Long walks in the countryside can still be very enjoyable at this time of year. While they may reveal little wildlife, 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.
Exotic looking wildfowl such as smew, goosander and goldeneye overwinter here and are found in varying numbers at the counties’ reservoirs, most notably Rutland Water.
Look out for fieldfares and redwings feeding on berries in the hedgerows. These two members of the thrush family breed in Scandinavia but fly to this country for the winter months.
Dusk is a magical time in the winter, when large flocks of crows and gulls can be seen flying to roost communally for the night, Foxes and birds of prey such as short-eared and barn owls are hunting for food, and deer are cautiously feeding too. The Trust’s woodland nature reserves such as Launde Big and Launde Park Woods, are places where Muntjac deer are found, although they are cause for concern in that they can damage trees and other plants.
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: The Redwing, our smallest true thrush, is a common winter visitor in Leicestershire and Rutland, arriving from late September through to November and leaving in March and April. c. Margaret Holland
Related categories: General