Winter brings some special visitors to the Lizard. This article describes some of the bird species you can hope to see on a December day.
As with all the seasons, winter brings some special visitors to the Lizard. I love getting out on the heath on crisp winter days and am always on the look-out for overwintering birds of prey. Our regulars (Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard) are supplemented by Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier. Over the last 3 winters we have also had a wintering male Marsh Harrier – here he is flying over Windmill Farm last year:
Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls prefer hunting over downs and heathland and you can often get views of Short-eared Owls as they hunt low and fairly slow over the ground; Hen Harriers on the other hand are often gone in a flash! One really good spot to sit (with a flask of tea) is on the old WW2 Pillbox in the first field at Windmill Farm – this has views across the heath from the Lizard to Predannack.
This Short-eared Owl was around a lot last December:
The coastal paths, preferably around the cliffs, are the best sites for Merlin and Peregrine. Merlin can be tricky to identify, and therefore it may be worth having a look at the differences between Merlin, Kestrel and Peregrine. When seen in flight, size and shape are the key differentiating features; however, size can be deceptive when looking at a single individual in flight – therefore do a quick bit of research. This little beauty has been around Predannack for the last 4 weeks or so. I will let you work out what it is!
You do not have to venture out to find winter birds. As the weather gets colder and natural food sources decline you will find the birds coming to you in your garden. Obviously, feeding them will encourage them. Even in town gardens, in addition to your residents, you may see Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Blackcap and perhaps Great Spotted Woodpecker. Also, if really cold, you will see Fieldfares and Redwing – lovely visiting thrush species. If you are really lucky you may see one of my favourite birds – the Firecrest.
Published: Dec 2013
Author: Douglas Wright
Click here for information about other bird species found on the Lizard.