Whilst winter wildlife watching might require an extra layer or two to ensure that you can enjoy nature without freezing to the spot, there are a wealth of natural spectacles to enjoy that are capable of warming your heart – if not your fingers and toes.
A visit to a wetland site such as our Idle Valley or Daneshill Lakes reserves near Retford will provide opportunities to enjoy a wide range of winter wildfowl including swans, geese and a myriad of ducks; whilst a walk in a woodland such as Dyscarr Wood at Langold, north of Worksop, or Treswell Wood between the villages of Treswell and Grove on the outskirts of Retford, will provide opportunities to see a range of birds and as well as bracket fungi on the trunks of trees, plus the delight of enjoying the low winter sun flickering through the canopy.
If visiting Idle Valley, the area north of the centre alongside the River Idle (known as Tiln North) can be a great place to watch short-eared owls hunting for voles and other small mammals. A trip to Treswell Wood, or Eaton and Gamston Woods nearby offer the prospect of a ‘nut hunt’ as you use your detective skills to work out whether the hazel nut shells on the ground have been opened by a squirrel or one of our resident dormice, introduced to the three woods as part of a nationwide reintroduction project. Whilst voles and mice also eat hazel nut, the dormouse’s favourite food, dormouse chewed nuts have a smooth inner rim around the hole with no obvious tooth marks on the surface of the shell.
You’re unlikely to spot a dormouse when visiting the woods, but during the winter they definitely won’t be on show as the will be hibernating deep in the undergrowth but you may well see a squirrel or two seeking out nuts and seeds or even burying a supply for later in the winter. Colourful jays can also be seen burying acorns and it is believed that these impressive birds, along with squirrels, are responsible for a good proportion of natural woodland regeneration thanks to the fact that they don’t always need their winter stores, or forget where they buried them – giving the acorns a wonderful head start on those simply scattered on the ground.
For details of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves across the county as well as campaigns and events, visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Images © Kevin Sewell, Mike Vickers, Tom Marshall