Some may avoid it by shopping online, some may do it earlier and some might just not do it at all, but I can't help but consider Christmas shopping as a necessary evil at this time of year. The crowded streets, bombardment of Christmas music over the radio and the cold weather don't make it a particularly appealing prospect for me. However, even the dreaded Christmas shopping can result in opportunities to observe some of natures spectacles. Here are a few things to look out for!

Pied wagtails - this charming little bird of our towns and cities is often one of the only birds you will come across in the street. If you can't see it you might hear it flitting between rooftops making it's 'chis-sik' call. During the winter they often gather in large numbers in towns where they roost communally in street trees.

Car park berry trees - most out of town shopping centres have some degree of tree planting and thankfully for our wintering birds they choose berry bearing species like rowans. Unfortunately this year we probably won't be seeing too many waxwings but keep an eye out on these trees just in case, you should see our normal bunch of winter thrushes and finches taking advantage, as well as the ever present woodpigeons and starlings.

Town parks - get away from the rat race for a few minutes to have a walk around any nearby town parks, you might find some waterfowl, stumble across a mixed flock of tits and goldcrests in the shrubs or even a few minutes watching the feral pigeons may help calm any frayed nerves! If there is a river running through the town then there might be a chance to see some otters, water voles or grey wagtails along the banks.

Look up - over the town many things could be happening to which the vast majority of shoppers will be oblivious. A peregrine may be perched up high surveying the area for the next meal, gulls may be passing overhead in their lazy 'v's heading to roost or a starling murmuration may be twisting across the sky before dropping into a nearby copse.

Late night shopping -  keep an eye out for any foxes that might be lurking in the darkness, you might even hear a tawny owl.

Can you think of any other urban wildlife that could offer a welcome distraction during the Christmas shopping scrummage?

  • Yes yes, I've spotted Pied Wagtails - lovely creatures. I wonder what on earth they are picking up from the pavement !  And my local Robin is singing by lamplight when I get home at something after 8pm

    Gold Crests (plural ah, sigh)

    Yes, the Avon coming through the center of Bristol has Otters but I've never seen one  - ah

    Not so late foxy crossing the car park as I was leaving the store to come home Thursday night

    So much noise Christmas shopping scrummage  :( I don't touch downtown now till after Christmas

    Thank you Ian for the Blog

  • Yes, the gulls!  Various corvids as well.

  • The jackdaws, swaggering around the streets like a teenage gang :-)