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Bird watching in the Millennium Country Park

Images of birds in the Millennium Country Park, Marston Moretaine

For the dedicated and experienced birder, the Millennium Country Park is full of interest at any time of year – there’s always something to see, hear and enjoy. Occasionally we are visited by unusual or downright rare birds that are either attracted to the mix of special habitats crammed into the Park’s 225 hectares or perhaps just brought in accidentally by wild weather.

Chaffinch - a common bird of garden and country park

Chaffinch – a common bird of garden and country park

But you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy a visit to the Park. It’s a tranquil place to be and it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the sight and sound of birds without being able to put a name to all or even any of them. Having a bit of information available can make a visit more fun, so we thought it would be worth putting up some general facts which might be helpful and perhaps encourage you to have a look for yourself. It should also help you to be looking out for the right birds in the right place at the right time of year.

Other wildlife too – there’s also information about some of our more unusual plants and the dragonflies and butterflies that can be seen around the Country Park.

General

Birds tend to be fairly predictable. Species are often found in the same types of places or habitats. For example in your average garden, there are likely to be blackbirds, chaffinches, house sparrows, blue tits, robins and great tits. There may well be the occasional woodpecker, perhaps a chiff-chaff or two in spring and if you’ve a pond, you might be upset to see a heron pinching your goldfish. It’s less likely however, that you’ll be seeing lapwings from your kitchen window, but they are reasonably common in the Country Park, if you know where to look.

Lapwing - a beautiful wader seen fairly regularly in the Millennium Country Park

Lapwing – a beautiful wader seen fairly regularly in the Millennium Country Park

So which birds are to be seen where in the Country Park? (and when?)

We have produced 4 simple maps of the Park, each showing the locations in which various bird species could be seen at each season. These are general guides and there will be exceptions, but they they should give you a good start in making sure you are looking in the right places and at the right time of year.

Click on the links to download a pdf map for each season

Spring          Summer           Autumn              Winter

More information that may help

Time of day- at any time of the year, birds tend to be more active around dawn and dusk, when they sing to proclaim territories (usually in spring), or just to announce their continued presence. Being out and about at dawn in spring and early summer means a very early start,

Common tern - a summer visitor to the Country Park's Wetland Trail (image Neil Wright)

Common tern – a summer visitor to the Country Park’s Wetland Trail (image Neil Wright)

but it’s always worth the effort – dawn’s a magical time of day. If you are looking for insects like butterflies and dragonflies, choose a still, warm day if you can, and you’ll have more chance of seeing them flying in the middle of the day, when the weather’s likely to be at its warmest.

What to wear – you don’t really need any special clothes to enjoy a day with nature in the Country Park, although there are plenty of lovely things to choose from if you fancy some! If you are getting up early, wrap up warm because even in spring it can be very cold at that time of day. Another reason to make sure you dress warmly is that you may well spend long periods not moving much. Choose clothes and especially a coat in which you can move around quietly – lots of waterproof gear rustles!

Camouflage? If you like, but unless you are planning to crawl about in the undergrowth it’s not essential. Most animals see colours differently from us and don’t see bright colours like we do.

‘Optics’ – binoculars and telescopes (‘bins’ & ‘scopes’)

You’ll enjoy a walk around the Park and the Wetland Trail with just your eyes on their own. But it is definitely true that a good pair of binoculars makes identification of birds easier. If you get a good view of a bird, binoculars will really help appreciate its beauty. A telescope takes things further.

Join a bird walk in the Millennium Country Park for lots of information, good advice and good company

Join a bird walk in the Millennium Country Park for lots of information, good advice and good company

There is nothing quite like seeing a bird through a powerful scope. Don’t forget that binoculars can also be very useful for getting a close up view of butterflies, dragonflies and even flowers.

Bins and scopes can be very expensive, they are pretty fragile, are heavy and can be a real nuisance to carry until you get used to them.  If you are thinking of buying – look at lots and get some independent advice from people who know what they are talking about.

Guided bird walks

There are regular bird and nature walks in the Millennium Country Park through the year. These excellent walks are led by Forest Volunteers – people who know the bird species in the Park very well and are delighted to share their enthusiasm for it. There are often some spare binoculars to borrow and you will probably have a chance to look through some wonderful scopes. Walks start from the Forest Centre and details are always advertised through the Forest’s web site. There is a small charge for these walks. Please book in advance, through the Centre’s reception (01234 767037) but pay the leader on the day.

Enjoy your visit to the Wetland Trail. Why not let everyone know what you see through Facebook and Twitter.

@forest-centre   

 

If you get into birding, there are plenty of organisations that you might consider joining. Bedford Bird Club is a great source of information about birds in the county – lots of information here



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