What to Look For
There are few flowers to be found, but gorse is nearly always in bloom and common whitlowgrass (a tiny white flower), winter heliotrope, groundsel and daisies may be in flower. During warm weather some of the early butterflies may be tempted to emerge from hibernation, look for brimstone, small tortoiseshell and peacock. A few moths may also be on the wing on milder nights such as herald and angle shades.
Despite the short days some birds will have started their breeding season – ringed plovers will be displaying on the beach, great crested grebes will be going through their elaborate courtship on the pits and the cormorants will be nesting at Castle Water. Hundreds of wading birds such as oystercatchers and dunlin feed along the shore and congregate to roost on the sea bank at high tide, and gull numbers will be starting to build up.
If the winter is cold many birds will be forced south, so flocks of white-fronted geese and many ducks, especially wigeon, shoveler, teal, and perhaps pintail may be present, a rare one to look out for being the smew. In freezing weather flocks of birds may depart (e.g. lapwing), or arrive (e.g. skylark). Offshore, great crested grebe, red-throated divers and guillemot may be fishing, especially after winter storms and rafts of common scoter may be swimming in long black lines, often accompanied by eider. Gannets and flocks of Brent geese may already be starting their eastward return passage to their breeding grounds.
At Castle Water, especially near the viewpoint, there may be wintering stonechats and chiffchaff. In the reeds there look and listen for Cetti’s warbler, water rail and bearded tit. Dusk is the best time to look for the little egrets and bittern.« January | March »