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Winter Wildlife Spectacles

Posted: Friday 11th January 2019 by Essex Wildlife Trust

Kingfisher by Malcolm BrownKingfisher by Malcolm Brown

As the temperature drops, we begin to see some truly fascinating winter wildlife spectacles. Marc Outten, Landscape Conservation Area Manager - South East for Essex Wildlife Trust explores some of the winter wildlife survival techniques you may spot across Essex!


King of the tidesKingfishers, recognisable by their unmistakably bright blue hue, seek estuaries and tidal habitats in the winter to find food when freshwater rivers and lakes are frozen. You may be lucky enough to spot one this January!

Wader and wildfowl - flocks will congregate in large numbers in areas where there is an abundance of food and relative safety from disturbance or predation. This ability to feed undisturbed through the winter means that they can successfully survive the season and have enough energy to migrate the long distance back to their breeding grounds (often in the Arctic) in the spring.

Please be careful when you are out visiting mudflats and intertidal habitats; even though they are nice big open spaces to walk, they are also extremely important for the survival of many species and continued recreational disturbance can have a detrimental impact on species survival.

Safety in numbers – many birds will form tight knit flocks to keep a look out for marauding Peregrines, Merlins or Sparrowhawks. This technique gives them more eyes to keep a look out and then confuses the predator by sheer numbers! You can witness large wader flocks at Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, Bradwell Cockle Spit, Tollesbury Wick and Two Tree Island.

All in a huddle – nest boxes can be used by many birds in the winter to keep warm. A winter roost of Wrens saw over 60 in one nest box!

Put something aside for a rainy (snowy) day – many animals will have caches of food for over winter, collecting it in the autumn and going back to the food source in the winter when it is needed.

State of torpor – many animals will go into a state of torpor through the cold months, reducing their body temperature and metabolic rate in periods of cold and low food availability. Hedgehogs, Dormice and Bats are the only three British mammals that actually hibernate. 

Best of the best Abberton Reservoir in Essex is one of the best sites in the county to see some extraordinary bird species including Smew, Black-necked Grebes, Goosander, Great White Egret and Scaup.

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