Much of our wildlife has little time to feed now that the days are short and the nights are long. 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.
Species of the month: Peregrine falcon
A large and powerful falcon, with long, broad, pointed wings and a relatively short tail. It has an obvious black 'moustache' that contrasts with its white face and is blue-grey above. It is swift and agile in flight, chasing prey. Swift and agile in flight, peregrines catch prey through quick horizontal flight or a spectacular stoop from height on closed wings. Its diet consists of small and medium birds – pigeon is a staple.
It nests on cliff ledges and inland makes good use of church steeples and high rise buildings in our cities – including Leicester where a pair can regularly be seen on the spire of the cathedral.
Photograph: Peregrine falcon at Leicester Cathedral (Michael Sturgess)