Winter is probably the best season of the year for wildlife spectacles and birds certainly live up to this, whether it is watching huge numbers of waders on our estuaries, the feeding flights of wild swans, or a congregation of ducks on a local gravel pit, there is something for everyone.

British estuaries hold internationally important numbers of birds during the winter months, hundreds of thousands of Redshank, Golden Plover, Knot, Oystercatchers and Dunlin gather to take advantage of the food-rich mud. Some of the biggest gatherings can be witnessed in The Wash, the Humber Estuary, the Solway Estuary and Carmarthen Bay.

Redshank by Al Downie

The best sites to see wild swans, Bewick’s and Whooper are the Ouse Washes, the Nene Washes, Severn Estuary, Loughs Neagh and Beg, and Loch of Strathbeg. These sites will also hold large numbers of ducks, such as Wigeon, Pintail and Teal. To see ducks at this time of the year you may only have to travel as far as your local gravel pit. As the cold weather bites and the water freezes, birds often gather on larger waterbodies and large numbers of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard and Goldeneye can congregate.

Bewick’s Swans by Andy Mason

Freezing conditions and heavy snowfall often prompts cold weather movements, and the last few days have seen birds starting to move. During these conditions birds tend to move to the coast, and already there is evidence of Kingfishers, Grey Herons and Lapwings arriving along the east and south coasts. If you have access to the coast anywhere in Britain this weekend it is likely to be the best place to be to see the birds that can escape the snow and ice inland.

Water Rail by John Harding

If you are snowed in you may well be treated to an upsurge in the number of birds that visit your garden. Blackbird and Bramblings numbers are already increasing in gardens along with other finches and tits. During these conditions anything can turn up and birds such as Water Rail, Snipe and Woodcock, and buntings, such as Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting could well take advantage of the food we put our for our regular garden visitors.

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