6 winter visitors to look out for

fieldfare photo by Margaret Hollandfieldfare photo by Margaret Holland

That big chap in the red coat has been and gone, but between October and March the UK also welcomes a wide variety of feathered visitors from cold places to our shores, travelling from the Arctic, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Winter watch will soon be hitting our screens and here is our pick of half a dozen of the species to look for in your garden or when you are out and about in Birmingham and the Black Country.

Redwings

A visitor from Iceland and Scandinavia, the Redwing is the UK's smallest thrush. Its distinguishing features are an orange-red flank and creamy stripes above and below the eye. Redwings are mainly found feeding on berries in fields and hedgerows and rarely visit gardens, except in the coldest weather, so if you see them, winter has truly set in. Apples and berry-producing bushes like Hawthorn may attract them into your garden.Redwing photo by Margaret Holland

Waxwings

As one of Britain's most exotic-looking birds waxwings are much anticipated by many bird watchers! With their large, orangey-pink crest and breast, a black mask, their black yellow-tipped and bright yellow and white markings on their wings they certainly stand out when here and can be spotted in flocks on berry-laden bushes in towns, car parks and gardens where they can be enticed with hung-up apples.
Unfortunately, they’re quite a rare winter visitor this far from Scandinavia, unless the berry crops fail in Northern Europe. Given the mild weather it is unlikely that that we will see them in large numbers this winter.waxwing photo by Sue Jarvis

Fieldfares

The fieldfare is a large, colourful thrush and a widespread winter visitor to UK. They have a chestnut-brown back, and yellowy breast streaked with black, a black tail, dark wings and pale grey rump and head making them quite distinctive. Feasting on berry-laden bushes in hedgerows, woodland, parks and playing fields, fieldfares are sociable birds and can be seen in flocks of over 200 birds. They may, however, venture into gardens when there is snow cover or it is a severe winter.fieldfare photo by Margaret Holland

Bramblings

Similar in size and shape to the chaffinch the brambling has a black head, orange breast, white rump, and its upper parts are mainly black but mingled with orange. We are most likely to see brambling with chaffinches but the white rump is the brambling’s distinguishing feature. Numbers visiting our shores vary depending upon the availability of food at home. Most of those reaching Britain come from Scandinavia and Siberia via the Continent, to avoid crossing the large expanse of the North Sea.Brambling photo by Harry Hogg

Pochard ducks

Most of the birds in Britain come here from northern and eastern Europe for the winter. It’s a plump, grey diving duck, but the male Pochard has a striking chestnut head, a black chest and rear end so will stand out from others on the pond. They often stick together in large groups and when migrating they fly in a V formation.Pochard photo by Derek Moore

Greylag Geese

This pale grey goose with pink legs and an orange bill often comes from Iceland to spend the winter here and can be seen in many places around Birmingham and the Black Country. We have recorded sightings from Hill Hook in Sutton Coldfield to Bartley Reservoir near Frankley, Sandwell Valley and West Park in Wolverhampton. Greylag goose photo by Derek Moore

How you can help

Please do send us sightings of these and other birds that you see this winter, as they will help us to monitor the health of birds populations. The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country with the support of members and volunteers works to provide high quality habitat for wildlife and places for people to enjoy across the urban area.