Winter in the UK is not just about frosty mornings and short days; it's a season where the natural world puts on some of its most captivating performances. Across the South Coast we are fortunate enough to witness some of these breath-taking spectacles first-hand. So, grab your binoculars and let's embark on a wintery journey through our top five winter wildlife wonders!
Starling Murmuration's: A Ballet in the Sky
Picture this: thousands of starlings swirling and swooping in synchronised harmony, creating mesmerising patterns against the twilight sky. This phenomenon, known as murmuration's, is a winter treat that can be witnessed in various locations. Starlings can be found across Britain & Ireland except for the highest peaks. Numbers increase dramatically during the winter months when birds arrive from northern Europe and larger roosts can number over a million birds. The species is on the UK Red List due to a sharp breeding population decline since the 1960s.
At Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, based on the South Coast of West Sussex, we have had the pleasure of watching these avian acrobats dance above our very own grounds. The intricate formations and rapid movements are not just a visual spectacle but you can hear the swarms of birds from miles away.
Deer Rutting: The Autumnal Symphony
Ah, the unmistakable sound of two stags locking antlers in a show of strength and dominance! Their are 6 species of deer living in the UK, however red, fallow, roe and considered native species. The characteristics of each deer species make them well-suited to the habitats found across British landscape and highly adaptable to environmental changes. Together they make a valuable contribution to biodiversity and are some of our most engaging British mammals. The deer rutting season, which typically takes place in late autumn and early winter, is a prime example of nature's raw and primal beauty. In the more southern habitats, mating will occur in January or February. It's a spectacle that resonates with power, determination, and the timeless cycle of life. By early spring young will be born.
Fox Breeding: Love (and Survival) in the Cold
Winter is breeding season for foxes. Foxes breed only once a year, most mating occurring in January or early February. Courting foxes can be heard barking or uttering unearthly screams in the night; the dog and vixen hunt and travel together for about three weeks before mating. From secretive courtship rituals to den preparations, witnessing fox breeding behaviours is a poignant reminder of nature's relentless drive for survival. By late February most females are pregnant. The vixens become increasingly secretive as their due date approaches: they start clearing out potential den sites under sheds, and re-open old holes in banks and on areas of waste ground before selecting one in which to give birth.
At Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital we can receive orphaned or reports of abandoned fox cubs as early as late to mid March. These animals require very intensive care and rehabilitation to ensure imprinting is avoided.
Owl Calls: Night time Lullabies
As darkness descends, a new cast of characters takes centre stage. From the haunting hoots of tawny owls to the piercing screeches of barn owls, these nocturnal birds provide a captivating auditory experience. If you've never seen an owl before in the wild, then winter can be a great time of year to look, as they often extend their hunting hours into daylight to find the extra food they need to get them through the colder months. Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital can see an increase in owl casualties as they swoop low in front of motor traffic and become injured. There are 5 different species of owl in the UK - tawny, barn, little, short eared and long eared owl. Typically the little barn and tawny are the most common to spot across the South Coast.
Bird Spotting: A Splash of Colour in a Monochrome Landscape
Last but certainly not least, winter birdwatching offers a delightful array of feathered friends. Winter landscape is usually an array of browns or dull greens so spotting a splash of colour from the red breast of a robin or the bright blue of a kingfisher on a sunset back drop is a welcome sight. Despite the chilly temperatures, gardens are often buzzing with activity as various species throughout winter flock to feeders and forage for food. From colourful blue tits to majestic kingfishers, each bird brings its unique charm and charisma to the winter tableau.
Did you know there are over 19 different species of birds that visit a typical garden?
At Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, we're committed to preserving and protecting these precious moments for generations to come. So, whether you're a seasoned naturalist or a curious observer, we invite you to experience the magic of winter wildlife at safe and respectful distance. If you do spot a wildlife casualties please contact us or your local wildlife hospital. Happy exploring!
By Asha Park