Tuesday, 31 December 2013

One touch of nature: 50 wildlife resolutions for 2014

 David North, Head of People and Wildlife

There’s learning about nature and then there is learning from nature. Two very different things I think. Learning about nature can be done from books, from television programmes, from websites and of course from other people. Most importantly it can also be achieved by spending time outside simply observing. Learning about nature is great. I take great pleasure in identifying birds, plants, mammals and a rather small number of invertebrates and fungi. My ignorance is massive. So much to learn! Knowledge of nature and natural processes is of course crucial when it comes to conservation. We can’t protect species or habitats without this kind of knowledge. There are of course lots of opportunities to learn about nature with Norfolk Wildlife Trust during 2014 so why not come on one of our many events?

Trees, photo by Brendan Joyce

For me, and perhaps for anyone who draws inspiration from the natural world, there is another kind of learning, a more personal approach. When we talk about reconnecting with nature, for me this is more about learning from nature than learning about nature. Learning from nature can’t be done from books or television screens - it comes from personal direct experience of the natural world and what we learn is primarily about ourselves; our place in this amazing interconnected world. Learning from nature is primarily about self knowledge, a personal sense of perspective, how the changes I observe in nature are part of the same processes of change in myself. Heady stuff perhaps, and not to be taken over-seriously, but with a light touch and a sense of fun, adventure and discovery. The quest of self-knowledge, like all good quests, demands an adventurous spirit and an open heart.

I have put together a list of 50 challenges for myself in 2014. Ways to directly experience nature and hopefully ways to learn from nature, though I’m sure during the course of trying these things out there will be lots of learning about nature too. Many of the things on my list are not that original but it’s the doing that counts! So here is my personal list of 50 challenges for 2014. Ways of connecting to the natural world. Why not make your own list but be sure to stay safe and only take on challenges you feel comfortable with.
  1. Sleep outside under the stars
  2. Swim in a river, a lake and the sea (quite tricky in Norfolk!)
  3. Take a night walk along the sea-shore (on a full moon night)
  4. Spot a shooting star
  5. Take a long barefoot walk
  6. Make a bush fire and cook a meal outside on wood I have gathered
  7. Listen to a nightingale
  8. Feed a wild bird by hand
  9. Watch the moon rise
  10. Watch the sun rise
    Evening sun on Heigham Sound, photo by Craig Humphries
  11. Watch the sun set
  12. Lie on a spring woodland floor and really look at the leaf canopy and its colours
  13. Lie against the wind in a storm
  14. Drink from a spring
  15. Shower under a waterfall
  16. Hug a tree (the old ones are the best!)
  17. Listen to a dawn chorus at dawn on my own
  18. Listen to the wind in tree tops
  19. Lie on my back and cloud watch
  20. Watch the wind – observing wind patterns in crops or long grass
  21. Watch cloud shadows moving across the landscape from a high vantage point
  22. Find silence and listen to it
  23. Listen to waves breaking on shingle
  24. Watch a rough sea and breaking waves
  25. Watch soaring birds
  26. Find a spider’s web covered in dew
  27. Explore a natural place with my eyes shut
  28. Watch swifts screaming
  29. Sit by a pond
  30. Paddle in a stream
  31. Smell honeysuckle or jasmine on a warm summer night – night smells
  32. Go beachcombing
  33. Walk in mist – and watch mist form as evening falls
  34. Watch migrating geese
  35. Celebrate each season 
  36. Watch a spider make a web
    Spider's web, photo by Richard Osbourne
  37. Listen to the wind in reeds – whispering reeds
  38. Find a natural seat in a tree and sit there for one hour
  39. Reveal a conker, hold and polish it
  40. Collect sweet chestnuts and roast them
  41. Hear an owl and answer it
  42. Swim in the sea in winter (well maybe a paddle instead)
  43. Follow an animal track
  44. Find a sun-warmed rock and lie against it
  45. Walk in a woodland in rain and listen to raindrops falling on the leaf canopy
  46. Listen to a mountain stream
  47. Find a touchstone – small natural object that will always connect me to a special time and place
  48. Drink dew from a leaf
  49. Spend a day walking on one of Norfolk’s long distance trails from sunrise to sunset
  50. Spend more time outside watching wildlife!
Of course to be more mindful and aware of nature you don’t need to have a list of challenges – the real challenge is to be more aware of nature all around us on a daily basis. And more aware of how we can live in ways which respect the needs of the natural world as well as our own. Now that is a challenge worth taken on. A proper resolution is for life and not just for the year!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Trustee update: from the vice chair

Ann Roberts, Vice Chair of NWT Trustees

I am thrilled to have been chosen as Vice Chair of Norfolk Wildlife Trust and would like to thank all those who supported me. So I thought I would let you know who I am.

I moved to Norfolk over 11 years ago and became a part of Wymondham Nature Group were I have been Chair for nearly five years and have served on the committee for the last 10 years. I also volunteer with the adult and child education events run by head office; travelling to all parts of the county. WyNG also attend local events in South Norfolk on behalf of the Trust.

But I am a generalist when it comes to wildlife; I enjoy bird watching, surveying wild flowers, practical conservation but most of all just enjoying visiting the wide open spaces across Norfolk. We are fortunate to have some of the best wild spaces in Britain especially the many special sites that the trust own or manage.

The role of a Trustee is varied; we meet 10 or 12 times a year to take overall responsibility for the operation of the Trust. Within this brief we set the Trust's five year Business Strategy, provide other policies, plans and fiscal governance. To carry this out we employ suitable staff, under the management of the Chief Executive, to progress the tasks required. But it’s not all meetings as we undertake a couple of site visits to nature reserves and meet staff members who do the work on the ground. This is one of the best parts of being a Trustee, meeting the staff and finding out what complex work is carried out to maintain good wildlife habitats.

Over the next few years the Trust will be very busy developing the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre at Cley and preparing the large new area of reserve for wildlife and people. This land project will take several years of work to provide the scrapes, paths, fencing, hides and get the water management levels correct but I expect the wildlife will move in before that.

We also have many other exciting projects ongoing across the county for example; the opening up of more open water areas and other improvements to the Hickling Reserve, or the new reserve being prepared at Hilgay, this should be a great addition to the Wissey area. Another exciting development will be the new programme of working with the community in two of the Living Landscapes. By encouraging local groups, helping and supporting them to look after their wild areas.

Therefore I am pleased to be a trustee at this very exciting time and expect to be kept busy. It’s important that we look after our wild places for the next generations and I look forward to being able to help continuing this valuable and interesting work.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cley catch-up: after the flood

Barry Madden, Volunteer Bird Guide at NWT Cley Marshes

I didn’t know quite what to expect as I crested the rise along Old Woman Lane last week. Normally the first glimpse of Cley Marshes is welcome relief after the drive from Norwich, but today I knew the reserve had changed and suffered greatly at the expense of the storm surge. First impressions from a distance were not too bad; certainly the salt water had been sluiced off efficiently leaving behind the familiar patchwork of meadow, reed bed and shallow pools. But after a few seconds I registered that perhaps the brown staining was a little too extensive and then I realised that something more fundamental had changed. Parts of the shingle ridge had gone. Where days ago the shingle ridge still partially blocked views of the sea from the land, now only a thin shallow line of shingle remains. The bank will still be protective – it is wider now so absorbs wave energy. And the breaches will be repaired by EA. But the North Sea, calm and blue today lay within view.

The breach at the West Bank, photo by Barry Madden
 Although the reserve had been closed to the public to allow a full damage assessment to take place, I was tasked with walking the accessible perimeter pathways to engage with any people that may wish to understand what was being done in terms of remedial work. A trudge towards East Bank showed very clearly how far and deep the inundation had penetrated with debris strewn across the reed marsh and by the side of the road. Portions of hides, fencing, and other infrastructure lay haphazardly across the flattened roadside scrub which was piled high with broken reed stems and coated heavily with dark slimy mud. The freshwater drain was clogged with sludge and huge chunks had been gouged from the East Bank itself. All in all a rather dispiriting sight.

The beach, photo by Barry Madden
The beach: a scene now littered with chunks of concrete and the exposed underlying bed. An unveiled line of fence posts, which must have marked the historic boundary of the reserve, can now be seen on the seaward side of the shingle; the whole protective bank has effectively been swept inland leaving behind a scoured sandy underlay. Oh, and we seem to have lost the beach car park!

Splattering my way an hour later back along the coast road I overheard a walker say to his mate something along the lines of ‘They’ve got a heck of a job clearing this up’. The enigmatic ‘they’ referenced translates to Norfolk Wildlife Trust I guessed. And he was right; it is a heck of a job. There will be boardwalks, fences and gates to repair, hides to rebuild and clean, flood banks to plug, untold tons of rancid vegetation to clear away, footpaths to restore, signage to replace… I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. And that is just the stuff I noticed as a layman walking around, there will be more technical issues to grapple with if we are to return Cley Marshes to the richly varied wildlife haven we all know and love.

But you know despite all the doom and gloom, I sense there is a real desire to get stuck into the restoration programme. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have the attitude: we can’t stand in the way of nature’s relentless stride, but we can achieve a positive managed retreat. We need time to manage the retreat effectively for the habitats and resident wildlife, which makes re-instatement of the damaged infrastructure so critical. 

Pink-footed geese, photo by Barry Madden
And in defiance of all that has happened, the birdlife today was prolific. Skeins of pink-footed geese flew across a cloudless sky all day searching for likely looking fields full of beet tops or somewhere to roost. Flocks of lapwing and golden plover spangled the scrapes whilst water rails screeched and screamed from the ditches. A peregrine sailed slowly over my head flushing parties of displaced reed buntings, linnets and meadow pipits from the Eye. The stonechat pair were still flitting around in their favoured patch of scrub and the familiar female kestrel sat preening atop a stunted elder bathed in the warm glow of the golden afternoon sun. Even in its altered state Cley still provides an essential home for many and will continue to do so for decades to come.     

For updates on Cley Marshes, please call the visitor centre on 01263 740008 or visit the NWT website

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine

Emily Nobbs, Wildlife Information Service

Whilst trying to source some mistletoe sprigs to decorate my new home this Christmas, I started thinking, what actually led people to start hanging mistletoe in the doorways of their homes at Christmas? So I have done some digging about the origin of mistletoe traditions, as well as the best way to grow your own.

Mistletoe, photo by Elizabeth Dack
The origin of the mistletoe tradition
During the Middle Ages mistletoe was regarded as a holy magical plant, rooting higher than any other plant to Heaven. It was known to ward off evil spirits, and later earned the reputation as a healing herb. Kissing under its branch began in the 17th Century, when people believed it would fix broken hearts. This beautiful plant continues to be a symbol of new life and the approaching spring to many. Today, all over the World at Christmas people exchange kisses beneath this white berried plant, picking one for each kiss.

Where and when to see mistletoe

You can find this plant growing wild, usually living in branches of, willows, lime, ash and poplars. In Britain mistletoes favourite host is cultivated apple, with around 50% growing on the tree. In Norfolk the commonest host tree for mistletoe is apple trees, followed by lime and then poplar. Mistletoe has not been recorded on ash or oak in the county since 1866. 

Mistletoe on Limes, photo by David Gittens
The best place to see mistletoe in Norfolk is in The Walks in Kings Lynn, between November and March when the trees are bare.

Grown your own

If you want to try your hand at home growing, first you must collect the mistletoe berries in February or early March, not at Christmas! Next crunch the berries and smear them into a young live tree branch (at least 1.5 metres high and 20mm in diameter). Try to smear the plant on a shady part of the branch, for example the underside of a branch; in the wild this is done by mistle thrushes and other birds which are fond of eating the mistletoe berries but discard the seeds by wiping their bills on a convenient branch, spreading the mistletoe from tree to tree. Mistletoe will grow on certain tree species as mentioned earlier, apple trees seem especially receptive. Hawthorn, lime, poplar, whitebeam, pear, field maple and ash are also suitable trees to try.

Mistletoe is not for those of you who wish to see growth results quickly; this species requires patience, as it can often take a few years before the first mistletoe leaves appear.

Top Tips
  • If you picked your berries and stored them somewhere dry prior to smearing you must re-hydrate them by leaving them in water for a couple of hours before spreading them.
  • Mark the sport you smeared your seed! That way you will know where you put it and can watch it grow.
Remember while mistletoe does not kill trees it is partially parasitic so we recommend that you don’t plant it on your best fruit tree! Once it's established you can harvest some each year and both the mistletoe and the host tree should survive for decades.

Please send any mistletoe records to the local records centre, Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service (NBIS) at Norfolk County Council. Please use the four recording Ws - What, Where, When and Who - when submitting a record.
Post - Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, R301 County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2SG. Telephone - 01603 224458. Email - enquiries.nbis@norfolk.gov.uk

Friday, 6 December 2013

Cley Marshes: after the flood

Brendan Joyce, CEO of Norfolk Wildlife Trust

I was at NWT Cley Marshes today to see the effects of the flood.

The reserve has flooded up to and including the coast road and the lower car park to the visitor centre, although the visitor centre itself is unharmed. 

We are hopeful that the water will recede quickly now that the worst has passed and only then can we properly assess the damage to habitats and site infrastructure. 

The north (Swarovski) hide has been completely destroyed but the others remain standing and when the water has receded we will be able to see the effect on these, the boardwalk and paths, fences, gates bridges and other site infrastructure. 

We are concerned about a number of breaches in the shingle ridge and believe it is essential that these are repaired by Environment Agency at the earliest opportunity.

We now face a very big clear up and repair operation indeed as there will be a lot of debris and vegetation to remove and infrastructure to repair and replace. 

As far as longer term impacts are concerned, previous experience of such events, whilst devastating in the short term, suggest that the habitats will make a full recovery although this will take time. For example the numbers of fresh water fish and invertebrates in the freshwater dykes and pools will need to build up again and the grazing marshes may take a year or two to fully recover.

We have been in this situation before and no doubt will be again, but we remain confident that this rare event does not spell doom for the reserves and that they will recover.

The visitor centre and reserve have been inaccessible today and the reserve is likely to remain so until the water has receded and we can repair access routes and visitor facilities. But we aim to re-open the centre as soon as the coast road can be reopened and the car park cleared of debris to make it safe to access. 

Please check our website for regular updates. Our other coastal reserve, NWT Holme Dunes, and those in the Broads thankfully have not suffered as we feared they might.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The tools of conservation

David North, Head of People and Wildlife

Conservation is undoubtedly a tricky business. So many issues to think about; from the declines of wildlife in our wider countryside, so graphically described in the recent State of Nature report, to making difficult decisions about how to encourage more visitors to our nature reserves while at the same time ensuring those same reserves remain wild, unspoilt and havens for rare wildlife. With limited resources of both money and staff (and volunteer!) time then it’s essential we use the best conservation tool to achieve real conservation successes. But what are those tools?

My list may not be comprehensive but these are some of the tools that Norfolk Wildlife Trust, with the support of our members, local businesses, charitable trusts and local communities, can and does put to good effect.

NWT Cley Marshes by Anna Guthrie
Land purchase: NWT is of course well recognised for its exceptional nature reserves. And as a tool of last resort there is a lot to be said for safeguarding sites through land purchase. But this option does not come cheap. With the support or our members and supporters we have just successfully purchased 143 acres at Pope’s Marsh adjacent to our first and best known nature reserve, Cley Marshes. The cost? Nearly one million pounds. There are huge conservation advantages of course to owning a site. It is perhaps the only way to ensure that land can be safeguarded permanently for nature and gives a measure of control that few other conservation tools can achieve. There are downsides though: once purchased there will be annual costs to managing and wardening these unique and special places – potentially for ever. And of course nature reserves, however wonderful, cannot be the answer to declines of wildlife in the wider countryside.

Campaigns: Another conservation tool is campaigning to bring about better protection for wildlife through changes in legislation or changes in policy on key conservation issues. A good example of this is our support for the Wildlife Trusts national Living Seas campaign which has recently resulted in the designation of the first Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England.

Photo by Tom Marshall
Education work: The future of conservation depends on a well-informed public who understand the importance of nature and care personally about living in a world rich in wildlife. Our work with Norfolk schools and families may at first seem far removed from conservation on the ground but without a new generation of people who understand the value of the natural world then conservation has little future. Norfolk Wildlife Trust is at the forefront of working with children to provide opportunities for direct, outdoor experience of nature which we hope, at least for some, begin a lifetime’s interest.

Advice to landowners:
Most of Norfolk is of course privately owned, whether as farmland, gardens or development land. Our conservation team, working in partnership with others, has identified more than 1,000 county wildlife sites (CWS) which are the very best sites for wildlife outside of SSSIs and formally protected nature reserves. Every year we offer free advice to the owners of these sites and seek to help owners value and manage these very special areas for wildlife. They are wildlife gems in the wider landscape helping wildlife flourish in the countryside and providing vital stepping stones linking nature reserves and SSSIs.

Silver studded blue butterfly, photo by Bob Ward
Planning Advice: Through our conservation officers, NWT keeps a watchful eye on proposed developments which might damage wildlife in Norfolk and by commenting on planning applications seeks to mitigate where possible impacts on wildlife. We can’t comment on every planning application but where developments are likely to impact on nature reserves, protected sites or County Wildlife Sites we will be a voice standing up for nature ensuring that proper regard is made to the presence of protected species and the need to protect wildlife habitats. With new housing schemes and road projects proposed in many areas of Norfolk and of course issues like quarrying and minerals extraction this tool will be an increasingly important one over the next few years.

Reintroductions: A tool which needs careful use and again is often a measure of last resort. NWT has played an active role in the reintroduction to sites of species ranging from pool frogs to silver-studded blue butterflies. For a small number of species which have low dispersal ability and depend on specialised habitats then reintroduction may be the only conservation tool that can bring these species back.

Living Landscapes: Landscape scale conservation is now increasingly recognised as crucial to delivering conservation that is sustainable in the long-term. It’s a tool to climate-proof our conservation work and give our wildlife the best chance of adapting to new climates and changed conditions. Not so much a tool as an idea it will (and is) changing the way we work putting increased emphasis on working with partners and thinking big to ensure that the needs of both wildlife and people get considered. We have recently begun a project, ‘Delivering Living Landscapes’, funded in part by Heritage Lottery Fund which will enable us to try out new ways of working with local communities to bring nature to the places where people live and work. 

Bure Valley Living Landscape, photo by Mike Page

These are just some of the tools that a conservation organisation like NWT can make use of but only if our members and supporters continue to provide us with two more tools - funds and support - without which we can achieve very little. We may well need to develop new tools as new challenges come our way. The balance of which tools to use: site protection, campaigning for legislation, education, advocacy, or habitat management will vary with each issue we face. I wonder if there are tools out there that we are not currently using which could be commandeered for the conservation cause? Could we perhaps work more closely with artists, writers and poets to inspire more people to take action for nature? Or dare I say it, could we even pinch some tools from the advertising and marketing world to get our messages more effectively to new audiences in less traditional and more inspirational ways? Perhaps we need to be able to use the tools of economics to value nature more effectively and ensure the services it provides us for free – clean air, climate control, flood prevention, gene-pools, pollination services and more – do actually get factored into balance sheets when decisions are made about land use and development?

One thing I am sure of is that we need more people to be out there using some of my tools listed above. Which ones can you use to help nature? Perhaps we should be investing in training more people outside of conservation, whether in business or in retirement to pick up a conservation tool and get outside and start helping nature locally.

NWT can’t save nature on its own but with enough people’s support we can make some very big differences. Try some of these tools for yourself. They might just become habitat forming...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Beyond Blackbirds and Blue Tits: unusual garden birds to look out for this winter

Ed Parnell, Norfolk Wildlife Trust

House sparrow by Liz Dack
The results of various garden bird surveys highlight the birds we should all be seeing. But reading these lists can be disheartening – in the unpredictable world of birds it's dangerous to assume that the most commonly-recorded visitors will occur to order in everyone's garden. For example, in almost eight years living at my current Norfolk home (a semi-rural, edge of town setting) I have only seen a House Sparrow in my garden once – a fleeting event which caused great excitement despite the fact that the species can commonly be encountered a five minute walk away. Yet, during the same period a number of other species that many people would love to record on their properties have dropped in regularly to my tiny patch of lawn and its bordering jumble of overgrown willows. These birds – like the Green Woodpeckers that can regularly be seen hopping around – are always a joy, but that solitary sparrow caused my heart to race just that little bit faster. And that, I suppose, is one of the joys of watching for birds out of our kitchen windows; context is everything, and nothing is entirely predictable.

With that in mind, let's look at some of the scarcer candidates that might just be visiting your garden over the next few months. I don't mean the ultra rare – birds like the White-crowned Sparrow, a lost soul from North America that frequented a small strip of gravel driveway at Cley next the Sea in north Norfolk a few years back. No, I mean those species that can reasonably be expected to grace the average garden every now and then – depending of course on where you live, what trees and plants are in your garden, and above all sheer chance and luck.

The main contenders
Gold finch by Nick Appleton
Among the Chaffinches and Greenfinches that will visit most of our feeders this winter, there are a few other members of this delightful family liable to put in an appearance. Perhaps the most frequent to expect is the Goldfinch, now a top 10 visitor to many gardens, lured in by the promise of nyger seed and sunflower hearts. However commonplace this little finch becomes though, it should never be taken for granted – not with that stunning scarlet face and the patch of pure sunlight in its wing.

Other winter finches include the Brambling – the Scandinavian and central European cousin of the Chaffinch (think of a Chaffinch repainted in Autumnal orange shades); or the Siskin, a miniature Greenfinch with added yellows and blacks, a real scarcity for most gardens, unfortunately, but in some years and in some parts of the country (such as the southeast) a top 20 bird. Neither of these have quite made it into my own garden, though the incomparable bullfinch is always welcome in spring, even when it does feast on apple blossom. Occasionally it puts in a winter appearance too when times are tough; almost always in pairs: the vivid rouge male followed closely to the feeder by the drabber female.

Marsh tit by Bob Carpenter
 Other common visitors are Blue and Great Tits, two species with stunning plumages better suited to a tropical rainforest, a fact it's easy to forget given their familiarity. Less frequent is the Coal Tit, though most people (particularly those with conifers in close proximity to their garden) will manage to attract in this miniscule black-capped gem with a little persistence (and a lot of seed). More unusual still is the Marsh Tit, slightly larger and plainer than the Coal Tit and lacking its white central crown stripe. Its near-identical relative, the Willow Tit, is a theoretical possibility depending on geography, but Willow Tits are declining at an alarming rate across the country, making Marsh Tit the default identification choice (to be really sure listen out for the Marsh Tit's double-barrelled 'pitchou' call, rather than the buzzing scolding of the Willow – good luck with getting the birds to call when you want them to though).

What else could drop in? Well the list is long and varied... Green Woodpeckers, as mentioned earlier (Bagpuss's Professor Yaffle) are an increasingly common garden visitor, as of course are Great Spotteds – though the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the sparrow-sized equivalent of the Great, is another species suffering a worrying nationwide decline and a very unlikely garden visitor to all but a privileged few...

10 more garden greats

Goldcrest, by Mali Halls
Goldcrest – the UK's smallest bird. Easily overlooked but always possible, particularly where conifers are present.

Treecreeper by Liz Dack
Treecreeper – another easy-to-miss bird due to its cryptic plumage and unobtrusive habits. It won't come to feeders, you'll have to keep watching those tree trunks...

Jay by Liz Dack
 Jay – a loud and raucous member of the crow family. Unmistakeable and often very obvious in the autumn and early winter when they're busy retrieving cached stores of acorns from lawns.

Redwing by Robert Powell
Redwing– cold winter weather is always likely to bring this pretty Scandinavian thrush into urban areas. Plant berry bushes and look out for the distinctive cream stripe above the eye and rather less obvious dab of orange-red on the side of its breast.

Fieldfare by Duncan Macnab
Fieldfare – another Scandinavian thrush. Bigger and darker than a Redwing, with lots of grey in its plumage. Loves windfall apples.

Tawny owl by Julian Thomas
Tawny Owl – by far the most likely owl to occur in gardens, though really you need mature trees nearby. Truly nocturnal and far more likely to be heard than seen: listen out for the familiar 'tu-whit, tu-whoo', as well as the more-commonly given 'ke-wick'.  

Blackcap by Ray Jones
Blackcap – a summer migrant that now winters in increasing numbers. Males have the black cap, though it's chestnut-brown in the female.

Pheasant by Liz Dack
Pheasant – a familiar bird of farmland which increasingly visit gardens, particularly those on the edge of rural areas. Embrace their vast appetite for ground-strewn seed and admire the male's stupendous plumage.

Grey wagtail by Julian Thomas
Grey Wagtail – a wild card this one, I could have equally have chosen the black and white Pied Wagtail. Just remember: any wagtail in your garden in winter that has a dash of yellow in its plumage is a Grey Wagtail. Common bird names can be so misleading...

Waxwings by Colin Coupland
Waxwing – the holy grail for garden birdwatchers. Varies enormously in numbers as a UK visitor from one year to the next (depending on the state of its food supply in Europe): some years there's a glut, some virtually none. To have any chance of getting one in your garden get planting berry trees – Guelder Roses always seem to prove very popular with these wavy-crested visitors.