Home Newsletter Locations Diary




Wildlife Photography in December

One of probably the most popular garden birds in the UK is in everyone's mind during this festive month, the Robin. Not only does it appear in our gardens, with it orange breast in full pristine condition, feeding off our heavily laden feeders, but he is also all over our living rooms and walls on the many Christmas cards we receive. Robins are one of the few birds that can be heard singing during winter, as both males and females maintain their territories for feeding.  They can be particularly tame during the colder months, wanting to be near where there is a good source of food. Around Christmas they begin exploring other territories looking for a mate, and then pair up by mid-January when the females then stop singing.

The Robin - our Christmas favourite

It is this time of year when there are no leaves on the trees, frost grips the morning countryside, that the small birds who visit our gardens need our help, so any food that we can put out is really appreciated by them as their normal food supplies can become difficult to get. The more varied the food you put out, for example sunflower hearts, peanuts, suet fat (fatballs), fruit seeds, Niger seeds etc, the more variety of species will visit, including some that may not normally get that close at other times of the year. Remember if you do put food out, do keep it up, a constant pattern of food will mean they won't have to use up as much energy to find food during this lean period and they are more likely to survive this harsh time. One species which visits the garden more during the winter months is the long-tailed tit, they do not stick around long though so if you get a glimpse you are lucky.

Some species of birds will flock together to roost at this time of year, and during the cold nights they will fluff out their feathers to provide extra insulation. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Wrens may also use bird boxes during this period to keep themselves warm overnight.

Although the Robins, Blackbirds, Wrens, and others are being helped by us, some of the birds that visited us during the summer have now returned to their warmer winter foraging grounds, and of course some like Redwings Fieldfares, Bewick's Swan, Geese and other wetland birds find our winter climate warmer than where they normally live and come to spend their winters with us, so the Wetland centres and estuaries are full with flocks of birds both eating and huddling up to keep warm.

There are three mammals in the UK that you won't see over the winter, and not because they have emigrated to warmer climes, but because they stay here and hibernate. So if you see a dormouse, hedgehog or bat then they have become a little confused and should be sleeping now until it gets warmer.

On the plant front probably the best known of our winter foliage is the Holly, which is used in Christmas wreaths with their red berries adding a bit of colour. Of course any holly berries left outside form an important food source for many birds and some small mammals. The Christmas carol 'The Holly and the Ivy' also shares in the joy and points out there is at least one more evergreen plant that has centre stage this time of year. Ivy being evergreen not only gives us colour, but at it is usually found on walls it creates good cover for small birds to take refuge from the winter cold. Wren's particularly like Ivy and during their breeding months small nests will be hidden within the ivy tangle. Another evergreen which we all love this time of year is the Christmas Tree, which comes in many forms and not only artificial, but probably the best known of these is the Norway Spruce.

Probably the best and one of the most used plant during this festive season is the Mistletoe, with it's white berries and added attraction of getting a good luck kiss. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant and grows in fruit trees such as a good old apple tree, or in lime trees. It attaches itself to a host tree and sits growing steadily mostly unnoticed all year round, however during the winter when there are no leaves on the trees then the clumps of green ball like structures become noticeable. It is also associated with the Mistle Thrush who is supposed to like the sticky white berries it produces this time of year and is the carrier of the berries from tree to tree when it wipes the excess seeds it has picked up, from its beak onto the twig of another tree.

If you were to venture into a Woodland  this time of year, they are still an interesting and are a fascinating experience to have.

See Larger Image Ivy

Mistle Thursh by Neil Phillips

See Larger Image Tawny Owl

 You may come across occasional flocks of small birds moving about trying to disturb the insects.

At night Tawny Owls may be heard with their classic owl 'tu-wit-tu-who' call as both the male and female communicate to each other whilst staking out their territory. Foxes will also be heard this time of year as it is their mating season, vixens will wail and scream and dogs will bark as they try to find their mates. Their cubs will be born during January/February next year. In some woodlands you may also see butchers broom, a small shrub that occurs in old woods, their flattened spiny leaves are in fact stems which gives a single small flower and then followed by a bright scarlet berry, adding a touch of colour to the woodland floor.

Along our road verges the grass has been pushed down by the damp wet weather, however standing tall you may see clusters of Teasel stems. Their seed heads provide a favourite source of food for Goldfinches, so you may see these colourful birds perched on them trying to get at the seeds inside.

Meadows and flood plain grasslands are colourful during the spring/summer, but in winter they can provide a watering hold and resting space for gulls and ducks, when they are flooded. However our heathlands are still full of small birds such as meadow pipits, and Dartford warblers and some of the gorse particularly in the south may be providing some late winter colour with their yellow flowers.

Many of the tops of the Scottish mountains will be very cold and even for most of the winter be covered in snow. However during this period they are not totally barren and there are some mammals and birds who specialise in this environment. Mountain Hares, Stoats and Ptarmigan all like to live in these harsh climates and they do one other unusual thing in that they grow a winter white coat in order to provide themselves with camouflage from the hunter.

See Larger Image

Ptarmigan in it's winter plumage See Details

A trip to the coast and estuaries will also be full of wading birds and wildfowl, feeding on the soft seashore, the ebbing tides having kept them soft. Kingfishes and Otters also move to estuaries at this time for the same reason. However one cutie to be seen in some parts are the white Grey Seal Pups, which can be found off the Norfolk Coast, Blakeney Point being a good spot to see them, at the Farne Islands, off the Cornish coast and at Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Grey Seal Pup by Richard Spencer

So you can see from this that although it is winter the wildlife is still abundant to see, so if you can brave the cold and get out this month you will not be disappointed. If it's too cold for you then why not make sure you put out food for the birds and they will then come a calling on you and bring some festive cheer.

Further Winter Highlight images

A Country Fox

A Goldfinch who can be found on the roadside feeding off Teasel seeds

A Teasel
loosing it's flowers ready to leave it's seed for winter birds

Ivy covered in winter Frost

See Larger Image

Ptarmigan in transition by See Details

Grey Seal Pup by Peter Church


Share your wildlife photos

Let us expand our coverage of what can be photographed each month by including your photos. - Why not Contact Us.

More Information

See also the Nature and Wildlife calendar - December

Other species can be found listed in the Wildlife and Animals section of the Topic Index and plants within the Nature, Flora and Countryside section, more lists may be found from the Wildlife & Nature index page within the reference section. These lists also give you links to other websites allowing you more information on what we have and haven't yet covered.


By: Tracey Park Section: Key:

Page Ref: wildlife_photo_december

Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 12/2016

This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking:  Wildlife Photography in December on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/

Photographers Resource, all the information for the photographer