10 bird species you can spot in Norfolk
- Credit: Ian Burt
On the surface, birdwatching may seem a pursuit better suited to the summer months. However, with a variety of birds flocking from across northern and eastern Europe to spend their winter in the British Isles, birders have plenty to keep their eye on.
At the British Trust for Ornithology's Nunnery Lakes reserve in Thetford, winter species such as brambling, redpoll and waxwing are arriving for their winter break, while on Norfolk's coasts wigeon and pink-footed geese are settling in. Justin Walker, BTO database developer and avid birder, is involved in the organisation's bird-ringing programmes. He said so far this winter the Thetford reserve has seen fewer seasonal visitors than normal, partly due to the long, warm summer and dry weather across Europe.Warmer weather in recent years has brought new migrant birds including the great white egret, a formerly rare bird in the UK which is now more common in northern Europe, but has deterred others like the Bewick's swan, which spends the winter around the Baltic coasts if the sea remains unfrozen. Here are some of the winter species to look out for.
Wren:The wren is a year-round resident and the UK's commonest breeding bird, with around 8.5 million breeding pairs. The small, rounded brown bird is very secretive and can be difficult to spot despite its commonness. It is known to suffer declines during prolonged, very cold winters.
Brambling: A relative of the chaffinch, the brambling is a winter visitor from breeding grounds in Scandinavia and eastern Europe. During the winter the brown, orange and white birds will join with other finches in flocks of many thousands. Like other finches, bramblings eat plant seeds in winter.
Blue tit: The blue tit – with its blue, yellow and white plumage – is one of Britain's most distinctive garden birds, but its numbers have been hit this year by wet weather during their breeding season. During the winter, family flocks of blue tits will join together to search for food.
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Siskin: This small, lively finch has a distinctively forked tail and a long narrow bill. While many breeding pairs are resident in the tree tops of Wales and Scotland, some siskins migrate from Europe to winter in England.
Waxwing: A relation of the redwing, the waxwing is a plump, reddish-brown bird with a yellow tipped tail. Waxwings have arrived at the BTO reserve in greater numbers than normal this winter, flying in from eastern Europe and Russia to escape the cold weather. Berries are one of their favourite foods.
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Redpoll: Common redpolls come from far and wide across Europe to winter in eastern England, from central Europe, Scotland and even Iceland. Look out for these pale birds with a distinctive red head on your garden bird feeder – they have a habit of feeding upside down, a technique which helps them to get at foodstuffs like hanging alder cones.
Kingfisher: One of Britain's most coveted birds, the kingfisher is a year-round resident in England, Wales, Ireland and southern Scotland. The blue and orange bird, which hunts around slow-moving or still water, is vulnerable to hard winters and environmental pollution. They are often spotted at Nunnery Lakes, with a Kingfisher Point incorporated into its new discovery trail.
Bewick's swan: Although looking similar to the whooper swan, these all-white birds have proportionally more black on their bills and have faster wing beats. They migrate to England and Ireland in the winter from their breeding grounds in Siberia.
Wigeon: These ducks have a round head and a small bill, with white bellies shown in flight. It breeds in Scotland but visits England during the winter from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. The wildfowl are more common near the coast but have been known to winter around the Nunnery Lakes reserve.
Pink-footed goose: This medium-sized goose, whose distinctive colour stretches to its body and bill as well, travels from Iceland and Greenland to winter in coastal areas around the UK. They flock in huge numbers to the Norfolk coast – Norfolk Wildlife Trust's reserve at Cley alone sees 4,000-5,000 each year.