Estuaries provide excellent environments for wildlife
because of their complex ecosystems.
not take a trip to one of Britain's estuaries and watch some fantastic winter
life - an Avocet takes flight across the water. Photo - RSPB Images.|
Many of these areas have more comings and goings than Waterloo
Station during the winter with birds arriving from colder Arctic climates.
are our top tips on activities which you can do in estuary areas during the winter
Watching Geese on the Solway Firth
of nature's great spectacles is the arrival of geese on the Solway Firth in November
But how so you distinguish between the various types of black
and white geese species?
The Barnacles, the Canadas
and the Brents look a little similar but there are a few subtle differences:
Geese - middle sized - bigger than a Brent with a dark head and neck - but
smaller than the much larger Canada Goose.
the biggest give-away is the white face of the Barnacle and its distinctive white
Geese - a non native species. Large in size. Black head with white cheeks
and mid brown body with white underside. Loud, trumpeting call.
Geese - Smaller in size. The adult is characterised by its black head and
neck with a small white collar. Grey plumage with white rear end. Most commonly
spotted in large, noisy flocks.
of prey in the Swale estuary
Swale estuary is one of the best places in Britain to watch birds of prey in the
Here's a few tell-tale signs to alert you to bird of prey
activity in the area:
* Watch the behaviour of the waders and wildfowl -
they are constantly on the alert so look out for which bird of prey might be upsetting
some of the birds of prey look similar from a distance, the Marsh Harrier is easily
spotted in wetland and reed bed areas.
Marsh Harrier is the heaviest of all the harrier family.
long wings and long tails.
and young birds are characterised by their chocolate plumage.
are red-brown with blue-grey heads.
* If you
see big flocks of Lapwing in the air with tight flocks in line, there's a fair
chance that there may be a Peregrine about.
The Peregrine causes great
alarm amongst other birds because its superb eye sight means it can fly out of
nowhere at huge speeds to pick a Lapwing from the air.
* The Merlin likes
to circle other birds, trying to pick off any on the outside of the ball.
Look out for Starlings flying upwards in a tight ball - this probably means that
a Merlin is about.
* Starlings which fly up and straight back down may
have been spooked by a Harrier.
* Watch for any disturbance caused to Ducks
and Lapwings as a Marsh Harrier flies along. These birds are not usually too worried
because they know that the Harriers are looking for mice and voles on the ground.
watching in Dorset
is an excellent place to watch deer due to the high concentration of these animals,
especially on the Studland peninsula.
Visit a hide where you can watch the
deer without disturbing them.
The hide at Shipstall Point in the shadow
of Poole Harbour is a good place to watch from.
Elsewhere, you may have
to stalk these shy creatures to catch a glimpse of them.
Make sure you're
downwind of them and keep very quiet - they have a keen sense of smell.
you're watching out for deer over a protracted period, why not use a long stalking
stick for sitting on and resting your binoculars?
watching at Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour is a fantastic place
to watch birds in winter with a big range of species.
Look out for the red
breasted Meganser which is a fascinating bird to watch - this diving duck belongs
to the Sawbill family.
This name is due to their long serrated bill which
helps them grasp small slippery fish.
The Merganser can stay submerged
for long periods as it drives itself along underwater with its feet.
male has a green head, whilst the female is a more rusty colour, although theses
hues may not be so noticeable in winter.
This species breeds in the UK
and is also a winter visitor.
Divers and waders
unusual bird found here is the Great Northern Diver, a rare species in Dorset
which you will only see in the winter.
Its winter colours are rather dull
but it's still great to watch it fish with its long, slim, pointed bill which
is purpose-built for seizing fish.
This bird is often to be seen diving
It is also silent in winter but in spring its call is a repeated
high pitched, eerie laugh.
Another visitor is the Little Egret, a small,
white heron-like bird, which loves the rich waters in Poole Harbour.
its distinctive yellow feet and black legs, watch out for this bird shaking its
leg to stir up shrimps and small fish.
Another common sight is the Avocet
which swings its head from side to side to filter out the small crustaceans.
Black Tailed Godwit feeds completely differently to the Avocet - it has a long
probing bill which it pokes deep into the mud to dig out worms.