In the early weeks of the course we should be able to have close views of both drake and female Goosanders at an urban site - as long as it doesn't freeze over. If that happens they will desert the site!
We are also visiting a couple of sites which traditionally hold Bitterns during the winter, but we will be very lucky to get as close to this one, as a lucky class managed at Tophill Low in March 2010.
It is a great winter for Short-eared Owls, and we will be visiting at least 3 sites, which should hold hunting individuals - a very popular bird with all participants.
Hen harriers aren't as numerous as Short-eared Owls, or as predictable, but we will be trying to see these at 2 locations. A good view of a male Hen Harrier would be a really special encounter.
Hen Harrier [female]
Drake Smews are one of the most popular aquatic birds seen during the winter months. We will be visiting the most reliable site for these birds, but this winter we are much more likely to see young or female birds, so-called Redheads.
Smew (c) 2012 Vince Cowell
One of the main focuses of the winter term are birds of prey - also known as raptors. If we are lucky we should enjoy views of Peregrine attacking large flocks of waders.
Peregrine (c) 2012 Vince Cowell
Small passerine birds are also on the menu, and one we should catch up are large flock of Lesser Redpolls. These may be accompanied by Siskins, and if we are very lucky there may be some Crossbills nearby.
One of the largest raptors we are likely to see, has become a much commoner sight in recent years. Hopefully, we will see these majestic birds soaring over our heads at a couple of locations.
Once we reach mid-February the birdsong will be becoming more obvious and we will pay special attention at attempting to differentiate the various species singing. One of the most beautiful songsters at this time of the year is the Woodlark, and hopefully we will be listening to 'Lulu' sing at a couple of venues.
Towards the end of term, and before the cliffs get too busy with humans, we will be trying to see Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars.