Our wetlands offer fantastic opportunities for winter
Why not take a few tips from the Nature's Calendar
team as we get close to wildlife with activities that you can participate in.
|Starling spectacle - swirling
sights at the dusk of night |
watching in the Montrose Basin
get the best out of the birding in the Montrose Basin, you have to be there early
in the morning to grab the best view when the birds arrive.
Look out for
Eider Ducks - a good time to see them is when they're feeding.
diving and follow where they're going by keeping an eye on the line of bubbles
in the water.
If you're lucky, you might see them eating their favourite
food - mussels.
Watch as they give the shells a bash or two in the water
and then eat the whole thing, the shell and its contents.
The birds' beaks
are uniquely adapted to feeding in this environment, and this is most obvious
from looking at the Curlew, with its long curved beak which enables it to probe
deep into the mud so it can get to creatures way below the surface.
the birds standing on one leg - one theory is that birds lose a lot of their body
heat through their feet, so they tuck one leg under to minimise the heat loss.
Close to Slimbridge, there's a great opportunity to
see one of nature's spectacles - a huge Starling display.
a good vantage point away from the roost to avoid scaring the birds.
out for hedges and trees that may obscure your view - a location up on a hillside
is ideal but make sure you have permission to go onto the land if it is private
or stick to public paths.
in position simply stay still and wait.
worry about binoculars, you really won't need them!
time to time these birds can switch roost sites.
birds will have been feeding during the day and gather into larger groups just
Then at a critical moment these larger flocks will start heading
for the roost sight.
The first flock to arrive circles in sky above roost
acting as a 'flag' to attract the others. Then they all start coming in.
to the noise of the birds and the sound of starling wings.
This gives rise
to the name for a flock of starlings - a murmuration.
Watch for the birds
swirling in the sky and making amazing patterns which shift and change.
one really knows why they do this but it could be to confuse predators like Sparrow
Hawks or Peregrine Falcons.
Crane watching on the
Hickling Broad is the best place to look for Cranes in
the wild from the comfort of a hide.
The Cranes can be recognised by their
distinctive long, straight necks and their huge wing span of around seven feet.
the Cranes is a question of good timing - the birds tend to fly off early in the
morning to feed on nearby fields.
Once they've flown, they'll be gone for
the day - you can't be sure where they go, so we don't recommend chasing round
the countryside, although they can sometimes be seen from the coast road near
Horsey, as they feed in the fields.
You can't be sure which way they'll
come - that depends on where they've been feeding. You're likely to come across
the cranes when you least expect to!
The birds are most easily seen in
flight on their way out in the morning or their way back at dusk.
in the sky
Norfolk Wildlife Trust's tree tower offers fabulous views of the Cranes in flight.
for the Cranes' distinctive high pitched call - it sounds like children shouting
to each other in a school playground.
Watch out for Crane displays - all
Cranes call and display in pairs with their heads thrown back and beaks pointing
This usually happens at their nesting sites which will be hidden,
so you will be very lucky to see this!
The male bird lifts his wings over
his back while the female keeps hers folded. The male starts the display, one
of his calls answered by three from the female.
The birds engage in a dance
- they bow, jump, run, toss sticks or grass and flap their wings.
is not always designed to attract a mate - existing pairs do it to re-inforce
their 'marital' bonds. This can start as early as Valentine's Day!
time for seeing them dance is mid February to mid March - but only when the temperature
is above 10 degrees or there's a warm sun.
There are also captive cranes
at Pensthorpe Waterfowl Park in Norfolk.