We've had a super-busy couple of weeks at Nature’s Home, and we’re all looking forward to Christmas. On Tuesday, Mark Ward and I got together at The Lodge and went through Nature’s Home one last time before we send it to print. Which means…. drumroll…. we can show you a sneak peek of the cover of our upcoming Spring 2018 issue!
Ta-daaaah! Look out for the new issue of Nature's Home in January!
As you see, we’ll be covering January’s Big Garden Birdwatch, with a snapshot of how garden birds have fared over its 38 years… and as you can see, there’s heaps more besides.
We’re really pleased with it. What do you think? Log in to comment below, or email us at the magazine.
Snow is a very lovely thing if, and it is a big if, you don’t have to travel. Fortunately for me, “Snow Sunday” couldn’t have come at a better time. I didn’t have anywhere to be and the January issue of Nature's Home magazine is all but finished, so I was able to watch what my local wildlife made of it all from the comfort of a warm house!
I did have a date with some showy otters an hour or so from home, but the snow started at 5am and didn’t stop until 3pm, giving us a good four-five inches in my village of Buckden in Cambridgeshire. Now, I like to think of myself as someone who a bit of challenging weather, and will do anything where seeing exciting wildlife is concerned, but there was way I was going out in that.
There's something "just right" about a robin in the snow - this portrait by Nature's Home magazine photography expert Ben Andrew
Farewell fungiThe snow was also perfectly timed because Saturday was my last fungi foray of the year and it was great to wrap up the season in good weather with a good haul of around 60 species at my local wood, Brampton Wood, including some new ones. The snow will knock back quite a few of the late toadstool species now.
It’s now time to get into planning mode for spring specials and my top targets of scarlet elfcup and morels. Keep looking though, even after all this snow because there are some species you’ll find all winter, especially the “small stuff” on the back of sticks and on and under logs. You just need to work a bit harder to find it!Stocking upI trusted the weather forecasters that the snow would arrive, so I spent 20 minutes late on Saturday afternoon filling up my feeders and bird tables in preparation and of course that faith was repaid with a lot of snow. Therefore, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t awake to a garden full of birds taking advantage of my oh-so-generous act of filling their bellies for them!
It actually took until early afternoon before things started to get busy on my feeders. Still, I think I’ve perfected the right mix of food and feeders ready for Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January. With a rather nice birdtable on my Christmas list, my birds are really going to be spoiled over the next few weeks.
Hard weather can bring more unusual visitors to gardens, such as Jays (Chris Gomersall - rspb-images.com)
And if you’re looking for ideas for Christmas, take a look at the RSPB shop where there are loads of things for your – and your birds’ – Christmas list, so have a look and see if you can grab a bargain. And in a shameless act of self promotion, you could also buy someone special a copy of my 2017 book, Wildlife on Your Doorstep all about finding, and making the most of, your local wildlife each season. Speaking of which, look out for our revamped "Wildabout" section in your Spring 2018 Nature's Home magazine which has been reworked so that all the action is broken down month-by-month.
I'm still unbelievably happy that Nature's Home and the RSPB youth magazines won an award at the International Content Marketing Awards - a wonderful early Christmas present. It's your magazine and we couldn't do it without your support and of course all your contributions of stories, sightings and photographs, so every member and Nature's Home reader can call themselves an award-winner!
I hope you managed to stay safe in the snow and that your Christmas preparations are going well.
Once I’d finished my Christmas list at the weekend, I began to think about a list that is equally important in the countdown to Christmas – my wildlife targets for the next few weeks. Every winter in the UK is different, not just for the weather, but also which species have arrived in good numbers, which haven’t and of course what rarities are lurking among the flocks of commoner birds.
The winter of the hawfinch It is the winter of the hawfinch as my "Five top tips for seeing hawfinches" blog from the other week showed. With that in mind, I’ve decided to try and “fill my boots” while I can and see if I can find some flocks near me. A couple have continued to reward my lunchtime searches around The Lodge shop, but they seem to have exhausted the yew berry supply and have moved on. However, a very fine replacement is at least 30 bramblings that are giving unbelievably good views under the feeders and in the trees. Come and have a look!
Hawfinches are here for the winter in big numbers (Andy Hay rspb-images.com)
Parrot fashion Another, even rarer, finch is also having a good winter and while you’ll need to check yews and hornbeams for hawfinch, pine trees are the only place you’ll find the magnificent, and superbly-named, parrot crossbill. This much rarer relative of the common crossbill looks like it has putitng in the hours at the gym by comparison with a muscly build, thick neck and a much larger beak. A few showed up on the northern isles in the autumn, hinting at an arrival, but it’s only in the last couple of weeks that it’s been apparent, bigger numbers arrived. Sizable flocks have been found in Surrey/Berkshire, Norfolk and Derbyshire in the last couple of weeks, but there are no doubt more to be found...
As my wide will confirm, I’ve become a full-on fungi-nut this autumn following a few years of dabbling and learning. I spent much of the weekend, knee deep in reed and sedge beds looking for rarely found wetland fungi. My end of winter target is the brilliant splash of red that is the scarlet elf cup on wet woods. I have three or four, prime “wet” woodlands close to home pinned down and I’m hoping that the lovely moist logs I have earmarked will bear fruit early next year.
Otter by Nature's Home wildlife photography expert Ben Andrew - I also saw this one!
Despite spending time on Islay and North Uist this summer while hunting down great stories for Nature’s Home and seeing some incredible wildlife, otter was an omission, so I’m going to ease down a couple of gears and put in some hours relaxing by my local river, and some secluded lakes I’ve found, hoping to see one.
Finally, a bird I don’t see so much now, following a run of winters when they have been thin on the ground – the rather smart smew. My local gravel pits usually get a decent flock, so I’m going to be scanning the waters, hoping for a flotilla of these perfect “sawbills”. Here’s hoping for some cold weather on the near continent to bring them over.
I've really enjoyed working on Nature's Home magazine's new-look "Wildabout" section and being part of the team that will be bringing you the best of winter and spring's wildlife, so I can't wait to hear your comments once the magazine is with you around the turn of the new year. We're putting the magazine to bed today, so the Nature's Home team's thoughts are now very much on our April issue.
What's on your Christmas wish list?Have you finished your list yet? I’d love to know what you’d like to see this winter. Please leave a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org