The Hungry Gap

For birds the most difficult time is usually around February and March each year when both seeds and insects are at their scarcest, hence the term, ‘the hungry gap’.  But this year,after a cold winter and with temperatures for the past fortnight being close to zero, and quite a bit below when you add in the wind chill, this period is extending well into April.  And of course, the effect on farmers with no fresh spring-time pasture and no growth in the crops, is also devastating.  But when it comes to feeding birds the question has to be asked, will feeding them now be positive or negative?

Why ask the question?  Well, youngsters are normally fed on caterpillars and other juicy insects.  That’s how they get their water.  It is the adults who use the feeders.  And with increasing day-length and adequate supply of food for them there is the urge to nest and the possibility that the youngest will then starve to death because of lack of food.  An interesting question.

For our walk this week we were joined by Susan Davies and all 6 of us set off in very bright, sunny, cold weather, but without the usual bitter wind.  We headed out towards the meadow and into the Welsh Country Walk to see what progress had been made in 2 weeks.  Very little – a few more wood anemones out, the bluebell leaves a bit more obvious, but very little else.

Then up past the visitors car park and out towards the Bull we came across a group of bushes which actually had green leaves on them.  Unfortunately noone was able to identify these bushes, so if anyone can enlighten us…

But walking down towards Llyn Canol we had a real surprise, a small, upright little brownish bird flitting amongst the wild flower garden there.  Except that it is only appeared brownish from the back, as you will see from this photo.  A Wheatear AND - it is a summer migrant!  Once down by the lake we were able to see that there were actually a group of 5 of these lovely little birds which I and some others of the group had never seen before – or not knowingly. It is said that the name Wheatear derives from the expression ‘white arse’, a perfect description of how this bird appears as it flies away.

On towards Llyn Uchaf and although the banks there are fairly sheltered the lack of rain during the past few weeks together with the cold seems to have affected even the primroses, their leaves looking decidedly dejected.  But at the waters edge the Marsh Marigolds were still blooming nicely.  And then another little treat, a couple of long-tailed tits flitting from branch to branch – really beautiful little birds who build equally beautiful nests.

Off then towards the bees to see how they are faring and it is good to report that all of the 5 hives showed signs of activity.  And we even counted another 3 bees and a Buff-tail Bumblee along the Spring Walk, plus the first Dog Violets by the Apothecarys Garden.

After we had finished our walk Jan showed us what she had found the previous week when putting up Dormouse tubes.  Barn owl feathers and 3 chewed Hazel nuts, the first of which confirms the presence of Dormice in that area. The others are by a Wood Mouse and a Bank Vole – or is it Squirrel?  As for the Barn Owl, no corpse was found.  She speculated that maybe a Goshawk was responsible.

We meet every Tuesday morning around 10.30.  It is a very leisurely walk taking around an hour and a half – we may extend it as the weather gets better – followed by a cup of tea and a chat.

If any members or volunteers want to come along or want more information, please contact Colin Miles.  And thanks again to John James for these splendid photos.

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