De­cem­ber sites

Bird Watching (UK) - - #my200birdyear -

Here are some great sites around the coun­try to visit this De­cem­ber to help give a fi­nal lift to your #My200birdyear list. As any­one who has seen Bird Watch­ing magazine be­fore will know, we fea­ture 10 Go Bird­ing sites ev­ery month, and have done so since May 2000. So, that would be nearly 200 sites just for De­cem­ber, around the coun­try! There are far too many great sites to list them all, so here are just a few from the dif­fer­ent re­gions of the coun­try to get you think­ing about De­cem­ber’s riches.

Burghead, Mo­ray

This small fish­ing vil­lage on the Mo­ray coast is one of many north-fac­ing sites along the Mo­ray Firth which of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to see the riches of birdlife on the sea. Yes, it is cold on this north-fac­ing coast of north-east­ern Scot­land, but the birdlife is abun­dant in mid­win­ter. Look for sea­d­ucks in­clud­ing both reg­u­lar scot­ers and Long-tailed Duck, divers and Slavo­nian Grebe, a spe­cial­ity of the area. Eiders are com­mon, and there is al­ways a chance of a King Eider, here.

Framp­ton Marsh RSPB, Lin­colnshire

Once upon a time in UK Bird Sight­ings, BW ‘in­cluded’ Lin­colnshire in the Mid­lands. But now it has set­tled into its home as a south­ward ex­ten­sion of the North East, we feel com­pletely ex­on­er­ated in nom­i­nat­ing this flag­ship east coast RSPB re­serve for this se­lec­tion of sites. Framp­ton is sim­ply su­perb at any time of year. Win­ter should see plenty of Brent Geese and wild­fowl as well as a smat­ter­ing of win­ter waders, and the chance of good rap­tor- and owl-watch­ing over the marshes look­ing to­ward The Wash. Al­ways re­ward­ing.

Caerlave­rock Wet­land Cen­tre, Cum­bria

The WWT’S site on the Sol­way Firth is rightly renowned, in par­tic­u­lar for its vast num­bers of win­ter­ing geese. Chief among these are the 40,000 Bar­na­cle Geese which come here each year. These are joined by large num­bers of Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans to pro­vide a won­der­ful spec­ta­cle as well as a bril­liant op­por­tu­nity to add one or two species to your year list.

WIN­TER SHOULD SEE PLENTY OF BRENT GEESE AND WILD­FOWL AS WELL AS A SMAT­TER­ING OF WIN­TER WADERS, AND THE CHANCE OF GOOD RAP­TOR- AND OWLWATCHING OVER THE MARSHES LOOK­ING TO­WARD THE WASH

Rut­land Water, Rut­land

In ad­di­tion to the ex­cel­lent re­serve(s) on the site, the reser­voir it­self is one of the great ‘mag­nets’ for birds which are gen­er­ally very scarce in­land. There will surely be a se­lec­tion of divers (mainly Great North­ern) and scarce grebes, as well as ‘sea-ducks’, such as Red-breasted Mer­ganser and per­haps scot­ers.

Nene Washes, Cam­bridgeshire

Much vis­ited by mem­bers of the Bird Watch­ing team, we couldn’t leave out this ex­cel­lent Rspb-man­aged site east of Peter­bor­ough. These days, Cranes are just about guar­an­teed through­out the year. A visit to the Elder­nell car park and view­point is usu­ally your best bet; there have been 30-odd birds seen in re­cent win­ters! Elder­nell also has a rep­u­ta­tion as an owl and rap­tor site. Marsh Har­ri­ers have been win­ter­ing here for at least the last decade or so, and there may be sev­eral Short-eared Owls seen hunt­ing right in front of the car park. Hen Har­rier and Mer­lin are pos­si­ble, as is Bit­tern, if a win­ter­ing bird hap­pens to pass over at dusk. De­pend­ing on the ex­tent of flood­ing (which varies greatly from year to year), there may be thou­sands of dab­bling ducks on show (or very few!), which may in­clude huge num­bers of Wi­geon as well as a sub­stan­tial amount of Pin­tail. Waders in­clude thou­sands of Lap­wing and Golden Plover in win­ter.

Gi­grin Farm, Rhayader, Powys

Think­ing of Welsh win­ter bird sites, Gi­grin Farm is one of the first that comes to mind. The site is syn­ony­mous with Red Kites, and par­tic­u­larly kite feed­ing. Meat is put out for the kites ev­ery day, and up to 300 in­di­vid­u­als can come down to feed, all in easy view of the five hides.

Exe Es­tu­ary, Devon

The sites around the Exe Es­tu­ary of­fer won­der­ful win­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties to watch good num­bers of win­ter­ing ducks and geese (in­clud­ing plen­ti­ful Brents) as well as win­ter­ing birds of prey, Cetti’s War­bler and a de­cent num­ber of Avo­cets even in the ‘cold­est’ months. South Devon is of course the last great strong­hold of the ex­tremely re­stricted Cirl Bunting in the UK. If you haven’t paid a visit yet this year, this month is your last op­por­tu­nity to add this lovely lit­tle bird to your UK year list.

Isle of Shep­pey, Kent

There are many places in the south-east of Eng­land which can de­liver the goods in mid-win­ter. Shep­pey is among the best, with some of the best rap­torand owl-watch­ing in the re­gion. Harty Ferry is a key site, where Buz­zards and win­ter­ing Marsh Har­ri­ers may be joined by Rough-legged Buz­zard and Hen Har­rier, with Mer­lins fea­tur­ing, as well as good chances of Short­eared and Barn Owls. There are Corn Bunt­ings, Stonechats and much more to search for, too, as well as the coastal birds, such as Brent Geese, Shel­duck and win­ter­ing waders. Don’t for­get to visit Elm­ley NNR, for more owls, wa­ter­birds and more.

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