Bird watching has a history going back centuries and has become a popular activity with many worldwide. There are many experienced or amateur birdwatchers working to spot and monitor the bird species living in the area, and the data they compile and share is often used by ornithologists to gain a greater understanding of migration patterns and species behaviour. As many watchers spot birds by sitting in hides and using binoculars, bird watching is accessible to those of all ages and fitness levels. Many will take pictures of the birds they spot and post observations online about where and when the species was seen.
It is important that when you are out birdwatching that you take care not to disturb nests and to leave as little trace of your presence as possible as if you get to close it could alarm the birds you are trying to spot.
The data compiled by eager bird watchers can often be useful to conservationists. In the UK we have many migratory species that come to the UK during the winter to escape colder climates, or leave to spend the winter in the sun, so many varieties are only possible to spot in winter or will disappear during the season. This article will list some iconic British birds that can be spotted and enjoyed throughout the winter.
The robin is without a doubt one of the most iconic British birds, and frequently adorns Christmas cards. A red-breasted garden bird, the robin is best known for its friendly disposition. This pretty little bird is often seen hopping close to gardeners to snatch up any dug-up worms or insects. Most British robins are sedentary, and defend their chosen territory all year round. While some female robins will select new nesting sites during winter, many will stay put for long stretches of time.
While some will migrate between summer and winter territories many, once established, will return to familiar sites year after year. The average lifespan of a robin is 13 months, due to the high mortality rate in the first year. However, once that hurdle is crossed the robin can live up to the age of 19.
The tufted duck is black and white in the males and dark brown in the females with a small crest and a yellow eye. These birds breed across the UK in the lowlands and are known to have a varied diet of insects, seaweed, and their favourite treat, mussels. These ducks actually increase in numbers over the winter as those residing in Iceland and other northern countries will migrate to the UK to spend the winter in relative comfort.
The tufted duck is best identified by its funky hairdo, which also gives the duck its name.
Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey that hunt in the UK all through the year. They have a distinctive hovering method that is used to catch prey. The bird’s small size is part of its adaptations to hunting in dense woodlands, such as the woods around Bewl Water.
They tend to prey on smaller birds and have been recorded eating up to 120 different species. The appearance of this bird depends both on the gender of the bird and the season. Smaller birds spotting sparrowhawks will emit warning cries, which can help you to spot them.
The chaffinch is one of the most populous birds in Britain and Ireland, with many gardens hosting at least one. With brightly coloured plumage on the males in red and the more subdued sandy brown of the females, these birds become most obvious when they fly, as a flash of white on the wings makes this species easy for watchers to spot.
Chaffinches live on a primary diet of insects and seeds, and are often seen around bird feeders in the winter. There are estimated to be 6.2 million chaffinches living in the UK year round
While goldfinches can be spotted around the UK during the winter, the birds do often migrate south to France, Spain, and Belgium. The population left behind is often only spotted due to the beautiful high colouring of this specific bird. They are often seen at bird tables and feeders, but their main diet comes from small seeds such as those from dandelions or ragwort.
The collective term for a flock of goldfinches is a charm – a very appropriate name for this brightly coloured little bird.
The Eurasian widgeon is a moderately sized duck with a brown rounded head and grey body with dark green coloration around the eyes in males. Females are often brown all over, with the exception of a white belly. These ducks feed and travel in groups in order to protect themselves from predators, often mixing with flocks of American widgeons as well as a few other duck species.
They are often seen on both salt and freshwater and thrive in both environments.
Otherwise known as the common coot, this bird’s distinctive black plumage and white shield and beak make it easy to recognise. This water bird is seen around the world from Europe, Africa and Australia to New Zealand. Found around freshwater lakes, rivers, and reservoirs this omnivorous bird lives on a diet of insects and plants.
Depending on the country the coots are living in, their nesting period can occur in either the summer or autumn and winter months. While this bird is often seen internationally, it is considered to be under threat in Europe, where many of its habitats are being slowly destroyed.
The fieldfare is a large and colourful thrush with a speckled mixture of black, white, brown and orange in the feather pattern. Living on a diet composed mostly of worms, insects and berries, these birds are an important part of the winter scenery. The fieldfare lives in flocks from a dozen members up to two hundred strong.
This bird migrates to the UK during the autumn but tends to spend only the winter months in the country before heading home. These birds are very social, so you will often hear their calls before seeing the bird.
The blackbird is one of the most recognisable and iconic birds in the UK. However, while the males have black plumage and a yellow eye-ring and feet, the females are often a dark speckled brown. The blackbird is seen in the UK throughout the winter, their dark plumage ensuring they are easily spotted on frosty mornings.
The blackbird often eats berries, insects and worms and is often seen hopping around the garden early in the morning on the hunt for worms. With the fame of the ‘Blackbird’ song by the Beatles it is perhaps not surprising that this is one of the nation’s favourite birds.
With the amount of food available becoming far more limited throughout the winter than it would be in the summer months, little changes such as leaving out feeding stations for your garden birds are more important than ever. Our native trees and hedgerows act as homes for hundreds of bird species through the UK, many of which you may see around Bewl Water.
If you are interested in birdwatching around Bewl Water, we would be delighted to hear about any unusual species you spot and there are many online groups that share their sightings with us.