Winter wildlife highlights

Wicken Fen - Widgeons in flight

There's some amazing wildlife to see at Wicken Fen over the cold winter months. Here's our guide to some species to look out for and the best places to see them.

Wigeon

Wigeon are a medim size duck with round heads and small bills. The males head and neck are chestnut in colour with a yellow forehead, pink breast and green body.

They can be seen all year round, but in autumn large numbers arrive at Wicken from Northern Europe and Siberia to escape the harsh winters in that part of the world.

Look-out for them on the wet grasslands of Baker's and Burwell Fen's.

Winter thrushes

Redwing at Wicken Fen
Redwing feasting on alder berries

Redwings and fieldfares start to arrive in large flocks in October. Redwings have a creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches. Field fares are larger and have a very distinctive grey rump. They tend to flock together and can be seen along the hedgerows feasting on the juicy berries.

Hen Harriers

Wicken Fen - Harrier Ringtail
Wicken Fen - Harrier Ringtail

Britain's rarest bird of prey spends the summer months breeding in the upland areas of Britain before heading south in autumn. It's likely that our native birds are also joined by harriers from continental Europe during the winter.

Males are a pale grey in colour, whilst females and young birds are brown with a white rump and barred tail, hence the name 'ringtail'.

The harriers roost over night amongst the sedge on Sedge Fen. They can generally be seen towards dusk gliding over the fen looking for a safe place to roost.

A good place to see them from is the old Tower Hide, or from the warmth of the Visitor Centre. 

Short eared owls

Wicken Fen - Short Eared Owl
Wicken Fen - Short Eared Owl

Short eared owls are medium sized owls with mottled brown bodies, pal underwings and bright yellow eyes. They can be seen year round but there is an influx of continental birds, especially in the winter months in the East of England.

They commonly hunt during the day.

Good places to see them are Baker's and Burwell Fen's.

Starlings

Starling mumuration
Starling mumuration over Tubney Fen

Starlings have pointed head, triangular wings, short tail and glossy sheen of purples and greens. In winter large flocks arrive from continental Europe. 

They form large flocks, or mumurations, and typically perform dramatic twisting & turning flying displays before settling down to roost at night in the reedbeds.

The best place to see these dramatic displays are the reedbeds at the junction of Wicken & Burwell Lode or Tubney Fen.