I went for a pleasant meander around the RSPB's Rye Meads nature reserve today and though it was dull (as in grey and dreary weather) and there weren't many birds to be seen, I did get this photo of a pair of Mallards, which I rather like.

I'm ashamed to say that I let my bird feeders go far too long without being cleaned and as the weather has turned to 'eternally damp' recently, they've been in a sorry state and I'm not surprised at their lack of popularity. I'm too embarassed to post any 'before' pictures, but above are my feeders drying after a very thorough wash. You really do need a bottle brush and an old toothbrush to get all the old grime off. I even needed a carefully chosen stick to prise out the crusty, congealed, mouldy old food to start with in some cases.

A robin conducted a very animated display of disapproval that the window feeder had been taken down, so I will get them back up tomorrow and hopefully the birds will flock back.

If you haven't cleaned yours recently, and if you haven't taken a close look to see what state they're in, I suggest you do so ASAP. I also cleaned the bird bath – don't forget to do the same.

For me it's not been a classic period for nature watching recently. Dark when I leave the house, dark when I return so not much opportunity to photograph birds and beasties. But I have noticed a few things all the same.

  • It's finally got properly cold, with snow hitting much of the country in recent days. I'm not convinced the second/third flush of strawberries growing in my garden will ever ripen now!
  • I haven't seen a single Redwing or Fieldfare this winter, which is unusual. I heard of them being in the country a month or two ago, but I've not seen any evidence of them.
  • Similarly the bird feeders in my garden have been relatively quiet. The most notable birdlife is Long tailed tits, Robins and Blackbirds recently. Plus Sparrows, Blue tits and Great tits as ever. They're the boiled potatoes of birds in my garden.
  • Magpies can sometimes be heard quite late (e.g. 10pm) shouting from the trees. I'm not sure at what – perhaps at cats or each other.
  • There weren't nearly as many big brown house spiders running across my living room floor of an evening over recent months compared to years past.

Thanks to Jenny for sending in this wonderful picture of Starlings flocking above Gretna Green motorway service station in late November. Apparently starlings do impressions – of a dolphin in this case.

I've never seen a truly massive flock of starlings doing their thing but I understand the noise is also quite something. More pictures of their swooping, wheeling forms via Google.

I stumbled across this out on the interwebs and just had to post it. Please never complain about the size of British insects ever again!