Winter can be an excellent time of year to get close up views of birds visiting your garden for food, water and shelter. It also provides an exciting opportunity to see some species which are only here during the winter months. Here are some of my favourite species to look out for in your garden.
Following the breeding season and autumn migration the community of birds in your garden may be different to what it has been over the summer months. As well as our resident breeding birds, we are joined by migrants from Scandinavia, Russia and continental Europe. Here is a list of my top species to lookout for this winter.
Recently voted Britain’s National Bird, Robins are for some people, the epitome of winter. They are regularly used as a symbol for Christmas and all things festive. Robins are a common breeding bird and in winter the resident population is joined by European migrants.
Chaffinches are common breeding birds occurring in a wide range of habitats in Britain. They are well adapted to urban living so a common sight in gardens. They also often make use of woodland habitat feeding on seeds.
Bramblings are similar in size to chaffinches and can often form large mixed flocks. They migrate to the UK during winter and favour beech woodland.
Goldfinches are a common breeding bird but can often be seen at feeders during the winter. Their diet mainly consists of seeds but the males unmistakable ‘red masks’ make them easy to distinguish from other finches.
Bullfinches are the most striking of British finches with males a vibrant red with a black cap. They can often be seen on woodland edge but are equally found in gardens often in pairs or small groups.
The dunnock is a common garden bird but is a bit more elusive than other species. As their alternative name suggests, hedge sparrow, they often tend to seek cover.
Goldcrests are Britains smallest breeding bird and favour coniferous woodlands and gardens. In winter they can often join flocks of other small birds and most frequently seen in the tree canopy. They have a distinctive gold stripe on their head, giving them their common name.
Is a resident breeding bird and has a similar diet to other birds in winter, favouring seeds. Famously blue tits adapted the ability to digest milk and used to tap through the foil lids of freshly delivered milk on doorsteps.
Long tailed tits
Often move around in flocks with other tits and can form groups during winter. Distinguishable by their prominent tail they have more recently become commonplace on the garden feeders and particularly like fatballs.
Coal tits most show a preference for conifer woodland during the breeding season. It Is similar in size and resembles the larger great tit but can be identified by the white patch on the back of its head and light brown flanks.
The nuthatch is spreading northwards across Britain slowly becoming more common. Favouring woodland for breeding it is often seen sticking close to branches.
As with other thrushes, during winter the blackbird population is supplemented by migrants from the continent. It is thought resident birds may also migrate to warmer areas within Britain.
Redwings migrate from Northern Europe, Russia and Iceland to the UK in winter. They are similar in size to blackbirds and song thrushes and can often been seen in mixed flocks with fieldfares. They have a distinct red flank and light brown eye stripe. They favour berries and fruit bearing trees.
As with redwings, fieldfare migrate from Northern Europe and form large flocks. They also favour berries and fruit bearing trees and are most frequently seen in hedgerows surrounding farmland.
2016 is turning out to be one of the best winters in recent years for one of the most glamorous of wintering birds, the waxwing. Waxwings migrate from the boreal forest to spend their winters further south. Their favoured food in winter is rowan berries.
Look out for birds
As the temperatures drop and the natural food supply dries up expect to see more of your garden birds over the next few months. You can help your garden birds by providing fresh, unfrozen water for drinking and bathing, providing food, especially fatty foods such as fat balls and leaving areas of your garden for shelter such as hedges and ivy. Keeps a close eye on your berry bearing trees this winter and you may be lucky enough to see waxwings and other winter migrants.