*Please note this blog was written before new England lockdown restrictions were announced. If visiting RSPB reserves, please follow all current Government guidance around social distancing, who you can visit with, hygiene and follow all signage on-site. We urge you to also follow Government guidance on non-essential travel and please stay local to your nearest reserves and greenspaces. For the latest RSPB Covid-19 updates please visit: http://bit.ly/ReservesCovidUpdates*
Winter. Makes us think of the dark and cold. We might even think it’s a time to stay inside, but as the seasons change, with it comes some unique and amazing things not to be missed outside. RSPB England's, Oriole Wagstaff, reveals some great days out in nature this November.
We often think that winter is a quiet time for nature, but really, it’s a great opportunity to see it a little differently. Whether you’re desperate to get outside or searching for something a little closer to home, bundle up this November and discover something new.
A starling perched in a tree in winter. Credit: Ben Andrews
Starlings may be a familiar sight in your garden or local green space, with their beautiful purple and green shimmering black feathers. But it’s at this time of year, when they’re joined by more starlings who have come from other parts of Europe to spend the winter here, that they do something particularly spectacular - they form murmurations. A murmuration is made up thousands of starlings, swooping and diving through the sky together all in unison. They form a dancing cloud of birds, hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of starlings, moving as one through the skies. It's a breath-taking sight to witness.
Why do they do this magical dance? There is still some uncertainty, but we think it’s for a number of reasons. Firstly, safety in numbers. Predators, such as peregrine falcons, find it hard to target one bird amongst a hypnotising flock of thousands. They also gather for warmth during the cold winter nights and to exchange information,
A starling murmeration. Credit: Ben Andrews.
Plenty of our reserves across England are fantastic places to marvel at these murmerations. Check out our top spots to find your nearest one below:
For other popular sites to see starlings check out the Starlings in the UK website to see where murmurations have been occurring recently.
Despite the incredible size of these flocks, starling numbers have plummeted over the last 50 years. To find out more about this these curious creatures, and how you can help give them a safe home click here.
Before you get too excited… they don’t actually have tiny feathery beards, misleading I know! But the males do have a sort of moustache that stretches up to their eyes (think 80’s glam rock make up) and certainly makes these birds an exciting sight. By contrast, the females are a much subtler gingery-brown colour, ideal for camouflage among the reeds, but no less exciting to see. Winter is the best time to spot these so called ‘beardies’, when insects are harder to find, and they switch their diet to reed seeds.
Because they don’t have teeth, bearded tits eat grit, taking it into their ‘crop’ or 'gizzard' (a thick-walled part of their stomach), to grind up the reed seeds to help digest them. They also aren’t technically a tit (wait, what?!). Instead they are in a family of their own, often called ‘bearded reedlings’, with seemingly no other living birds being closely related to them, another thing making these creatures particularly curious.
Bearded Tit at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Credit: Phill Gwilliam
Listen out for the ‘ping’ of their calls and look out for their relatively long tails as they dart amongst the red reeds. The best time to spot them is first thing. Discover your nearest bearded tit hotspot at one of the following reserves:
Please be aware that many of our sites have limited capacity, to avoid disappointment please check the latest updates and see our reserve Covid-19 updates page for important details about visiting our sites at the moment.
For more seasonal wildlife spectacles and to find an RSPB reserve near you, click here.
If you’re looking to enjoy nature a bit closer to home, here are three things you can see and do from your home, garden, or local green space this November:
As the nights draw in there is even more opportunity to look to the skies and dazzle your eyes. It may be a bit chilly, but stargazing can be a magical experience. Anyone can get involved so wrap up warm and head to your local greenspace or even your doorstep or window. Here's some tips to help you get the most from your stargazing and experience your own nature WOW moment!
Stargazing. Credit: Nick Cunard
Although birds benefit from feeding all year round, as the temperatures get colder, generally feeding birds is most helpful in winter. Whether you have a garden, balcony or even a window you can easily put out plenty of food and water for birds at this time of year. Why not make a bird feeder yourself, you can even make your own window feeder. Find out what food to put out here.
Winter is a great time to look out for a variety of geese, ducks and swans. Thousands of these birds fly from colder regions just to spend the winter in the UK. Many get their food from open water- lakes, ponds and other wetland areas or from grazing in fields. Any number of our reserves have excellent duck and geese visitors in the winter, but you may also find many in your local greenspace if there is a pond or lake nearby. So why not wrap up warm and head out to see how many different ones you can find.
Male shoveler duck in Regents Park, London. Credit: Ben Andrews
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