Gallery: Forget the cold, winter is the perfect opportunity to get out and see our wildlife in action

Waxwing selecting berries taken by Margaret Holland

Waxwing selecting berries taken by Margaret Holland

With the arrival of winter comes a series of challenges for our firends in the natural world.

Hedgehog taken by Margaret Holland

Hedgehog taken by Margaret Holland

Brian Holland and his wife, Margaret, spend much of their time travelling around the country - and further afield - to seek out rare and fascinating creatures.

As winter sets in, their job becomes ever harder but more rewarding, as Mr Holland explained.

He said: “Frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards are all cold blooded creatures, all hibernate underground in holes made by other animals, while frogs toads and newts will also hide way under logs and rocks with no snug nest into which to settle.

“These will be the first to emerge in the spring when the temperatures rise but can also be caught out if there is a drop in temperature at that time.

“The place to look for these creatures is on the sun-facing side of sandy banks and the wind breaks of tree stumps that the forestry commission have created in the local forests.”

He continued: “The delightful delicate damselflies and dragonflies have all gone but their nymphs remain in the water of ponds lakes and streams during the cold winter, with some being there for two years.”

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Birds traditionally migrate to sunnier climes at this time of year, a spectacle in itself that is not to be missed.

Mr Holland said: “Those birds that choose to migrate are the swallow, house and sand martins and many of the warblers. Cuckoos are among the first to leave, usually before winter is even thought of by others.

“Landguard Point (Felixstowe) is a great place to see these birds as they prepare for their long flights, as are places like Minsmere, in fact all along the Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex coast these birds can bee seen.”

He added: “In losing our summer migrants we welcome some amazing migrants from Scandinavia, Iceland, the Arctic and the tundra of Russia, and almost without exception all can be seen in East Anglia.

“Thousands of geese and swans pay us a visit and Titchwell (Norfolk) and Minsmere are great places to see the skeins of noisy geese making their way from night-time roosts back to the farmland where they feed on sugar beet tops left after harvest by thoughtful farmers.

“The birds then reverse the flight path and return to their roost out on the mud flats and off shore as dusk falls. These are things to see before you die – believe me you will not regret making time to stand and just watch and wonder.”

Meanwhile Scandinavian thrush like fieldfare, whose movement at night can be heard if you stand out in your garden, are joined by redwings and waxwings.

“The oh-so-handsome waxwings usually move in large flocks and consume almost their own body weight of berries each day,” said Mr Holland. “So look out for these handsome birds on rowan trees which are one of their favourite sources of food.”

He continued: “The beautiful snow buntings make a welcome appearance in the winter along our coastline. They move around usually in small flocks gleaning what they can from the shingle beaches, tiny wind blown seeds and insects.”

Offering advice to other keen photographers, he added: “Just stand perfectly still and they will usually oblige with a visit – Cley is a good spot to start your search. We then have hundreds even thousands of waders descended upon our shoreline like godwits, dunlin and knot turnstones, all with different beak lengths allowing them to feed at differing depths in the mud flats that are such a draw for these birds.

“Golden plover, like all these birds, lose their brighter breeding plumage and moult into more duller plumage but what they lose in plumage colour is more than made up by the miraculous evening and early-morning flight over the reed beds and mud flats. Titchwell is a great place to see this, as is Minsmere.

“Such aerial displays are mesmerising and the harmony with which they move is unforgettable.” But you do not have to travel too far for a great winter wildlife experience.

“It is so often overlooked that the birds we see in our gardens in the summer are not necessarily the same one that we see in the winter,” Mr Holland said. “Huge murmurations of starlings fly here from as far away as Russia to spend the winter with us and in return treat us to aerial displays before roosting just like the knot and the golden plover. Believe me there is so much to see during the winter.”

Turning his attention to slightly larger creatures, Mr Holland said: “There is another treat for those who can stand the winters chill up on the Norfolk coast because that is the place to watch the seals on the pupping ground giving birth to their pups in, at times, extremely cold conditions. Then, because the pups cannot swim, they have to be taught to enter the cold North Sea.”

The wildlife lover concluded: “On frosty and snowy days do try and get out and just take in the beauty which can be so transient. We have been out for example in freezing fog, marvelled at a silver birch decked with frozen fog yet within a hour that beauty had faded as the frost thawed after a slight rise in temperature.

“These are momentary delights that can so easily be lost so it pays to keep your eyes open and while out enjoying these sights to ponder on what is going on under your feet and among the bracken-covered heaths and under the hedgerows.

“Winter is certainly not a dull time of year but one that holds the promise of a great spring and a renewal of life. Let us be part of it.”

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