Whether you choose to make spending more time in nature part of your New Year’s resolution or not, January is a great time to set out your stall to see and wildlife you’ve never seen before, to visit new nature spots or to plan a return to favourite haunt you’ve not visited recently.
With the seasonal celebrations making the darkest days at the end of the year more bearable and the Winter Solstice now behind us, we can all look forward to longer days – giving more time to see and enjoy nature. As well as making us feel better, the longer days also provide many creatures with more time to search for food and in no time at all, birds will be prospecting for nests. There’s plenty of activity to observe, whether small birds such as treecreepers searching for insects sheltering beneath bark and buds or jays and squirrels seeking out caches of acorns buried in anticipation of lean times ahead.
Amongst the first birds to nest will be the grey heron. These tall, striking birds can be seen sitting on eggs as early as the beginning of February, so it’s worth looking out for evidence of them building and repairing their treetop nests this month. Grey herons usually nest in colonies known as heronries and the sight of an active colony is a true wildlife spectacle. Whilst they typically nest high in the canopy, 20 metres of more above the ground, they have been known to nest lower down – as they do at Attenborough Nature Reserve where they gather in the tops of mature hawthorn trees. As well as watching out for their nesting activity, the sight of a heron in flight never fails to impress and its worth taking the time to watch these skilled hunters stalking at the water’s edge. Whilst herons mostly eat fish, they have a varied diet and will also prey on amphibians such as frogs and small mammals such as voles.
As we head into 2024 its worth considering the wildlife year ahead and making plans to make the most of the natural wonders the coming seasons will bring. Before you know it, spring woodland wildflowers will be bringing colour to our walks and the busy bird nesting season will be in full swing. Without wishing winter wildlife wonders, such as the huge numbers of ducks and other water birds that take refuge on our wetlands, away it can be difficult not to get excited about the seasonal highlights that stretch before us in the year ahead.
With over 40 nature reserves across the county, including the spectacular Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford and splendid ancient woodlands such as Treswell Wood between the villages of Treswell and Grove – Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s estate offers an unrivalled range of nature watching opportunities throughout the year. Details of all our reserves, our latest campaigns and advice as to how you can take action for nature – visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Main image: Heron, Bo Chetwyn