As we head into winter, it can be tempting to just cosy-up and hibernate indoors – but we’d be missing out. It’s a great time to spot feathered visitors and some of nature’s most dazzling displays.

In the autumn and winter two new types of thrush, redwings and fieldfares, can make an appearance. They are partial to a diet of berries and fallen fruit, so they are best looked for in laden hedgerows and trees. From a distance, the two species can be hard to tell apart from each other – and from other thrushes. Redwings have a red patch underneath the wing and a white stripe over the eye, whereas fieldfares have very distinctive light-grey heads with chocolate and grey backs.


Fieldfare credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)


Redwing credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

Although jays live in many parts of the country all year round, they become much easier to spot at this time of year as they hop around in search for acorns. Jays are the most colourful members of the crow family, sporting a pinkish-fawn body and a distinctive flash of blue, barred with black on their wings. They are often found in woodlands but are increasingly being spotted in urban gardens. These clever corvids bury acorns to store for leaner months ahead - although they don’t always remember where they put them, meaning many of these little acorns end up growing into oaks.


Jay credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)


Starling murmurations are another amazing sight to watch out for. As the light begins to fade just before dusk, starlings gather to perform a mesmerising areal ballet in our skies. Look out for thousands of birds whirling, swooping and diving in unison in the sky above, before they settle down and roost together for the night. One of the largest murmurations in Northern Ireland can be seen over the Albert Bridge in Belfast, but they can be spotted in other locations too – including RSPB’s Portmore Lough nature reserve. 


Starlings at the Albert Bridge in Belfast credit: Philip Carson RSPB NI 

There are lots of wonderful winter spectacles to look out for over the coming months, but sadly much of our much-loved wildlife is in trouble. Both redwings and starlings are listed as birds of conservation concern in the UK and Ireland. There’s lots you can do to help the nature on your doorstep, from feeding garden birds during the winter months to wildlife friendly gardening. Even your Christmas shop can make a difference. The RSPB’s online shop is full of ethically sourced, environmentally friendly gifts – and all profits go towards helping birds and wildlife, find out more at: shopping.rspb.org.uk

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