The influx of overwintering birds is picking up steam now that the weather has turned chillier, lots has been spotted this week.
If you head down the Riverbank Trail keep an eye out for whooper swans. They’re slightly smaller than the commonly spotted mute swan with a distinctive yellow and black bill. Also down there, you’re likely to come across a brambling or two, similar looking to a chaffinch but can be picked out for its white belly and rump, and orange breast and shoulder patches. A winter visitor from northern Europe, they come in particularly big droves when the beech nut crop is plentiful.
Whooper swans, Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
As always, Lin Dyke hide and the flashes are a great place to spot some beauties. A few sand martins were sighted flying over as they head south to Africa for the winter months, and another garganey was seen headed in the same direction. Also, excitingly, another bittern has been spotted flying across the reedbed!
Golden plover, Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com)
There have been a couple of sightings of golden plover too, a medium sized wader which can be seen throughout the year in the UK. In summer the plumage is much more dramatic and they pass their time breeding in upland areas of the UK. Come winter they move into lowland sites, avoiding areas higher than around 200 metres, and are joined by more over-wintering birds from Iceland and northern Europe.
Siskin, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
There have been more flocks of redwings and a flock of siskins reported. Siskins are small finches, but resemble tits in that they often hang upside down on twigs and branches to eat. Although they eat and breed in coniferous forests, in winter they are frequently seen amongst birch and alder trees, often near water – hence the sightings here at Fairburn. There are plenty of breeding pairs in the UK but they also arrive from Europe to overwinter.
Goosander, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
Finally, several goodsanders have been up on New Flash this week. Outside of the breeding season they’re often seen in small group like this, and can even form large flocks in the winter. Larger than a mallard, it swims very low in the water and has a distinctively shaped head and hooked bill. Keep your eyes out over the coming weeks as they head to lowlands for winter.