It’s interesting to compare the lists of birds seen on our two walks around the Meadows, this January and in June 2013. On both occasions, 33 different species were seen, but only 20 of those are common to both walks (cormorant, buzzard, collared dove, wood pigeon, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, dunnock, wren, robin, blackbird, song thrush, blue tit, great tit, jay, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch).
Of the rest, seven are seasonal migrants: redwing is a winter visitor to the UK; chiffchaff, swift, sand martin, house martin, blackcap and common sandpiper spend the summer with us, though a few individuals of the last two species also migrate to the UK in winter after spending their summers further north and east. Similarly, though we do have resident snipe throughout the year many more arrive from the continent in winter, so they tend to be more obvious then. The two species of gulls change habits with the seasons: black-headed disperse across the country in winter, whereas lesser black-backed will be closer to the sea at that time.
Most of the remaining birds are actually residents, but either their numbers or their habits make it less likely that you’ll see them on every visit. That covers bullfinch, moorhen, reed bunting, sparrowhawk from the summer list and little grebe, mallard, goosander, red kite, great spotted woodpecker, dipper, mistle thrush, long-tailed tit, nuthatch, raven from the winter one. Perhaps the most worrying comparison is that two birds that were once very common – house sparrow and starling – have now declined to the ‘not on every visit’ group.