Winter offers a whole new world of wildlife spotting

by | 9 December 2023 | Retford, Wildlife

Winter is a great time to watch ducks, geese and swans. Winter delivers the highest numbers of birds and the males, known as drakes, are resplendent in their brightest plumage. If visiting a wetland area such as the Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve, off North Road on the edge of Retford, look out for flocks of migratory geese or flocks of less common ducks such as goldeneye, goosander and pintail.

Roe Deer, Jon Hawkins

Heading out for a walk after a dusting of snow opens a whole new world of wildlife spotting – thanks to the opportunity to look out for the tracks of mammals such as fox, deer, badger and even otter.

When you’ve exhausted the opportunities presented by looking down at the ground, Winter is a great time to look up to the treetops. There will be many birds forming winter roosts as large gatherings high in the trees provide distinct benefits for birds, namely safety in numbers and much needed warmth. Birds to look out for include corvids such as rooks, crows and jackdaws. The sight of a large corvid roost massing is a real spectacle and when you add in the tremendous noise, it becomes a wildlife experience not to be missed. The best time to track down bird roosts is about an hour before sunset – look out for small flocks of birds all heading in the same direction towards safe roost spots. A good place to head is our Besthorpe Nature Reserve west of Newark, between the villages of Collingham and Besthorpe – where the island in the main lake – Mons Pool, is home to a sizable roost.

Don’t forget, there are also natural treats to experience from the comfort of your garden or even, in the case of listening to tawny owls, from inside your house. Tawnys are noisiest in December – so listen out for their familiar ‘twit twoo’ call. Concentrate and you might distinguish between the sharp ‘ke-wick’ call of the female and wavering ‘hoohoo’ of the male.

Rooks, Mike Vickers

Whilst you’ll need to wrap up warm, winter really can be a wonderful time for watching wildlife and although not everyone is lucky enough to have time off around Christmas, many do, providing an ideal opportunity to get out exploring. A stroll to work off some of the calories after Christmas lunch or a brisk Boxing Day walk are part of many people’s seasonal traditions – so why not head out to see what wildlife you can spot too?

Stay connected

Further details about Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, events and campaigns, as well as information on a wide-range of native species can be found at

Main image: Goldeneye, Mike Vickers