12 Days of Wild Christmas

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in frosted winter hedgerow © Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

'Tis the season we love to hunker down and avoid the cold, but there's so much to discover! So wrap up warm and enjoy 12 ways to connect with nature this winter.

Night Sky

Early sunsets make winter a great time for stargazing when even young children can see the stars before bed. An easy constellation to find is Orion’s Belt – an hourglass-shaped group with three parallel stars as the belt in its centre. At the top of the hourglass are Rigel and Betelgeuse, two of the brightest stars in the sky.

Frosted hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) seedhead

© Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Frost Photography

On frosty mornings, take a moment to admire the stunning patterns left by Jack Frost. You don’t need a digital camera to get great frost pictures. Getting close enough with your phone will show beautiful detail. Look around the edges of leaves and on cobwebs – frost here can be particularly beautiful.

Bring wildlife inside

Instead of baubles and tinsel, make some natural Christmas decorations this year. Use small twigs to design star patterns or attach pinecones together in a garland. If you’re feeling really creative, try making your own wreath from moss, evergreens and sprigs of holly. 

Starling Murmuration

Starling Murmuration © Danny Green/2020VISION

Nature's Ballet

Up close, starlings have a stunning iridescent sheen to their feathers, but perhaps the most exciting thing about this bird is their habitual group-flying during winter. Just before dusk, starlings gather to perform dramatic aerial displays known as murmurations. They are regularly seen at Tring Reservoirs, so wrap up and go for a dusk walk to find your local murmuration.

Wildlife Sounds

December is the best time to listen out for tawny owl courtship displays – the female calls “ke-wick” and the male answers “hoo-hoo”. Later, in January and February, you are likely to hear great-spotted woodpeckers drumming. Stand quietly in a woodland such as Balls Wood Nature Reserve and wait for a burst of high-pitched knocking echoing through the trees.

Redwing feeding on hawthorn berries

Redwing feeding on hawthorn berries in snowy winter hedgerow © Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Winter Visitors

Each winter, migrant birds such as the redwing stop off in Britain. As their name suggests, redwings have distinctive red patches and they are the UK’s smallest thrush. Find them in open fields, hedgerows and occasionally gardens during snowy weather. Redwings can be seen at Blagrove Common.

The Holly and The Ivy

Although present all year round, holly is an unmistakable sign of Christmas and its crimson berries are splashes of colour in a winter scene. Ivy berries can also be seen in winter and are a rich, purple-black colour. Holly and ivy provide both shelter and a valuable food source for birds and small mammals.

Animal tracks in the snow

Animal tracks in the snow © Rebecca Gibson

Animal Detective

If this Christmas is a white one, turn detective and look for animal footprints in fresh snow. Fox prints are very similar to those of small dogs but are typically narrower and diamond-shaped. Keep an eye out for bird prints too – long, thin arrowhead marks that usually belong to ground-dwelling species such as pheasants.

Feed Garden Wildlife

A festive idea from Lucy McRobert, the creator of the Wildlife Trusts' 30 Days Wild campaign, is homemade ‘reindeer food’. More sustainable than the shop-bought variety containing glitter and other microplastics, Lucy’s recipe mixes apple, carrot, cheese and porridge oats. When sprinkled in the garden on Christmas Eve, reindeer food provides sustenance for local wildlife as well as Rudolph!

Goldeneye on water

Goldeneye
© Fergus Gill/2020VISION

Wetland Birds

Winter is also an excellent time for ducks: they gather in large numbers and the males often have vibrant plumage. Trust reserves such as Amwell and Stocker’s Lake offer good views of species including goldeneye, which mostly only spend winter in Britain.

Volunteer

Give nature a helping hand during the cold and work off some Christmas calories by volunteering with the Trust. Work parties take place throughout winter at many different sites across Hertfordshire. To take part, register as a volunteer and meet other people passionate about protecting wild places.

Jelly ear fungus

Jelly ear fungus © Rebecca Gibson

Fungi Foray

While autumn is typically the fungi season, a few species thrive in winter such as Jelly Ear, an aptly named fungus resembling a line of oddly shaped ears growing on trees. See what varieties you can spot on woodland walks, but please note it is best to avoid picking fungi. They are important for wildlife and some are deadly if eaten.

Events

Why not join one of our events this winter? Wrap up warm, get out and enjoy nature!

Please support local wildlife

Together, we can make Hertfordshire and Middlesex a little wilder.
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