Wildlife along a British River – The River Wensum, Norwich
Join me as I take a wildlife walk in the snow and discover some of the amazing local wildlife along the river Wensum in Norwich.
Here is the script from the video:
I live in the city of Norwich in Norfolk and today I will be following a riverside path heading west away from the city. It wasn’t long before I got to see the first winter migrant bird.
This is a redwing. They are close relatives of blackbirds and song thrushes but unlike those species, redwings only breed in very small numbers in this country. They mainly breed in Russia, Scandinavia and Iceland but migrate to the UK around October time to spend their winters around our farmland and woodlands. During the spring and summer they eat insects worms and other invertebrates, but whilst wintering in the UK their diet consists mainly of berries.
Slightly further down the path was a bird that is becoming evermore common in Norfolk and the UK as a whole. The ring necked parakeet. These birds have colonized almost all of the country now as a result of both deliberate and accidental releases. Unfortunately, as is almost always the case, when a new species comes into an environment, it causes issues for those that are already there. Ring necked parakeets may compete with native birds for food but one of their biggest impacts is caused by their competition some species for nesting holes.
Whilst watching the parakeet, I saw one of the birds that is most susceptible to competition with them. The great spotted woodpecker. These are the most common of the three species of woodpecker found in the UK, along with the lesser spotted and the green woodpecker. Throughout the late winter they are most noticeable when they announce their presence and claim their territories by drumming on dead or hollow tree branches.
I left them to it and carried on down the riverside path, passing by the beautiful snow and ice covered Wensum Local nature reserve.
As I did, I noticed a small brown bird hurrying up the trunk of a tree. This is an aptly named treecreeper and this is the first time that I have seen one in this area. With their brilliant camouflage and small size, you cant blame me for overlooking them in the past. Treecreepers are specially adapted to clinging onto and walking up vertical and even overhanging branches and use their narrow pointed beaks to pry insects and invertebrates out from cracks within the bark.
From one small bird to another, slightly further up the path was an evergreen holly bush and Jumping hurriedly from branch to branch and leaf to leaf was a goldcrest, the smallest bird in the country. They measure 9cm from head to tail and weigh just 5 and a half grams, this is about the same as a 20 pence coin. If you’ve got good eyes you might be able to spot the yellow Mohican that gives this bird its name. Being so small they have to continuously search for food to fight off starvation.
High in the branches above was another reason for the small birds keep on the move, a predatory kestrel. Kestrels are famous for their habit of hovering on the wing looking out for prey below but a high perch gives almost the same view point but cost far less energy. In reality, small birds make up a very small portion of their diet, they usually hunt for voles, insects and worms and will even eat common lizards if they can catch them. This is the first time that I have seen a kestrel along this route but she has been spotted there quite a few times since my visit.
Behind the tree, the flooded and now frozen meadows provide sanctuary for several species of wading bird. The first that I noticed was this common snipe. These medium sized mottled brown birds have long straight bills which they use for probing beneath water, mud and in this case the ice in search of food. This is mainly invertebrates and worms which the bird swallows whole. Around 80,000 pairs of snipe breed in the UK and this is bolstered by nearly a million that migrate here for the winter, from mainland Europe.
Snipe weren’t the only big billed birds out on the meadow, there were also a small group of Curlew. These are the largest wading birds in Europe and used to be a very common site in the UK. Unfortunately this isn’t so much the case anymore. Curlew have faced massive declines, especially in the southern part of the country where it is now feared they might actually go extinct as a breeding bird. Changes in farming techniques and high levels of nest predation have both been listed as reasons for the curlews demise but hope is not lost. There are captive rearing programs and predation prevention schemes springing up across the country to try to help them.
Amongst the curlew and the snipe there was another striking bird on the meadows, the lapwing. From a distance lapwings look black and white but if you get a close view, their backs and wings are an iridescent green. They also have another distinctive marking.
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