Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk, December

The last birding trip of the year was to RSPB Titchwell Marsh on the North Norfolk coast. Home to all sorts of shorebirds and harriers and winter visitors, it’s a known hot spot, though I was still surprised to find it so busy on a windy day (the Norfolk landscape is flat and there was no protection from the wind for miles.)

We watched a marsh harrier hunting in the sunset, spotted little ringed plovers, and followed a curlew as it danced in the mud, pulling up large worms.

Ringed plover or little ringed plover?

 

A marsh harrier hunts in the setting sun.

Curlew or whimbrel? I never can tell!

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A squirrel on the feeder.
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A quarrel

Winter Birds

It goes without saying that winter can be a tough time for wildlife, but when the leaves have fallen from the trees it becomes much easier to spot birds and follow the tracks and signs of other animals. We also do of course get to see different birds, those migrants who have come south for the warmer weather, so it’s an interesting time of year. If you’re just getting into birding, please don’t pack away your bins til spring, as there’s plenty to see if you can handle the cold weather.

Now I adore cosy nights in as much as any hygge-loving soul, but I also get fed up in winter with all the time I have to spend inside so I make a real effort to get out on dry days. Here’s the winter birds I’m looking out for in my local area this season.

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Hawfinch – a rare sight and normally a notoriously shy bird, in recent years we’re seeing flocks. There has been a large influx from eastern Europe and twitchers are understandably galvanized. They feed on the ground so you’re more likely to spot them in winter.

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Redwing – a countryside winter roamer, the redwing has a striking red flank and can team up in flocks with fieldfares.

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Fieldfares – A more colourful thrush, the fieldfare is a winter visitor and can arrive in flocks. Look out for them amongst the hawthorn bushes.

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Waxwings – surely the most glamorous winter bird, with its glossy, waxy coat and little tuft of feathers on the head. If you’re going to follow any of the links in this post, please follow this one to see a lovely video of a flock of gorgeous waxwings feeding on rowan berries.

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Brambling – annoyingly for a bird that looks remarkably like a chaffinch, it actually flocks with chaffinches, so can be difficult to spot!

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Snow Bunting – robins aside, is there a more festive bird? Snow buntings are buntings with white feathers on their underside and migrate from the Artic and Scandinavia in winter. Can be found in flocks along the coast.

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Robin – reliable robin, always present, but only really gets attention at Christmas, with good reason. The UK’s favourite bird.

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Goldcrest – an elusive garden bird, they join mixed flocks in the colder months and their tiny beak favours pine forests.

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Blackcap – quite dull looking and often overlooked, yet quite pleasing and fluffy. I saw one this morning as I drove through a very treed area.

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Shorelark – they like coastlines and sometimes wander into fields and are really quite rare in the UK.

Whats winter birds have you seen so far this season and what are you looking forward to searching for? 

 

FYI these are not my photos, just from the internet.

 

Red Squirrels and Nuthatches

A short post today containing some photos I took at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk this Sunday. We go there quite a bit as we have an annual membership so we’re getting to see the park in all seasons this year which is quite interesting. This is by no means everything that Pensthorpe has to offer – there are also eurasian cranes, flamingos, corncrakes, turtle doves, waterfowl, bearded tits, birds of prey, otters, so an awful lot of wildlife.

The woodland hide never fails to let me down – there were at least three nuthatches. There are around 5 or 6 feeders and you can get really close but what’s so impressive is how much activity there is – you don’t know where to look. I feel like a nuthatch is an autumn bird because it always seems to be photographed with an acorn in its bill.

 

Here are a few of the red squirrels. Pensthorpe has a captive breeding programme so you can see the red squirrels and their kittens up close before they’re released onto Anglesey as part of a reintroduction project.

Binoculars I rely on

Finding the right pair of binoculars for a fussy consumer like me is a time consuming business, one I don’t care to repeat again. Luckily, I got an excellent pair for my birthday this year, and so far they have been so reliable and handy for birding.

The Eyeskey Binoculars *** are waterproof, lightweight, and offer very clear vision at 10x magnification.  The reviews are very good for mid-range binoculars so if you’re on a budget I definitely recommend. The depth of vision isn’t as great as other binoculars but for birding the magnification is really impressive.

Comfy adjustable straps ✓

Easy to remove lens caps 

Lightweight design 

Affordable price 

Good magnification 

Comfortable grip 


 

 

*** FYI this is an affiliate link to the Amazon listing of this book.

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6 reasons why the goldfinch is the best garden bird

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  1. They look so regal. Like some kind of smartly dressed gent, dropping by for tea.
  2. They are delicate eaters. There’s just something so tender about the big, bulky short bill, carefully investigating the inside of the feeder. They can sit there for ages, not even flying off when the sparrows or blue tits join them on the other perch. They strike me as zen.
  3. Their song is a pretty twitter.
  4. Symbols of fertility. They often appear in artworks involved the Madonna and child, symbolizing fertility in the Italian Renaissance. This is because they often eat thistle seeds and teasles, so they are associated with Christ (the crown of thorns.)
  5. They’re the only birds visiting my garden that like niger seed. Actually, that should really count against them – niger seed is expensive.
  6. They flock in large groups. Walking around Cley marshes in Norfolk a few months ago, we were accompanied by a flock of roughly 20+ goldfinches for a few short thrilling minutes before they vanished.

Follow this link to the RSPB website for more info about the goldfinch. Make sure you listen to the audio!

Getting into Birding

I am gradually becoming a birder. It only occurred to me in the last year of so that birds are interesting – interesting because they are everywhere, yet at the same time so elusive.

I did some Comms volunteering last year with the RSPB and that was really the impetus I needed, though I have always been aware of birds and birding because my mother has always been into birdwatching. And so I spent many long and confusing hours perched in hides, failing to spot creatures that others had identified but had only appeared to me to be a blur of feathers in the corner of my vision.

The RSPB bird book my boyfriend got me has been indispensable, as has the time we put in to visiting our local reserves and having a go. Now the good weather is here (hottest day of the year today has been unbearable) I can get out more into the countryside and have some nature days.

So far I can count the number of interesting birds that I have seen on my hands: bittern, marsh harrier, cetti’s warbler, lapwing. There are more but without a detailed list I have forgotten them. I need to buy some kind of log book!

I also need to learn not only to ID birds but to recognize their calls because this is frankly half the battle. Maybe I should turn this briefly into a birding journal? In the meantime, here’s a photo of an egret I took in the south of France recently.

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