Top ten places to spot winter birds in the Midlands
The bare trees of winter help us to spot a great variety of birds across the places we care for, those who live here all year round and those who just pop by for this season.
Winter bird life in the Midlands can be exciting and far easier thanks to the absence of leaves on the trees. Here are our top ten places within our care for you to spot the feathery highlights of this season.
Spot some of Longshaw’s resident birds, such as siskins and redpolls, as they flit from tree to tree, particularly the alders in the Sheffield Plantation area. Alternatively, wrap up warm, grab a coffee from the visitor centre and sit outside to watch them coming to the feeders hanging in the trees.
When it's cold and snowy, look out for woodcock feeding along the edges of the marshy streams and keep an eye out for the more frequently seen nuthatches, tree creepers and great spotted woodpecker. A rare northern visitor, the waxwing has been spotted this winter.
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
Take a stroll along the Short Walk and listen for the tap. tap sound of nuthatches brealing open nuts amongst the beech trees here. Look out for tree creepers too, especially in the garden.
As you walk towards the hall, the large yew trees atop the ha-ha are excellent locations for the diminutive goldcrest seeking out small spiders and other invertebrates amongst the branch ends.
On the lake, you may be lucky enough to see goosanders, a type of saw-bill duck that specialises in catching slippery fish.
Throughout the park, but especially where the hawthorns still have berries, there are often thousands of fieldfares and redwings, sometimes accompanied by song thrushes and blackbirds, all feeding on the same thing.
Around the Duck Decoy area, keep an ear and eye out for the rare willow tit that likes the old, tangled, willow scrub here. Carry on around Great Pond and look out for tufted duck, teal and sometimes good numbers of goosander – there were 22 of them just before Christmas.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Clumber Park is a bird spotters paradise. Around the Pleasure Grounds look out for hawfinches with their massive, silvery blue bill and goldcrests on low branches of yew trees searching for small bugs.
Whilst hiding in the pine trees there are often small flocks of crossbills, with their strange over-crossed beaks that wheedle seeds from pine cones.
On the lake, you might see goosander, winter plumaged great-crested grebes, tufted ducks and pochard.
The wide open spaces of Belton Park are good feeding sites for large numbers of thrushes and starlings and the resident green woodpecker. If you're lucky you may still get to see a red kite, a pair of ravens and buzzards circling overhead, especially around the Belmount area.
Close to the car park, look out for tree creepers on the trunks of the lime trees and along the river, grey wagtail and kingfisher.
Attingham Park, Shropshire
Large flocks of redwings and fieldfares can be seen feeding on the organically managed parkland as can thrushes which breed in Scandinavia but winter in the milder climes of western Europe.
The Rivers Tern and Severn are good places to spot goosanders, some of which will stay to breed in holes in trees close to the rivers. The farmland of the wider estate supports flocks of declining farmland birds, including skylarks and lapwings.
Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Grey herons will be refurbishing their nests in the heronry alongside the River Avon from as early as February. The deeper reaches of the river are attractive to wintering wildfowl, including teal, widgeon and the diminutive dabchick or little grebe.
Kestrels can be seen hunting over the tussocky grass of the parkland, as can the resident barn owls as dusk approaches.
Croft Castle and Parkland, Herefordshire
The ancient hornbeam trees around the Iron Age hill fort of Croft Ambrey are a traditional wintering area for hawfinches. These shy finches have massive bills, said to exert a pressure equivalent to 40 psi – just right for opening up the seeds of hornbeams.
Flocks of common crossbill can be seen and heard feeding on the seeds of pine and other conifer trees in Croft’s woodlands (listen for the explosive ‘chip, chip’ call). Other finches and buntings forming flocks around the estate include bullfinch, yellowhammer, redpoll and siskin.
Croome Park, Worcestshire
The yew trees around the lake attract flocks of hawfinches in some winters, whilst the parkland and adjacent old Defford airfield (no public access) has been home to the rare and elusive winter visitor the great grey shrike on a few occasions.
The open grassland of the parkland provide feeding grounds for flocks of redwings, fieldfares and meadow pipits, the latter sometimes attracting the attention of a merlin. This small falcon is a rare breeder in upland areas but follows its favoured prey to the lowlands in the winter.
The Croome River is the spot for wintering ducks and other waterbirds; highlights this winter have included a flock of over 50 widgeon.
Long Mynd, Shropshire
The upland plateau of the Long Mynd can seem bleak and birdless in the winter, but there is always a chance of encountering a wintering hen harrier hunting low over the heather.
Winter is also a good time to see the growing resident population of red grouse, birds closely associated with the heather which has recovered very well from historic over-grazing by sheep.