Out Now - Wildlife and Places to See in December
Here you can find out about the wildlife you can seen in Wiltshire and Swindon at the moment. Visit this month's featured site to see a wealth of wildlife, take a look at our identification guide to find out about a species group you are most likely to see, and don’t forget to send us in your records!
Three To Spot
Robin - Erithacus rubecula The Robin is one of the best known and well-loved of Britain's birds, it is easily recognised by its red breast and melodious song - it is one of the few birds that can be heard singing throughout the winter due to the importance of holding territories during the winter. As Robins are one of the few birds to sing throughout the winter, even on the coldest of days, they have become associated with winter due to being easily seen and heard. The sound of a Robin chirping in winter is also a good sign as it is thought to mean the bird has built up enough fat reserves to survive the cold nights and has enough energy left to defend its territory.
Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes The Wren is the one of the smallest resident breeding birds in Wiltshire at 9-10cm tall (the smallest is the Goldcrest) and it is the commonest UK breeding bird. In winter they can be spotted searching the ground for food under trees and shrubs in gardens, woodlands and hedgerows. The Wren is susceptible to cold winters and is its numbers tend to fluctuate particularly during prolonged, severely cold winters. Wrens are not social during the day, but regularly pack into roosts soon after sunset during the winter these communal roosts provide a warm refuge from frost and snow.
Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis Often only seen as a blue streak as it flies low to water along rivers, streams and canals, the bright orange and blue colours of the kingfisher make it unmistakable. Despite this it is rarely seen, owing to its shy nature. Flying low over water they hunt fish from riverside perches overhanging the water. In winter the Kingfisher can be easier to spot as there is less foliage for cover, however it is vulnerable to very harsh winters as when the water freezes the Kingfisher is unable to feed.
This Month's Must See
Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes With its white tipped bushy tail, large ears and red fur, the native Red Fox is unmistakable. They can be seen year round as they do not hibernate, however December is the start of the mating season so at this time of year they are more likely to be heard rather than seen! The eerie, but familiar, high-pitched scream of the vixen can be heard, a long, drawn out, monosyllabic "waaaaah" sound; it is thought to be emitted by vixens summoning males.
Winter Tracks and Signs Many animals can be hard to spot at this time of year, so looking for signs in muddy or snowy areas is a good way to see what animals are out and about. Here we look at some of the common tracks you may come across. Find out about identifying tracks and signs with our ID guide
Invertebrates on Deadwood in Woodlands
Deadwood in woodlands may, to some, look untidy and devoid of wildlife but it is an important sub-habitat within woodlands in particular with a wide variety of small vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and fungi relying on it. Historically deadwood and wood piles created through management of woodland were removed to protect trees from insect and fungi species that may damage them. However in many areas this means that levels of deadwood fell too low to be able to support many key species. Now the importance of deadwood is realised and actions to increase the amount of this habitat available are in operation.