You’re the swan that I want

Bird Watching (UK) - - #my200birdyear -

We may think De­cem­ber is cold, but in re­al­ity, over most of the coun­try, the tem­per­a­tures of our is­land na­tion are rarely low enough to freeze sub­stan­tial bod­ies of water, and the ground stays soft and there­fore ‘feed­able’ (by birds) for most of the time. On the con­ti­nent, even quite far south in Europe, the tem­per­a­tures are con­sis­tently well be­low freez­ing. All this means that water-lov­ing birds choose to cross the sea and take ad­van­tage of our mod­er­ate cli­mate. Swans, geese and ducks come in by the hun­dreds of thou­sands (in to­tal). Whooper Swans (above) and Bewick’s Swans are mainly arc­tic breed­ers, and win­ter here by the thou­sand (c11,000 Whoop­ers and 7,000 Bewick’s), though both are lo­calised to an ex­tent. Sim­i­larly, huge num­bers of Pink-footed Geese (360,000, es­pe­cially near large es­tu­ar­ies like The Wash, Sol­way and Rib­ble, and the Scot­tish east coast) win­ter in the UK, as well as 100,000 Brent Geese (al­most ex­clu­sively around the coast) and sim­i­lar num­bers of Bar­na­cle Geese (mainly around the Sol­way Firth and Is­lay). Dab­bling ducks, such as Wi­geon,

Shov­eler, Teal and the glo­ri­ous Pin­tail are now in much larger num­bers than ear­lier in the year. And our div­ing duck pop­u­la­tions, dom­i­nated by Tufted Ducks and Pochards, are bol­stered by great boosts in the num­bers of Gold­en­eye, Scaup and Goosander. Cold snaps bring Smew, es­pe­cially to the east and south-east of Eng­land. Mean­while, our seas are host to rafts of Com­mon and Vel­vet Scot­ers, plus Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mer­gansers. Get out and see them (and tick them!)

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