Woodland walks: what to see in winter

Snowy trees and gate
Head outside this winter and see what you can discover in the woods (Photo: Jame Corey/WTML)

Go for a walk in the woods this winter. You might be lucky enough to be out while it’s snowing but even if not, this time of year gives nature lovers a great opportunity to spot and discover all sorts of plants, animals and habitats. These are some of the things I spotted on my woodland walk.


Alder cones on a winter tree
Look out for frosty cones (Photo: Jane Corey/WTML)

Winter trees are a spectacle to behold. They not only look amazing but are host to a whole range of life, including squirrels, birds, fungi and climbers. And not to mention the cones, nuts and seeds growing on them like baubles.

I downloaded the Woodland Trust tree ID app before I went out and used it to identify trees using bare twigs, bark, seeds and needles. It also helped me to find out a lot more about the trees and woods as I walked.


Birds are all over if you know where to look for them. Some are easy to spot, like blackbirds or crows and jackdaws. You’ll see them walking or bouncing around on the ground looking for food, or flying into hedgerows.

Buzzard in tree
Have you seen any buzzards? (Photo: Amy Lewis/WTML)

Buzzards are becoming more common in the UK but were once quite rare in some parts of the country. Now they’re making a comeback and it’s not uncommon in the rural areas of Lincolnshire to see buzzards circling above the fields. I see around three or four of them in the fields where I live.

In the summer they tend to stay in the woods where they nest, but during the winter, they come out onto the fields in search of worms as there aren’t a lot of other things for them to eat. Look for them perching on branches and fence posts.

I see so many pheasants where I live that it is easy to forget that they are not a native animal. They originally came from Asia but were brought here as a game bird. I often hear them before I see them as they have a really loud call. The males strut about showing off their amazing colours and long tails.


Fallow deer in winter woods
Keep your eyes peeled for deer (Photo: D Monrose/WTML)

Deer are not easy to spot but when the trees are bare and the foliage isn’t thick, it’s much easier to spot them.

They’re shy and secretive but, if you live somewhere near woodlands and fields, you’re more likely to see them returning to the woods after eating grass in fields.

Look out for their white bottoms as they leap through the grass! Just remember to stay very still.


King Alfred's cakes
Spot fungi on rotting logs (Photo: Northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Some fungi are around all year but they are far easier to see in winter. That's because they like damp conditions and there's less foliage hiding them!

So don't worry about cold winter rain - it creates the perfect conditions for a fungi hunt!

Look out for them on rotting logs and peeping up through the grass.

Birds’ nests

Birds nests in a winter tree
Spot nests in the trees (Photo: Adrian Yeo/WTML)

Birds’ nests are probably one of the most common things you will come across as you look up into the bare trees and bushes around you.

In the summer you usually don’t see them, but when the branches are bare they are much more visible.

Don’t mistake a bird’s nest for a grey squirrel’s drey. They look very similar but dreys tend to be bigger and are more like an untidy ball not a nest.

Badger and other animal tracks in mud and snow

Badger footprints in mud
Look out for badger tracks in mud and frost (Photo: WTML)

There might be the odd occasion you come across a badger’s sett or even a badger itself in the evening.

If you want to locate their den, look out for badger tracks in the mud or snow. They may lead you to the sett, but at the very least, you can work out where they’ve been going. You might see other tracks too – take the Nature Detectives animal track spotter sheet to help you discover who’s out and about.

When you’re walking through the woods and you see a wild animal, make sure not to disturb them or their homes and habitats.

Things to take with you on a winter woodland walk

You don’t really need anything – just wrap up warm and enjoy it. But if you want to get a bit more serious you could bring:

  • binoculars
  • mobile phone to take and share photographs. You might also want to download the Woodland Trust tree ID app before you go
  • ID books
  • dogs, if you have them. Yes they might disturb some of the wildlife (which you want to avoid) but can also lead you to places you usually wouldn’t go. My dogs did that and I found some amazing snow-covered scenery!

Head to the Woodland Trust shop to get your hands on a set of pocket-sized ID books. They’re really easy to use and are chock full of great images and fantastic facts – the perfect partner to a winter wander!

What have you spotted?

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