Get out there and enjoy the last rush of winter birds, before spring’s tide of migrants makes you forget these cold weather wonders. Here are five birds to warm the cockles of your heart.
The Bittern is a bird that everyone wants to see. The reasons for this are that they are beautiful, rare and elusive, probably in that order. February is one of the best months to see one, as it can be the coldest month, forcing the reedbed skulkers out into the open. Look for them in flight, when they can sometimes look more like a large owl or a Buzzard at first glance, before you see that long heron bill! They often fly to and from roosting areas, then disappear again into the reeds. Though increasing in the UK, they are still pretty scarce birds and hugely enjoyable to watch, whatever they are doing.
Pic: Mic Clark Photography/Alamy
Sky Larks will have been flocking up and feeding in stubble fields and the like, during the winter, but as spring is on the horizon, sunny days may encourage them to start with their famous, renowned, varied and incessant song. Even more pleasant is the delightful chirrup of their flight call.
What a lovely little bird the Long-tailed Tit is. Tiny and with a ridiculously long tail and plumage which always seems to look soft and fluffy in pink, black and white, plus a tiny bill and an endearing habit of being fearless and approaching you as they flit past, feeding and blowing soft raspberries in equal measure! Great birds.
Pic: Mike Lane/Alamy
Great spotted Woodpecker
Even since December, Great Spotted Woodpeckers will be drumming (at least occasionally), which is their rattling, mechanical equivalent of a song. The speedy, quick blast of knocks on a resonant branch is not the same as the slower chiselling knocks they do to excavate nest holes, or extricate invertebrates or smash nuts on a tree trunk. Great Spots are about the size of a Starling or small thrush, and are the only British woodpecker to have red on their underparts.
The Raven is a bird on the move. Don’t believe the map on the RSPB website, as they have made considerable inroads to the east since that was compiled! Ravens are no longer birds of the western uplands, shunning man at all cost. They are now birds of some eastern cities, finding nest sites on radio and TV masts and cathedrals alike. They are not hard to identify, being huge (Buzzard-sized) crows, with much larger bills and longer wedge shaped tails than Carrion Crows, and distinctive tapering wings and shaggy throats in flight. And, of course, they are vocal birds, often betraying their presence with their various croaky and fruity ‘cronk’ calls.
Pic: Mike Lane/Alamy