Winter is a brilliant time to enjoy watching flocks of birds and you can find examples of these in most habitats from arable fields to woodland. Resident species flock together in winter to increase chances of survival, and may form mixed species flocks, but the UK also draws some attractive winter migrants.

Hedgerows and pastures attract winter migrants such as fieldfares and redwings which flock together and may be joined by resident species such as mistle thrushes and blackbirds. In the UK we also see migrant blackbirds in winter and these can sometimes be identified by the fact that adults have black, rather than orange, beaks (resident 1st winter males can have dull black plumage and dark beak).

In open areas of wet grassland, you may be lucky enough to see flocks of waders. Species such as lapwing, curlew, golden plover and snipe gather in large flocks taking advantage of the milder (!) UK climate. In fact the Somerset levels and Moors are designated as an internationally important area for waders and wildfowl.

Winter stubbles in arable fields are an important source of food for declining species such as yellowhammers, linnets and reed buntings.  Yellowhammers will join mixed species flocks of finches, buntings and sparrows, which can often be seen flitting from the fields to the cover of nearby hedgerows. Linnets tend to stick together, and in fact feed in flocks all year round, but larger flocks form in winter and can be conspicuous due to their bouncing flight and constant chattering!

Sometimes it’s also nice to take pleasure in seeing the more common species too. In woodlands species such as great tit, blue tits, coal tit and long-tailed tits can form large feeding flocks and can be joined by tree creepers and goldcrests. Given that species such as blue tits have to consume around 30% of their bodyweight per day to make it through the night, every sighting should be celebrated.

 Yellow Hammer © Nick Goodrum