Big thank you from

As the cold arrives birds are forced to work harder

by Paul Cormacain

THE Balancing Lakes is a great spot for seeing birds, so went there last week to see what was exiting in bird life terms. And we noticed some dead birds in that general area.

Now basically the weather is very mild, with still many leaves on trees which should be bare by now. The ground has not been frozen over much, which means food should be available still. Also I still see many insects which should be either dead or in hiding, and this of course means more food for birds.

The weather is bird-friendly, Nature is bird-friendly, and yet there were dead birds. My explanation is that someone is poisoning the birds. Yet humans are much more wildlife friendly, and I can not think of anyone who might want to poison wildlife.

Down a lane in the vicinity we spotted a flock of mixed tits; blue tits and great tits, who were having to work hard to stoke their wee internal fires that gave them energy and heat.

With the days much shorter now the birds had to work incessantly. They performed endless acrobatics as they searched out every nook and cranny for food. They explored the tree trunks, the branches, and seemed to search under every leaf, of which there were many.

They knew they had to keep going to survive. I personally think there is more food about for them, but they still have to get it. Although mild, the weather is getting colder. Furthermore, such small birds lose more heat in proportion to their body size than do larger birds.

Further down the lane were hedge sparrows with confident robins and noisy chaffinches also about.

They were stocking up on food before the colder weather comes. They all appeared to be somewhat tame, but this is to do with available time and jobs to be done, and they would have been as alert as in the summer.

A large flock of golden plover passed overhead. The plover were probably flying from one feeding ground to another. They tend to have quick wing beats so always appear to be in a hurry.

There were about two hundred of them, a respectable number, but more can be seen.

Although I have never seen such numbers up to 10,000 golden plover have been sighted locally at the same spot.

Most of these plovers are from northern Europe and Iceland, and they just cannot stand the cold winter weather further north.

The ground would be frozen and they would not be able to access food. As many as a quarter of a million of them travel here every year to enjoy our weather. You may see some of these birds breeding in the summer here. Nearest places are the Antrim Plateau, Fermanagh and Donegal, and if you were to go further south you might see them in Connemara.

Hundred of ducks swam on the lake. Pochard were represented, as were mallard and tufted duck. Apart from the ducks there were little grebes and great crested grebes, moorhens and coots. A good selection of birds, not yet overwhelmed by the weather, getting it easier this year than in most years. But things have a habit-of changing, and they could yet be facing Arctic conditions.

Coming Events

Monday 10 December - Lisburn RSPB is holding its annual members' night and AGM at 7.30 at Friends Meeting House, details 028 992601864

Saturday 15-Sunday 16 December - A Santa who has changed his colour to green can take you on walks at Castle Espie, more from 028 9187 4146

Saturday 22 December - Feeling energetic? Fancy a Walk in Mournes at I0am? Call Mourne Heritage, 028 4372 4059

Wednesday 26 December - Lisburn RSPB St Stephen's Day Amble, details from 028 92601864

Wednesday 26 December to Tuesday 2 January Treasure Hunt every day at Castle Espie, further details from 028 9787 4146.

Thursday 27 December - Birdwatch Morning, 11.30, Castle Espie, phone 028 9187 4146.

Ulster Star