CHRISTMAS is a time of tradition involving gifts, visiting relatives, bringing trees into houses, singing carols and fattening up on turkey, sausage rolls and mince pies. One of the finest traditions is surely a Christmas Day stroll to work up an appetite or walk off those generous food portions. Forget snoozing on the sofa, why not make time to get out in the fresh air and while doing so keep lists of wildlife spotted on Christmas Day?
What you see will depend on how much daylight is left and where you live. A morning pre-lunch walk will yield more creatures than a twilight excursion. Inevitably, birds will dominate, although foxes drawn by cooking smells can be easily visible and grey squirrels will still be seeking nuts to stash.
Robins, one of our major festive symbols, alight from Christmas cards to be one of the few birds singing in gardens over the holiday. They should be visible along with starlings, magpies, crows, woodpigeons, tits and possibly woodpeckers and jays. Put out bird-food and your list will multiply.
Head for the local park where a lake should add gulls, moorhens, coots, a variety of ducks and possibly grey heron and cormorant to the haul. Aim for 20 species in an hour if the weather is ok. Make the walk interesting for children by offering prizes for the longest list and the rarest creature or bird seen.
There is no better place to keep lists than The Birdwatcher's Yearbook for 2022. It contains checklists of birds, butterflies and dragonflies with boxes to tick whenever you spot a new species. Space to log observations daily is complemented by a guide to 380 nature reserves, birding events diary, tide tables, directories of wildlife organisations, optical equipment companies, wildlife hospitals, birds of conservation concern, tide tables and other information all book-ended by articles on the status of birds of prey, the year's best wildlife books and local birdwatching.
In short this encyclopaedia-style annual contains everything you could wish to know about birdwatching and provides perfect facilities for record-keeping. The only wildlife book I use every day of the year, it is absolutely indispensable. The Birdwatcher's Yearbook, published by Calluna Books, costs GBP22 but may be obtained by readers of this column at a discount by ordering direct from editor Neil Gartshore on 01929 552 560 or [email protected]
Merry Christmas and happy wildlife watching in 2022.