It was good to watch the partridge family


Now that all the festive frivolities are out of the way, we can settle back down into something of a routine once more.

Winter has yet to arrive with still no sign of any snow or severe frosts.

Daytime temperatures have been regularly in double figures, which seems to be confusing the wildlife.

On Sunday I had a walk up the riverside and heard coal tits, a mistle thrush, robin and dipper all in full song. Mind you, the latter has been singing since early December and the robin sings all winter, but the first two are the first tentative harbingers of spring I have heard so far.

On New Year’s Day I had a walk in the Yarrow Valley to get my new bird list off to a good start, but the wild glen I chose only yielded three species, two of which I usually get in the garden, so it was a bit of a waste of time from a birding point of view. Nonetheless, it was a lovely walk.

On the way home, however, I elected to take the scenic route over the Swire road to Ettrick and had just crossed the bridge at Yarrow Kirk when I clocked a species I hadn’t seen for a few years in my locality.

A covey of three grey partridges scuttled across the road and as they scaled the roadside bank I had a good look at them. Much more common nowadays are the red-legged partridges which have been introduced for shooting and first appeared in this country 200 years ago. These “French partridges” are much more brightly coloured than the native greys and a bit bigger with characteristic red beak and legs.

The grey partridge is in serious decline due to a number of factors such as changes in agricultural practices, the use of pesticides and the loss of hedgerows, so it is a mystery to me why other species of partridge like the chukar have been introduced in large numbers while the native species is under such severe pressure.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, the coal tit plague seems to be over and it is now the blue tits which are dominant in number. Talk about swings and roundabouts!