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RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes, November 2008

Posted: 14/10/2008

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, we put on extra layers and do outdoor jobs that will keep us warm, then go indoors to our heated homes, switching on lights so that we can continue doing whatever we do until it is time for bed. What do wild creatures do?

Reptiles, amphibians and some insects and mammals hibernate or sleep through the cold, lean times. Others move closer to people, finding food and shelter near (or even in) our homes and other buildings. Many insects have completed their life cycle and die, having produced eggs or larvae that will survive the winter, and emerge as adults next spring butterflies are just one example.

Many birds migrate to warmer climates, where they will be able to find plenty of food. Birds that spent the summer eating our insects such as swallows have moved to Africa. Many water birds breed close to the Arctic Circle, feeding in the long daylight hours of the northern summer on plants or insects, but they must move south before the ground freezes or is covered in deep snow. These include many of the ducks and wading birds that you can see now at Fen Drayton Lakes.

Although the days are short, our winter climate usually has very few periods when the ground or lakes freeze for several days at a time, so most birds will feed throughout the day, storing enough calories to keep them warm through the night. If the weather changes for the worse or we get deep floods then the birds will move on, looking for a local place first, before using up their stored energy on a longer journey.

Wigeons are grazing ducks, and they are often joined on the fields at night by other ducks. So long as there is some moonlight, or starlight, they can see well enough to spot foxes trying to creep up on them. Lapwings and golden plovers also forage at night (for worms and beetles) in the large fields with bare soil or very short crops, keeping well away from the hedges that may conceal predators.

The birds that visit our gardens face similar challenges in finding enough food to survive. Each time they are disturbed, whether it is by a fox, a dog, a cat, a person or a vehicle, they must use up valuable energy to escape.

We can all help our garden birds, by providing them with food. A range of food will attract a wider variety of bird species starlings will clean up scraps on the lawn, finches love sunflower hearts, and mixed seeds will be popular with house sparrows. Dried fruit, bruised apples and grated suet will encourage robins, blackbirds and song thrushes to your garden. Clean, fresh water is also important, both for drinking and for bathing. Clean feathers are much more efficient for flight and insulation.

Wetland Walkabouts
Join us for a guided walk in search for winter birds. We start from the Elney Lake car park, with the wooden viewing screen, about a quarter mile from Fen Drayton village, just beyond the recreation ground.
3 (1 concession or child half-price to all RSPB members)
Wednesday 5 November 10am-12.30pm
Thursday 20 November 10am-12.30pm

Neil Renwick 01954 233267 [email protected]


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