There are a wide range of birds that start their nesting and breeding activities in the winter months when many other birds are just trying to survive the freezing conditions.
The wood pigeon for example have been recorded breeding in every month of the year. The availability of food such as fallen grain from farming may account for this. This is also true for feral pigeons which benefit from food in our towns and cities.
Other birds such as dippers and the heron can have eggs in the nest in February and March and are able to capitalise on fish and water invertebrates available in rivers and on the coast all year round. Eagles too will start to establish territories and refurbish their nests during the winter period.
We have recently been surveying on a site in Perthshire for Scottish crossbills, a species which specialises in extracting seeds from conifer cones and nests on the edges of plantations and forests in the north in the winter months. Regular surveys have help to establish breeding status and allow works to progress uninterrupted.
As a Schedule 1 species with special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the need for a buffer of 150m around nest sites to prevent disturbance, their presence can have a significant impact on projects.
(Images courtesy of John Young and Shutterstock (Crossbill))