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

Hail the success of avocets

Avocet family (c) Amy Lewis

Once a great rarity, the avocet now has top billing on many coastal marshes.

Time your visit for the very start of June to get the best chance of seeing the newly hatched chicks

The avocet is the epitome of elegance. Looking very dapper in black and white (or should that be white and black?), with a neat black cap and characteristic up-curved beak.  Birds of shallow coastal lagoons, estuaries and increasingly inland wetlands, avocets wade in the water, sweeping that beak peacefully back and forth to catch the small invertebrate life that makes up their diet: a picture of early summer calm and tranquillity.

But appearances can be deceptive.  The avocet may give the impression of being the elegant aristocrat, but in fact he is a pugilistic bully.  Once nesting starts, it takes very little to make the avocet see red.  A passing crow or harrier will be mobbed by shrieking adults, great gangs of them dive bombing the predator until it retreats.  Other waders are chased off remorselessly: no redshank or oystercatcher stands a chance with a noisy nesting avocet around. Passing families of shelducks are given short shrift too, with the angry avocets driving the unwitting intruders off, adults and ducklings alike.

Always an uncommon bird, the avocet became extinct in Britain in the 19th century. A century later, parts of the east coast were flooded as military defences during the Second World War and while the expected German invasion never materialised, avocets did, taking advantage of these new wetlands to nest.  Thanks to the work of conservation bodies including The Wildlife Trusts, this unmistakeable black and white wader is now firmly established on our coasts and wetlands and is familiar to everyone as a symbol of bird conservation.

How to do it

Time your visit for the very start of June to get the best chanceof seeing the newly hatched chicks, little balls of mottled grey fluff tottering around on oversized blue feet, complete with upturned beak.Binoculars are essential.

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…During their migration in April and May, avocets can turn up on gravel pits and wetlands anywhere, so keep your eyes peeled.

Special spots

Be wowed by the UK’s first successful inland breeding avocets in land-locked Worcestershire.  Since 2003, avocets have been returning to the saline Flashes pools at The Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve at Upton Warren each spring to breed.  Although you won’t see their food, we think they’re eating mainly midge larvae and ongoing research shows that some of the midges and other invertebrate species at Upton Warren are rather rare in the UK and would normally be found in Africa and the Middle East. So while you’re enjoying the graceful but feisty parents, you can ponder how the midges got here... 

Cambridgeshire, Grafham Water

Essex,  Blue House Farm  (where birds usually nest in front of one of the hides)

Lancashire Brockholes

Lincolnshire, Far Ings

Lincolnshire, Gibraltar Point

Norfolk Cley Marshes

Norfolk Hickling Broad

Rutland, Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Norfolk, Holme Dunes

Suffolk, Dingle Marshes

Sussex, Rye Harbour

Yorkshire, Kilnsea Wetlands

Yorkshire, North Cave Wetlands

Avocet © Neil Aldridge

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