December Wildlife: What To Look Out For In Nature This Month
For me, there’s something magical about December. The heavy frosts, cold dark nights, and whitewashed day-time skies. The lattice-work of silhouetted bare branches against pastel sunsets. There’s a stillness to December. The wildlife seems to have retreated. The only movement on our walks is the panicked noisy flight of pheasants when Buddy disturbs them. To me, it seems like the whole countryside is holding it’s breath, waiting for the soft, heavy peace of the first proper snowfall.
From late afternoon, our village has a lovely smell of newly-lit coal fires. December seems like a time to retreat indoors and wait it out until the shortest day has passed. The winter solstice on the 21st marks the hope of future light.
The trees have almost all lost their leaves now, and the bare branches provide opportunities for spotting birds which would normally be well hidden from us. Black Caps occasionally stay here rather than migrating south. Nuthatches cache nuts by jamming them into a crevice and hammering it with their hatchet-like beaks. The scarcity of food resources bring more birds to the garden feeders. On a cold night a bird can use up to 10% of its body weight, so high-fat foods are essential for survival. As soon as we started putting sunflower hearts out on our feeder, the goldfinches arrived. A good variety of food can attract a whole range of species. Try suet fat, fruit, seeds, kitchen scraps, crumbs, mealworms, sunflower hearts and peanuts alongside the bird seed. Fresh drinking water will help on frozen days. It’s important to be consistent with the food you provide as the birds will add you to their daily food-route, using vital energy to visit your feeder. Little songbirds like blue tits and wrens might use bird boxes to shelter in overnight.
The robins have begun their singing, providing a little music on cold winter days. I wrote a post all about robins recently. It makes a good festive read!
At least the holly bushes are in bloom, adding some colour to the hedgerows.
This year I’ve revived a bright red winter coat from a few years ago as my coat of choice. It’s got shiny black toggles. I feel a bit like Santa. Plenty of our wild friends are donning their winter coats, too. Red foxes grow extra fur over the winter months to protect them from the cold. On higher ground, the mountain hare, stoat and ptarmigan change the colour of their coats to fit in with a wintery landscape.
When the battle for survival is on, I can never hold it against the wee house mice who come indoors for warmth at this time of year. If I were a mouse, I’d much rather be sat by the fire watching the Strictly Come Dancing final than shivering outside. So from me & the mouse, wishing you all a very cosy December!