Chris Chappell has more suggestions for your wintry walks this month. Look out for tracks on your tracks.
Tracks in the mud or snow
Winter is a good time to find footprints of birds and animals. By examining the banks of rivers, or the shoreline, or just muddy tracks, you should be able to identify any of the larger mammals present in the area. There are simple guide lines using the following chart:
Great White Egrets
Birdwatchers in Somerset are privileged to have a number of these rarely seen Egrets in the Avalon Marshes. Six birds wintered on Shapwick Heath last winter, and being large and white are naturally easy to spot! They are the size of a grey heron, and have black feet and yellow beak in young and wintering birds. You will also see the relatively common small egret, which is much smaller, and has black legs and bill with yellow feet.
Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon
There are now large flocks of wintering waterfowl feeding on the levels. Hundreds of lapwing, teal and wigeon can be seen on the flooded scrapes. Amongst them there may be snipe, golden plover, redshank and many more. These flocks attract peregrines, which will appear at speed, putting the birds to flight, an impressive sight as the birds scramble noisily into the air.
Feed the Birds
Providing food for the wild birds in your garden is a great way to discover which species are present locally. You may wish to order supplies through the SWT shop, which will help to support the Trust.
Great, Blue and Coal tits will happily come to bird table or feeders. In hard weather you may see Long-tailed tits. Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Chaffinches are all seed eaters. An increasing visitor to feeders is the Bullfinch, the male with his jet black head and pinky red breast. If you live near woodland, Nuthatches and Great Spotted Woodpeckers should appear. Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares like to feed on apples, spread on the ground. Try to do this on a piece of open ground, away from cover for preying cats.
Lapwings © Brian Phipps