The green spaces within our towns and cities are becoming
increasingly important habitats for wildlife. With
much of the countryside turned over to intensive farming, it's often the humble
local park that provides vital food and shelter for animals in winter.
|Bird watching heaven - city
parks boast many different species in winter|
is a range of nature watching activities that you can get involved in at urban
parks in three of our major city centres - Glasgow, Belfast and London.
Snipe spotting in Glasgow
Park is a good place to spot these rare birds.
The Jack Snipe is a master
of camouflage and often sits motionless so can be difficult to spot.
for these birds in marsh areas, their favourite habitat.
The Jack Snipe
is smaller than its Snipe cousin with distinctive stripes on its head and buff
and white stripy chest. It has a longish beak.
Join a bird group. You need
a licence to disturb these birds so joining a group is an ideal way of getting
close to them.
One of the best groups is the Clyde Ringing Group who work
in Hogganfield Park.
Bird watching in Belfast
is a big over-wintering population of Black Tailed Godwits at Portmore and they
don't get upset by humans looking from the hide.
As a result you can get
really close to these birds all year round - but you have to time your visit right.
beginning and end of the day are the best times to see them - keep an eye on the
It's best to see the birds when they're pushed close to the hide.
area around Belfast Airport is another good wildlife watching location.
proximity of the airport offers protection from people visiting the site - and
despite the noise the birds are pretty resilient.
There are winter walks
where you can explore this area with one of the rangers.
Look out for Lapwing,
Curlew and Snipe.
Time your visit so you don't miss out on watching a sensational
sunset - there's something magical when the reserve, the docks, and the mountains
in the background are all bathed in the late afternoon light.
Bitterns in the Lee Valley
Bittern is a big bird at about 70-80cm but this doesn't make it an easy bird to
The Bittern's favourite habitat is reed beds in wetland areas.
Bittern can be identified by its brownish plumage, dumpy appearance and huge feet.
the Bitterns are alarmed, it's even harder to see them because they stand with
their bill pointing up as straight and reed-like as they can, even swaying with
the reeds. Sometimes they keep up this behaviour for several hours.
Bitterns are best observed from several hides in the Lee Valley Park.
you visit, check on the park's website for recent sightings.
is the best time of year to see Bitterns in the Lee Valley - you'll never get
closer to one of these birds in its natural surroundings.
your ears and listen for the Bittern thrashing around.
camouflage colours and avoid clothing that rustle loudly.
secretive birds move silently through reeds looking for fish near the water's
The Bitterns occasionally fly low over the reed beds but they tend
to blend into the colours of the habitat so you'll need to watch carefully and
The birds can be quite noisy when they're not hunting - they
can sound like they're crashing through the reeds as they move between feeding
When breeding the Bitterns make a strange booming call - the male
booms like a fog horn and the sound carries further than any other European bird
- up to three miles.
You won't hear this at the Lee Valley as the birds
don't breed in this reserve.
The park rangers are available during the day
to give advice and tips.
Other good places to see Bitterns are Leighton
Moss in Lancashire, Titchfield Haven in Hampshire, and Minsmere in Suffolk.