Sunday 18 December 2016

Birds in the Great Frost in early 1895

Here is a memory of old Stoke, when Boothen was still meadows. Describing local birdlife during the bitter cold of a two week Great Frost in early 1895...

"Stoke Churchyard in front of my house was the rendezvous of a large number of sparrows, a good many rooks, a few starlings and chaffinches, and a robin or two. We fed them daily and derived great pleasure from observing their movements. Since the adjacent rookery was destroyed rooks only visit the Churchyard in severe weather. My brother noted a jackdaw early one morning, and this record is interesting as I have hitherto never observed this species in the Churchyard except during the breeding season. About half-adozen years ago a small colony came to the Church Tower and nested for several seasons in succession. For two or three years back, however, none have been seen. One sunny day at noon, towards the middle of January, a golden plover flew over the Churchyard at a very low altitude, uttering its beautiful soft clear whistle. It circled round as if about to alight, but at last flew off towards Boothen meadows."

"During the week of open weather about the middle of January, I observed two swans on the canal by the Stoke sewage farm." (the implication of the mention is that they were then a great rarity in Stoke)... "On the 7th of February my brother saw a blue tit in Shelton — quite [remarkable for being seen] in the heart of the Potteries." ... "By far the most interesting of our feathered visitors was the snow bunting, a specimen of which was shot on January 22nd at Cliffe Ville, close to Stoke, whilst feeding in company with some larks." ... "On the 21st January a kittiwake gull was picked up in an exhausted condition in Stoke meadows, and died soon afterwards. On [an] excessively severe [cold] morning, early in February, I observed five rooks at Trentham, each perched on a sheep's back. ... close association with sheep was a marked habit with them throughout the cold weather." ... "Mr Holdcroft's son found a rook with its wings frozen to its body. It was not dead, and he carried it home."

North Staffordshire Naturalists' Field Club, Annual Report and Transactions, 1895.

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