Posted on 1st December 2013
Now that the days are short and the nights long, much of our wildlife has little time to feed. Harsh weather can make things even more difficult.
Some birds migrate to less hostile places further south while many more animals either hibernate or reduce their activity until better conditions return. As a consequence long walks in the countryside can reveal little wildlife at this time of year - but some habitats can be more productive than others.
Nature reserves with open water - especially lakes, ponds and rivers - are always worth visiting in December because they attract ducks, geese and other water birds.
Large flocks of wigeon and teal call evocatively from the water’s edge and there is always a chance of seeing birds of prey such as a peregrine, merlin or sparrowhawk flashing through the flocks of birds, trying to secure a meal.
Where are the best places to visit? Rutland Water Nature Reserve holds by far the largest numbers of water birds in Leicestershire and Rutland, but the Trust has a number of other wetland nature reserves where they can be seen, for example Cossington Meadows and Wanlip Meadows.
Photograph: Sparrowhawk (John Wright)