Winter nature walks: what to spot in the woods

Two young boys and an older girl exploring a snowy woodland
Head out and explore a wintry wood (Photo: iStock.com/Imgorthand)

Winter may not seem like prime time for nature spotting, but there’s plenty to see if you just keep your eyes peeled. So wrap up in your warmest woollies, pull on your wellies and see how many of these you can tick off in the coming weeks.

Birds searching for food

Male chaffinch
Spot flocks of chaffinches searching for food (Photo: Dave Foker/WTML)

Food is harder to come by in winter so birds need to spend more time out and about searching.

Look out for flocks of chattering chaffinches and bramblings, bullfinches sporting bright red chest feathers, and visitors from chillier climes, such as redwings and fieldfares. In woods with lots of conifers, you may spot the yellow-striped heads of little goldcrests. And of course, there are lots of cute little robins around.

Our wild woodland birds spotter will help you identify some of them, and you can see pictures of winter visitors on our migration blog.

Winter berries – mistletoe and holly

Mistletoe
Mistletoe grows high in the tree tops (Photo: iStock.com/Rike_)

It certainly brightens up a winter’s day when you come across a holly bush covered in cheery red berries.

And if you’re very lucky, you might even spot some mistletoe. Look out for balls of greenery covered in clusters of waxy, white berries, growing high in the bare branches of host trees – it’s a semi-parasitic plant which takes water and minerals from the tree it grows on.

A starling murmuration

Starling murmuration at sunset
Watch for swirling starling murmurations at dusk (Photo: iStock.com/georgeclerk)

If you’re out an about at dusk, you may be treated to one of nature’s most spectacular sights – a huge black cloud of starlings twisting and turning in the sky.

The amazing aerobatic display is probably a way of attracting other starlings so they can all get together and snuggle up in their communal roost to keep warm. You can find out more about murmurations in our blog.

Winter flowers - honeysuckle, gorse and snowdrops

Snowdrops in snow
Keep your eyes peeled for early snowdrops (Photo: Deborah Morris/WTML)

Some plants flower throughout winter. You might see splashes of bright yellow gorse on moors and woodland edges; white winter honeysuckle in parks and gardens; and perhaps even early crocuses and snowdrops that have been fooled into flowering by a mild spell.

Nests in the trees

Birds nests in a winter tree
Crows nest high in the tree tops (Photo: Adrian Yeo/WTML)

Once the leaves have gone, you may see abandoned bird’s nests in the branches. The birds will have found somewhere cosy to hunker down during the freezing nights, or perhaps they’ve flown off to a warmer country.

If you see a large untidy nest with lots of twigs and leaves poking out, it might be a squirrel’s drey. They make sturdier, warmer nests to snooze in over the winter. Why not take along our animal homes spotter sheet to help you see where other animals are hiding too?

Weird and wonderful winter fungi

Jelly fungus on a tree trunk
Find fungi in winter too! (Photo: Kayleigh Jacobs-Rutter/WTML)

Some of our most colourful fungi appears in winter. Look out for little scarlet elf cups among the leaf litter, bright yellow brain fungus sprouting from branches, and purple jelly fungus on rotting wood. Check out our fungi ID for more.

Finally, running around on a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep warm. Why not try our winter scavenger hunt and see what you can spy among the trees...

And remember to post pictures of your winter sightings using #NatureDetectives.

What did you spot on your winter walk?

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