Winter birdwatching at Newtown
Once the leaves have fallen and frost paints the land in an icy blanket, it may seem like all wildlife has hibernated for the winter. But over at Newtown, the creeks and estuary are full of life. Winter wildfowl and waders migrate here during the colder months from their breeding grounds further afield, making it the perfect place to go birdwatching in the cooler months.
As the countryside around us changes, so too does the birdlife at Newtown. Having lost their summer plumage, many of the migrants display feathers of icy white and muted browns which reflect the winter landscape. But flashes of colour can still be seen if you know where to go.
Where to go winter birdwatching at Newtown?
Just south along the road from the Old Town Hall you’ll find Cassey Bridge. From here you may spot some of the many different species of duck which have made the long journey from their summer breeding grounds. Male teal with their chestnut heads, broad green eye patches and yellow tails provide a little colour on a grey winter day and travel from as far away as Siberia. Meanwhile wigeon have come to Britain to escape the freezing ice of Scandinavia and Russia. You’ll also see pintail ducks dabbling in the estuary until late February or even into March.
A splash of colour is also provided by the little egret whose bright yellow feet can be seen wading through the estuarine waters, whilst the bright blue of kingfishers may flit by. Cassey Bridge is also the perfect place to just sit quietly and wait for the birds to come to you.
" One of my favourite winter sights is to see the iridescent feathers of the visiting ducks highlighted by the winter sun."
On a walk to the quay, why not take a little detour through the meadows and spend a few moments relaxing on the bench here? If you do, you may be lucky enough to spot the long legged and long beaked, black-tailed godwits. The breeding population of the UK migrates to the warmer climes of West Africa for the winter, but in turn Icelandic birds arrive here, seeking their own winter warmth.
Down at the quay itself, waders elegantly stride through the salty water. Turnstones, with their bright orange legs, are found around rocks, from under which they pick out food. Redshanks are easily spotted with their vivid orange-red legs and bills, whilst greenshanks also visit the quay at this time of year.
The East Hide, one of three hides at Newtown, is open all year. From here you get a view of the main marsh where you can spot dunlin, pluvers and knot in their winter plumage. As the tide heads towards the land, different types of bird can be seen, and gradually, as the water rises, they will come closer and closer, eventually roosting for the night on the saltmarshes and shore. Many of these birds fly in flocks of hundreds or even thousands, which wheel and turn in unison in the skies above. As they come into land, the combined effect of their pale undersides and wings is a flash of white in the winter sun.
What to bring?
As Newtown is so close to the sea, the fields and footpaths can become very wet and muddy. However, if you wear walking boots or wellies, bring binoculars, plenty of warm layers and a flask of something hot, you’ll be set up for a day of winter birdwatching.
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