road home were some young Alders with long orangey brown catkins. I also saw a Pussy Willow near the reservoir with silvery grey buds. On the way back, along Rivington Road, I saw a flock of Lapwings fly over the moor. I was surprised to see them, as it is usually March before we see them on the Farm. David thought he saw a Hare near Manor House but I never saw it.

February 28th
The wind is very strong and blustery with blue sky and sunshine. David and I went up Lead Miner’s Clough at Angelzarke with Dusty and Cindy. Everywhere the bright golden flowers of the Gorse could be seen. Then to my delight I saw the starry-gold flowers of the Coltsfoot, scattered about the grass.

March 1st
The weather is the same as on Sunday but even colder. The temperature can not be much above freezing. At the top of the Lane Field I saw a pair of Magpies, with their bright black and white feathers; they showed up well. David says in another week or two they will start building their nest.

David and I went for a little walk round the Croft. Before we went we had a look down the Lane Field. There I saw a flock of Starlings with two Fieldfares. They had ginger breasts, grey heads, and blue-black backs. Also a lot of Lapwings with shiny olive green backs, little black eyes and curly head plumes. To my surprise there were the long slender brown outstretched wings of five Curlew when the flock was disturbed. In the front garden, little green leaflets are bursting through on the Elder.

March 2nd
The sky is grey and it is bitterly cold with thick ice where water has sprung up in the fields. In the Lane Field I saw a very large flock of Starlings with a few Lapwing, and on the reservoir there was a pair of Mallard. I saw a flock of about 17 Thrushes – which I think were Fieldfares. The clouds have rounded bottoms and are close like a ripple mattress.

March 4th
Tonight at quarter past seven there was an orange crescent as the moon began to rise in the east. As we went outside we heard the hoo hoo of an Owl, and I think there must be a pair because another Owl was calling ‘kee-wick’. David says that was the male.

March 6th
All morning it has been cold and misty with showers of rain. In the afternoon David and I went a walk with Cindy and Dusty around Jumbles reservoir. The sky was grey but the air was fresh. The Hazels had small yellowy green catkins on, and I saw Snowdrops in bud on the bank, along with the buds of purple, yellow and white Crocuses. Lovely specks of colour on the drab bank.

In the wood Dogs Mercury was flowering, and the tiny green flowers of the opposite leaved Golden Saxifrage. There were some Celandines with their flowers closed, probably because of the lack of sunshine. I found a few Hard Fern and collected one frond. The Holly trees were looking very healthy with thick glossy green leaves.

There were plenty of Mallard on the Reservoir and I saw one orange billed Domestic Duck. Lots of Black Headed Seagulls were flying about over the grey choppy waters and I saw a Moorhen and a couple of male Tufted Ducks. It is a long time since I have seen any of these ducks locally.

I also saw in the distance what I had gone there looking for: two Greater Crested Grebes. Their elegant almost royal shape gave them away besides their ginger neck ruffs and brilliant white necks. A fortnight ago at work, in one of the Elm’s behind the house, I saw a Grey Squirrel. It had a white belly and ginger on its head. There was a drey nearby, full of old Beech leaves but it has since been blown down by high winds.

March 7th
A cloudy day, but it has been mild. In a Hawthorn at the Tip I saw a male Reed Bunting. It was brown like a Sparrow except for a black head and white collar. Coming back along Rivington Road David and I saw a large Owl. We think it must have been a Short-eared Owl. Down near the river there were pale whitey green flowers on the Butterbur.

March 12th
Misty grey skies and rain with snow falling in the afternoon. In the wood around the Holmes’s I saw a Dunnock, a Robin several Blue Tits and on the wall a pair of Great Tits with jet black heads.

Later David and I went round Wayoh Reservoir. We saw several Mallard, three Canada Geese, a few Crows, and in the trees a Great Tit. Steaming around like a royal liner were three Great Crested Grebes. Two were courting; they bobbed their heads from side to side, their necks went up and down, and then to my delight they rose up on the water and seemed to walk along it for a few seconds. Then they dived under the water, came up a few yards away from each other and swam straight at each other.

Close to, the Grebes seemed to have silvery grey backs, white cheeks, dark brown tufts on their heads and ginger cheek patches. When the Grebes bobbed their heads they faced each other and when they rose up they were side by side. The sharp sword-like beaks reminded me of a Kingfisher’s.

March 13th
I woke up to pouring rain and grey skies. At tea time it started to snow. It fell heavily on the pines and stuck on the roads between Egerton and Belmont. This afternoon we saw the Egyptian Goose in the Lane Field. It was close to, and you could see the ginger brown wings on the back, the darker ginger brown collar and eye patch, pale brown breast and beige neck and back. The legs were a fleshy pink and so were the bill and feet. Altogether a very handsome sight.

March 17th
A beautiful morning with clear blue sky. It was mild, and at a quarter past six a lovely pinky-golden ball of a sun rose. The Egyptian Goose was honking in the Lane Field. All around I could hear the lovely and continuous cries of Curlew on the reservoir, where I saw three pairs of Canada Geese swimming. One Goose kept out stretching its neck in a kind of courtship ritual.

On the pond I saw a pair of Teal and a Coot. Then I saw three Redshanks – the first I’ve seen this year. In Radcliffe’s field I saw three stock doves feeding, and by the bend in the road two Woodpigeon were sat on the wall. A delightful sight was two pair of Reed Buntings chasing each other about the rushes. Lapwings kept pecking for grubs in Radcliffe’s field, and I saw a large flock of Curlew fly over the reservoir.

When I arrived at work at a quarter past seven, I heard a Woodpecker. In a bush a male Chaffinch was singing. Later I saw two Blue Tits flying in and out of a nest box with building material, and two Mistle Thrushes sat chirruping in an Elm. I also saw a pair of Great Tits on the house wall of all places. They jumped about: I never realised Great Tits could keep a grasp on a stone wall.

March 21st
The first day of Spring. A warm and fresh day. In the evening there were large cotton white clouds in a blue sky. I counted 76 Canada Geese in Radcliffe’s field with the Barnacle Goose. This Goose has been with the Canada’s for at least five years. In the Lane Field David and I saw a large flock of Curlew.

March 22nd
A very wet and dismal day with continual showers of rain. In Radcliffe’s field I saw three Black Headed Seagulls, one of which still had its white head. There were a few Lapwings and Curlew in the fields with Starlings, and I saw about half a dozen Canada Geese. Last night there was a crescent of a new moon. I hope it brings sunnier weather.

March 23rd
A blustery wind has been blowing all day, though it did calm down in the evening. On the pond I saw a pair of Moorhens and later on a Coot. David and I went a walk round the wood trail at Angelzarke. We heard a hawk cry, and then saw a large brown bird with buff chest. It was a female Sparrow Hawk, with a piercing cry.

March 24th
At ten o’clock this morning there was a blustery wind, blue sky and sunshine. By eleven it had clouded over. By half past two the heavens opened and rain lashed down, while the wind roared through the trees. In the afternoon it cleared up with sunshine and blue sky; a very mixed up day.

March 25th
This morning there was a blustery wind with blue sky and sunshine. The dogs were barking and as I went round the back of the house I saw a Heron fly away. In the evening David and I went up Rivington Pike, but not for long as there was a car broken into and David was feeling paranoid. Then we went a short walk up Lead Miner’s Clough. There was some Coltsfoot fully opened despite heavy showers of rain. A surprise was one solitary Dandelion flowering.

28th March
The most beautiful day this year with clear blue sky all day and warm radiant sunshine. In the house I saw two Horse Flies.

29th March
The morning was wet and foggy. By ten o’clock the sun was coming through the clouds with blue sky. Skylarks were singing their hearts out. I thought I saw a flock of Fieldfares up the back. Three were playing a game of trying to jump on one another and then fly away, chasing as they went. I think I saw a Pied Wagtail fly over the house, the first I’ve seen this year.

Continued 1988 April