Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Discover the rare spoonbill

Spoonbill (c) Wildlife Trust

The bizarre spoonbill has returned to breed in on our shores.

Although they bred in East Anglia during Medieval times, spoonbills had not bred in Britain for over 300 years until 2010...

Similar in build to a grey heron though slightly smaller, the spoonbill’s plumage is completely white except in the breeding season when adults show a small patch of yellowish feathers on their chest.  In the summer mature birds also have a rather fetching, shaggy crest at the back of their head. But by far their most noticeable feature is the one for which they are named – that enormous, spatula-like bill.  Spoonbills generally feed in flocks, swinging their heads from side to side through shallow pools of water.  This is where the remarkable bill comes into its own: held slightly open it is packed full of sensors that detect minute vibrations and, once located, unlucky beetles, crustaceans, worms, small fish – even tadpoles and frogs – stand no chance of escape.

One of the most handsome birds to visit our shores is also our most recent avian colonist.  Although they bred in East Anglia during Medieval times, spoonbills had not bred in Britain for over 300 years until, in 2010, a colony was discovered on the north Norfolk coast, where six pairs raised ten chicks. Conservationists crossed their fingers that the birds (originating from the Netherlands) would return again, which, gratifyingly, is what happened; eight pairs bred, successfully fledging 14 young. They are now a regular summer visitor.

One final word of caution: to see that famous bill you may well have to be patient.  Spoonbills are notorious for spending large amounts of time asleep, their heads tucked frustratingly under a wing – the first view many birdwatchers have of the species is of a rather undistinguished group of white lumps sat on a muddy spit!  Later in the day is often a good time to catch them being more active (they’re actually partly nocturnal), swinging their heads in characteristic, almost synchronised fashion.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…Spoonbills are frequent summer visitors to other coastal lagoons and large wetlands in the south and east of England.

Special spots

Because the nesting birds are easily disturbed it’s not possible for visitors to view the breeding colony.  However, this isn’t a problem as the spoonbills (including a large number of non-breeding individuals) feed in sizeable flocks along the Norfolk coast.  The best site is probably Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes ,where a record flock of 30 birds was recorded in 2014.  Here the shallow pools and scrapes are an ideal place for the birds to feed, and they can often be watched at close-quarters from the comfort of numerous viewing hides. 

Dorset, Brownsea Island

Suffolk, Hazlewood Marshes

Spoonbill in flight © Brian Macfarlane

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