The yellow wagtail is a small, graceful, yellow and green bird, with a medium-length tail and slender black legs. It spends much time walking or running on the ground. As its name implies, it wags its tail from time to time.
It is a summer visitor, migrating to winter in Africa. It breeds in a variety of habitats in the UK, including arable farmland, wet pastures and upland hay meadows. Serious declines in breeding numbers across all of these habitats place the yellow wagtail on the red list of birds of conservation concern.
Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. The screaming call usually lets you know a jay is nearby and it is usually given when a bird is on the move, so watch for a bird flying between the trees with its distinctive flash of white on the rump. Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter.
A colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green makes the blue tit one of our most attractive and most recognisable garden visitors. In winter, family flocks join up with other tits as they search for food. A garden with four or five blue tits at a feeder at any one time may be feeding 20 or more.
The skylark is a small brown bird, somewhat larger than a sparrow but smaller than a starling. It is streaky brown with a small crest, which can be raised when the bird is excited or alarmed, and a white-sided tail. The wings also have a white rear edge, visible in flight. It is renowned for its display flight, vertically up in the air. Its recent and dramatic population declines make it a Red List species.
The blackcap is a distinctive greyish warbler, the male has a black cap, and the female a chestnut one. Its delightful fluting song has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale’. Although primarily a summer visitor birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.
The redwing is most commonly encountered as a winter bird and is the UK’s smallest true thrush. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make it distinctive.
They roam across the UK’s countryside, feeding in fields and hedgerows, rarely visiting gardens, except in the coldest weather when snow covers the fields. Only a few pairs nest in the UK. It is listed as a Schedule 1 species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act.
The common (or mealy) redpoll is a small finch. It is larger and paler than the very similar lesser redpoll. It is streaky brown above and whitish below with black streaks, and shows two white lines on the folded wing. It doesn’t breed in the UK, but is a passage migrant and winter visitor, particularly to the east coast.