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Flying Wigeon

We are often told that January is the month most associated with the ‘winter blues’; find out why January is also one of the toughest months of the year for the Solent’s birds.

With cold and dreary winter weather, memories of Christmas fading, sore bank accounts and a bit of a bulge around the waist, then it’s not surprising that January can be a time when people suffer with the winter blues. Connecting with nature(Opens in a new window) has been scientifically proven to support your mental health, so we thought we would offer you an alternative view of January – a bird’s eye view!

Thousands of waders and wildfowl travel to the Solent from all over the world as it is an excellent winter refuge. It has extensive feeding grounds and offers shelter from the harshest of the Atlantic weather, both important for winter survival. Some birds such as black-tailed godwit arrive in the Solent as early as August – having raised their young in Iceland between April and July. Other species such as brent geese start arriving in October as they breed later in the year. As the winter goes on, more and more birds arrive on the Solent shores. January, in particular, is the coldest month of the year in our region with average minimum temperatures of just 3 degrees along our coast. Elsewhere in Europe at this time of year, freezing temperatures will mean that feeding grounds are frozen, forcing many more geese and ducks to relocate to our shores to feed.

However, this excellent refuge – our beautiful Solent coastline – is a victim of its own success… The large volumes of birds trying to survive are all competing for the same feeding spots and resting places AND at the time of year with the shortest daylight hours. Many birds rely on feeding by eyesight such as turnstone and grey plover, so every minute of daylight makes a difference to their survival. Any interruption or disturbance at this time of year is particularly damaging as the birds have so many factors against them in their daily fight for survival. Thankfully with the shortest day, 21st December, behind us it is onwards and upwards from now on for both us and the birds!

If you find yourself battling with the mid-winter blues you could try turning to nature for comfort. Being such an important site to birds, it is not surprising that the Solent coast is internationally protected and there are many places where you can see literally hundreds of birds on any given winter’s day. The Bird Aware website has a wealth of information on the many you can see, a handy leaflet available for download on the Coastal Code page to help you recognise the different varieties without disturbing them, and all our upcoming events are listed. Why not make learning more about the amazing Solent coastline your New Year’s resolution…?