Posted 18th Dec 2017
After an indulgent Christmas many of us crave a refreshing winter walk and luckily, plenty of RSPB nature reserves up and down the country will be opening their doors (or gates!) on Boxing Day. There’s so much to see at this time of year, from starling murmurations to colourful winter ducks, in countryside laced with frost and crisp with ice.
Welcome to a winter wildlife wonderland, full of birds! Probably the most spectacular (and noisy) are the thrushes and starlings that have come from the continent to feast upon our unfrozen farmland. Look out for hen harriers, whooper and Bewick's swans, and glimpses of the usually shy water rail.
Enjoy breathtaking views and the sight of thousands of winter visitors such as pink-footed and barnacle geese. You should also see a large number of shelducks, whooper and mute swans, redwings and fieldfares. There’s a boxing day walk along the flood bank at 2pm: details are on the RSPB website.
Thousands of birds will make this fantastic place their home in winter. See the huge gatherings of wildfowl and waders that have flown from hundreds of miles within the Arctic Circle just to be there. Look out for golden plover flocks, starling murmurations, farmland birds and numerous birds of prey.
This nature reserve is home to the cirl bunting, a rare little bird whose population is almost entirely restricted to south Devon. The number of birds feeding on the stubble fields should increase at this time of year. Cirl buntings sing all year round: listen out for their rattling calls.
Leighton Moss is the largest reedbed in north-west England, and home to some really special birds such as bitterns, bearded tits and marsh harriers. Teals, shovelers and gadwalls join the resident ducks to congregate in large numbers. You may also see water rails, siskins, wigeons, greylag geese, peregrines and merlins.
Right now, there will be large flocks of golden plovers and lapwings on the flooded meadows. Pochard and tufted duck numbers are at their peak. Greylag geese and whooper swans come onto the water to roost. Tree sparrow, linnet and chaffinch flocks are at their maximum on the neighbouring field.
This tranquil wildlife oasis a couple of hours’ drive from London is a perfect getaway for a festive day out. Thousands of wintering ducks, geese, swans and waders use the flooded brooks. Short-eared owls, barn owls, hen harriers, peregrines, merlins and sparrowhawks are also regularly seen hunting over the reserve.
This nature reserve is a great starting point for exploring the unique and beautiful green space that is Sandwell Valley Country Park. Winter wildfowl including wigeons, teals, pochards, shovelers and goosanders find refuge here. Resident tufted ducks are joined by their cousins from colder parts of the continent.
A stroll from the visitor centre down to the beach takes you past reedbeds and shallow lagoons, which are often full of birds. You can sit on benches or watch from spacious, wheelchair-accessible hides. You should see teal, wigeon, mallard, gadwall and shoveler, with smaller numbers of pintails and goldeneyes.
St Aidan’s is ideal for a bracing walk with amazing views. There are 12km of trails, plus the transpennine trail which passes on the southern side. Large flocks of wigeon graze and flocks of wintering waders take to the skies. Neighbouring Fairburn Ings will also be open on Boxing Day.
The RSPB manages over 200 nature reserves across the UK. Read more about them here: rspb.org.uk/reserves
Text by Jamie Wyver / image courtesy of Chris Gomersall / RSPB images