Welcome to the BBOWT blog

Get an insider's view into the work of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. Find out what conservation work we're carrying out and meet some of the wonderful people, from our reserves staff to our trainees, that are behind everything we do.

Email updates

Sign up to get new posts in your RSS Reader

Smartphone Safari

Every weekend on BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Radio Oxford we broadcast a Smartphone Safari. Listen along as we explore some of our fantastic reserves and introduce you to the wildlife you can see. 

My Wild Wish

What are your 2018 wishes for wildlife? Take a look at #MyWildWish collection created by the BBOWT team and friends. 

Back to blog listings

Our top 10 wildlife sightings in January

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Thursday 21st December 2017 by bbowtblog

Moss by Philip Precey. Snowdrops by Andy Fairbairn. Water rail by Neil Aldridge

From early spring flowers and farmland birds to frosty footprints there’s plenty to look out for this month. Will you spot all 10 on our list?

1 Snowdrops

Drifts of snowdrops poking up through the woodland floor and along riverbanks are a welcome sight in cold winter months. They generally flower between January and March and are a sure sign that spring will return again. Have you seen any yet?

2 Mosses

Did you know there are more than 400 species of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) found in Berks, Bucks and Oxon? Winter is a great time to learn more about these tiny plants, which can be found in a variety of habitats including woodland, grassland, heathland, dead wood and rocks.

Local expert Peter Creed is leading a series of moss walks this winter. The first one is on Sunday 21 January at Warburg Nature Reserve near Henley. Learn more about the mosses in Berks, Bucks and Oxon with Peter’s guide book.

3 Water rail

Water rails are heard more frequently than seen as they skulk around in reedbeds and other wetland habitats looking for snails, insects and small fish to eat. Listen out for a ‘squealing pig’ in reeds and you’ll be close to a water rail!

4 Cetti's warbler

Another bird that skulks around in scrub close to water is the Cetti’s warbler. It can be tricky to see but loud bursts of song give away its location. Once you’ve heard a burst of bubbling song, look for a small-medium sized dark, stocky bird with an upright tail flitting around dense bushes.

5 Bittern

The last ‘hard-to-spot in the reeds’ bird on our list is a winter visitor in our counties. Bitterns are herons that are well-camouflaged in amongst reeds with their streaky buff and brown plumage. They’re often easiest to see when they fly over the reeds before descending down again to hunt for fish. Look out for bitterns at Weston Turville Reservoir and Calvert Jubilee, both in Bucks.

In spring the males make a booming noise to attract a mate, which can carry far over the reeds: 

6 Linnet

Linnets are small finches that gather in large flocks in winter. They are on the British Trust for Ornithology’s red list as a bird of conservation concern as the population in the UK has fallen in the last few decades.

Look out for them in the countryside, feeding on seeds in arable fields and farmland. Wells Farm is a working farm that’s run by BBOWT in harmony with nature. Seed-bearing crops in winter provide food and shelter for linnets and other finches during the cold months.

Listen to their melodious springtime song here:

7 Yellowhammer

This bunting used to be abundant in hedges and farms across the UK. It is usually recognised by the male’s bright yellow head, and a distinctive high-pitched song described by some as saying ‘a little bit of bread and no cheeeeeese’.

However, recently populations have declined dramatically, more than halving since 1970, largely due to changes in farming practice. BBOWT is working with farmers to make ‘bird-friendly’ areas, to grow crops that provide seeds in winter and to restore and maintain the hedgerows that offer yellowhammers a home.

8 Lapwing

Lapwings have a distinctive flight, swooping and swerving overhead showing flashes of black and white wings, accompanied by their ‘pee-wit’ call. These ground nesting birds are now on the British Trust for Ornithology’s red list as a bird of conservation concern as the population in the UK has fallen in the last few decades.

Look for them in open country, such as farmland or marshy grassland including the Upper Ray Meadows, College Lake and Hosehill Lake.

9 Rooks

Rooks are often seen in large flocks feeding on the ground, where they hunt for worms and insects or seeds. At dusk in winter they gather in large numbers to roost in trees, these gatherings are known as ‘rookeries’.

All the black corvids can be tricky to tell apart at first glance, but here are some tips: Unlike rooks, crows are often seen singly or in pairs and these birds are completely black including their bill. The Dutch name for a rook is ‘mouldy bill’ as their bills are grey. Jackdaws are smaller black birds, with a greyish head and pale eye. The largest black bird you may see in our area is a raven, which has a diamond-shaped tail in flight and a distinctive ‘cronking’ call.

10 Bird and animal tracks

On cold, frosty days head out early and see if you can spot animal prints on the ground. Which birds and animals have been roaming around? Many of our mammals, such as badgers and stoats, are secretive and hard to spot. Cold, snowy or muddy ground is a good place to look for signs they’ve been active while we’ve been sleeping. This handy guide will help you identify whose footprints you’ve spotted.  

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this season.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

Read bbowtblog's latest blog entries.