Wildlife in January

Although a lot of the Moors Valley wildlife is hibernating at this time of year there is still plenty to look out for whilst you walk around the Park and Forest. An early morning walk along the Tree Top Trail is a good time to spot a variety of birds and mammals.

During winter food is scarce and temperatures are low. There are a number of tactics to get through this period. One is to migrate to a warmer location, another is to stick it out on stored food reserves, and what is still available, whilst another is to sleep it out and hibernate. Mammals, like hedgehogs, that mainly eat insects and other minibeasts, find it most difficult to survive in the winter so they usually hibernate.

Squirrels and badgers might sleep during the very coldest days to save energy however they, along with foxes and deer, can remain active throughout the winter. They may grow a thicker coat in winter to help keep their body temperature constant during the cold weather. They have also prepared for winter by eating as much as possible during autumn to fatten up or hide food away so they can find it again in winter when there is less food around.

You may see grey squirrels engaged in a courtship chase during January where the females are chased by one or many males wanting to mate with her. They can be very noisy with strange chatterings and raspings.

Birds of prey and woodland birds can be easier to see amongst the branches of deciduous trees. The birds seen in winter can be very different from those seen during the summer as some species have migrated southwards. However geese, ducks and other water birds are a special attraction at this time of year.

Many smaller woodland birds are also active, coming to bird tables to find enough food to survive – keep an eye on some of the bird feeders around the Visitor Centre. On sunny days blackbirds, greenfinches and great tits will sing and in the forest you may be lucky enough to hear a great spotted woodpecker drumming against a tree.

Blue tits and great tits will now start looking around for nest boxes for spring, so the Rangers are busy emptying and cleaning them.

Other things to look out for:

  • Cormorants can often be seen around Moors Lake, resting on fences or standing with their wings open to allow them to dry.
  • The first shoots of spring bulbs are emerging and snowdrop flowers are beginning to open.
  • January is also a great time to look for some of the signs of life that the animals who are awake leave behind them. Things to look out for include footprints, nibbled food, feathers or fur, animal homes and droppings.