Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
This large waterbird once confined to coastal sites is now commonly seen further inland on lakes and reservoirs especially during the winter months when the UK has large numbers of over-wintering visitors. These birds are superb at fishing and are very competent swimmers. They will often leap into the air as they dive and disappear under the water for great lengths of time whilst they actively seek out their fish prey. They are capable of eating quite considerably sized fish and they have a vivacious appetite which often earns them the reputation of being "greedy birds".
The Cormorant does not have water-proof plumage so they are often seen with wings out-stretched drying in the sun. This lack of water-proof coating on their feathers allows the Cormorant to dive deeper than would otherwise be possible. These large fish-eaters are hated by fishermen and there are good arguments that these coastland birds should be discouraged from spreading inland where they can rapidly decimate a fish population leaving nothing for smaller fish-eating birds to prey on. Despite this numbers of Cormorants continue to rise in the UK and some fisheries actively encourage people to shoot Cormorants.
The Cormorant has an ancient and prehistoric looking appearance and is sometimes described as almost reptilian.
When swimming on the water's surface it is common for the Cormorant to swim quite low down with much of its body submerged. Swimming in this manor gives the impression of a far smaller bird until they take flight.
Coot (Fulica atra)
Slightly larger than the Moorhen but similar in shape, the Coot is sooty grey / black with a white bill and forehead. This waterbird is common across the whole of the UK except for the North of Scotland. The Coot can be found at most freshwater sources and is occasionally found on the coast when inland waters are frozen. Large numbers of Coots over-winter in the UK Juveniles tend to be grey / brown with a white throat. Much of the Coot's diet is made up from aquatic plants and grasses but they will also feed on snails and larvae found on the bed of ponds, lakes or streams.
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
The Great Crested Grebe is the largest of the European grebes and is a graceful waterbird with beautiful plumage and ornate head dressing. On land though the graceful movements on water are replaced by an awkward clumsiness. This bird was once almost hunted to extinction in the UK but has made significant recovery and can now be found sparsely across most of England and Wales. Like the Cormorant these birds dive under water to fish for their prey as well as often using this method to evade capture rather than flying. In some countries the beautiful bird is still hunted for food.
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
The Wren is commonly found across the UK particularly at woodland and farmland sites. It is a very small brown bird with short wings, a round body, long legs and a very short tail which is often turned upwards. It is often seen foraging on the ground in woodland or under bushes.
Siskin aka Eurasian / European Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
The Siskin is one of the UK's smallest finches. It has a predominantly yellow plumage with black markings. Females can appear more green than yellow though. They have a relatively long bill for a finch, as well as a forked tail. Siskins may visit gardens in the winter when peanuts are put out on bird feeders for them. They also feed from the seeds of deciduous trees such as Birch and Alder during the autumn and winter as in the photos above. When food is available these colourful finches are usually found in coniferous woodland, especially Spruce. They are acrobatic feeders and are frequently observed hanging upside down to feed on seeds. They avoid feeding from the ground where possible but when they are rearing young they will eat more insects, especially beetles to provide more protein for the growing chicks.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
These are the largest of UK Gulls. These gulls can grow to over 60cm in length with a wing-span of around 144cm. These are the typical "sea gull" and are usually found at coastal towns. They can also be seen at estuaries, lakes and at rubbish dumps. One identifying feature of this gull is the red spot seen on the lower half of their bill. These gulls are easily confused with the recently re-classified and very similar looking Yellow-Legged Gull (Larus michahellis), which until recently was considered to be a type of Herring Gull.
This Herring Gull seems to be surviving with just one leg.
Sub-Adult Herring Gulls at sunset - Herne Bay, Kent.
Common Gull (Larus canus)
Larger than the Black-Headed Gull, these gulls are usually 40-45cm in length with a wing-span of around 120cm. They are usually found at coastal towns, lakes, rivers and moors. They are also often seen on school sports fields. They have a habit of walking on the spot to mimic the sound of rain falling in order to bring worms to the surface.
Juvenile and sub-adult Common Gulls have light & dark brown plumage. They quickly reach adult size but take 3 years to reach maturity. Nests are usually made on the ground or in small trees and eggs are laid in batches of three which take 22-28 days to incubate.
The average lifespan of a Common Gull is about 10 years however through ringing some have been known to live for over 27 years in the wild.
Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Little Grebe - aka Dabchick (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
A small Grebe often seen with a fluffy rear-end. It dives for insects and small fish and will often also dive when disturbed, resurfacing some distance away. Seen in lakes, esturies and slow moving water across the UK.
All photos on this page were taken using the Canon 7D Camera and Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM lens.