Winter wildlife: what to spot

Fox walking through a snowy woodland
What wildlife will you spot this winter? (Photo: Nick Spurling/WTML)

Winter’s great for wildlife spotting! Animals and birds need to spend more time out and about searching for food as there’s not so much around. And because the trees are bare and other greenery has died back, they’re easier to see.

All this means there’s more opportunity for some special sightings over the coming months. Here are a few creatures to look out for.

Foxes

Foxes are nocturnal (active at night), but as their mating season approaches, they tend to be out more in the daytime. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled to spot them among the rusty red autumn leaves though! At this time of year, you may also be woken up in the night by the eerie screeching noises they make to defend their territory.

Birds of prey visiting your garden

Female sparrowhawk on a post
Look out for sparrowhawks in your garden (Photo: Northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Don’t forget to put out some food for our feathered friends over winter – make our bird feeder and use our bird ID to identify all the hungry visitors.

You may get some birds of prey dropping by too to snack on the smaller birds that gather there. Look out for sparrowhawks – males are blue-grey with orangey-brown stripes across their fronts, while females have brown backs and wings with brown stripes across their chests and tummies. They’re adapted to hunting in small spaces, so are perfectly suited to hunting in gardens. There’ll be quite a panic and commotion if one arrives!

Ducks and geese

Many of these birds fly in from colder countries to spend the winter here so you’ll see lots more of them on lakes and ponds. Look out for the drakes (male ducks), who are often wearing their most colourful plumage over the winter to attract females for breeding. For example, the mallard (one of our resident ducks), has a beautiful, iridescent green head.

Barn owls

Barn owl flying through a snowy landscape
Spot barn owls at dusk (Photo: Dave Foker/WTML)

The beautiful barn owl usually hunts at night but in winter it often extends its hunting into daylight hours too. It often lives in areas of open farmland and you may spot one scanning the field edges and hedgerows for mice and voles just before it gets dark.

Barn owls have excellent hearing so you could try making little squeaky noises just like a mouse – an owl might just come to investigate!

Try wildlife tracking

Winter’s also the perfect time to hone your tracking skills. Even if you don’t see the animal itself, you can find plenty of signs that it’s been around. Head out armed with our animal track ID and poo ID, and check out our winter wildlife tracking blog for more useful tips.

Don’t forget, you can find out more about how nature prepares for winter in our blog too!

We’d love to hear about your winter wildlife spots. Tell us all about them by using #NatureDetectives.

What animals did you spot?

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