NATURE | Top Tips For Winter Wildlife Spotting

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We love the colder months and think that winter is one of the most beautiful times of year to get outdoors. Crisp, misty mornings and snow covered mountaintops make for an awe inspiring sight, and the change in seasons also brings a change of wildlife. From robins to deer, there’s plenty to spot whilst you’re out and about this winter, and with these wildlife spotting tips, you’ll be giving David Attenborough a run for his money in no time!

Wild ponies

Spotting ponies is a magical experience no matter how old you are, and luckily in the UK there are around 3000 of these beautiful creatures who roam free in the New Forest. It’s impossible to miss the ponies when exploring the New Forest, and as they are used to human contact they are happy to pose for a picture or two!

Where to spot wild ponies this winter

The New Forest has over 140 miles of walking routes, ranging from short family friendly rambles to challenging multi-day trails. Make the most of the Forest by pitching up a tent in one of the many campsites, and you could wake up surrounded by the free-roaming ponies or donkeys.

Although the ponies and donkeys of the New Forest are used to being around humans, you should always be aware of safety when around wild animals. Make sure to take a look at the official safety advice before going to explore.

Owls

Owls can be spotted across the country, in fact, in the woodland next to my house in Cheshire we have resident tawny owls (and a pair of Buzzards!) and I love hearing them call. If you’re in Cumbria, keep an ear out for the classic ‘twit twoo’ of tawny owls, or head to Speke Hall in Merseyside to find short-eared owls.

Owls are most active around dusk, and are naturally fearful of humans. Find a quiet spot to hunker down and keep chit chat to a minimum, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot some owls taking flight or hunting for prey. This makes a great activity if you’re out camping – sit round the campfire and keep your eyes on the sky!

If you do spot an owl, or indeed any other birds, make sure to log your sighting on the BirdSpotter app and you can also chat to other ‘twitchers’ on the forum.

Otters

Otters have been making a bit of a resurgence in the UK, returning to lowlands and even make home in urban centers, though I’ve never been lucky enough to spot one –  yet! Otters are very sensitive animals, and disrupting their habitat is against the law, so it’s important to be careful when looking for these cute critters. The key is to be patient, which is probably where I fail! Find a comfortable spot near a pool or river, and keep an eye out for bubbles or adults hunting along the edge of reed beds.

Where to spot Otters

There are 34 spots across the UK that the Wildlife Trusts recommend for otter-spotting – check out their fab otter spotting guide here.

deer on Cannock chase

Deer

Deer could be regarded as probably the most festive of animals to be spotted this winter and they are a common sight in parks and woodland throughout the country. The British Deer Society has a great list of where to spot different types of deer. I’ve spotted deer recently at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, Macclesfield Forest and in the hills close to White Coppice in Lancashire.

Deer can be aggressive if approached, particularly if you happen to come between a mother and her young, so it’s best to enjoy deer from a distance, moving slowly and quietly during early morning or late evening. Alternatively, head to a wildlife park or deer center where the animals will be a little more used to having humans around.

Red squirrels

Red squirrels are one of the most-loved (and cutest!) native animals found on our shores. Due to increasing competition with grey squirrels, the range of red squirrel habitats across the UK is diminishing, but thanks to carefully managed woodland and reserves, these beautiful creatures can be found in pockets around the country.

Where to spot red squirrels

I live in Cheshire, making Formby only an hours’ drive away and it’s an absolute haven for these furry friends, and the area has a great range of walking routes too. In fact, It’s a perfect place for a family walk – why not make a challenge to see who can spot the most squirrels during the day!

Although it’s tempting to stay tucked up indoors during winter, there’s so much to discover and explore, so why not get wrapped up and head outdoors for a memorable adventure!

Still in need of some outdoors inspiration?

Why not check out our article about the best UK winter walks, or if you fancy trying some cold weather camping see our cold weather camping advice.