Barn owl - Gary CoxThe  midwinter  may  be  considered  bleak,  but  actually  winter  is a  great  season  to experience  wildlife  as  long  as  you  are  well-prepared,  with  woolly  gloves  and  flask  in  hand. The  Lincolnshire  Wolds  provide  216  square-miles  of  rolling  countryside,  protected  through its Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) status. 

Situated in the North-Eastern quarter of  Lincolnshire,  it  consists  of  diverse  landscapes  such  as  ancient  woodland,  chalklands  and waterways; ideal for an array of species. Wildlife encounters at this time of year are plentiful.

Crisp, cold winter days with no wind  are  ideal  for  spotting  birds  of  prey,  such  as  barn owls  who hunt  over  grasslands. Indeed,  it  is  easier  to  spot  a  wide  range  of  birds  during the  winter  months  as  there  is  little foliage  on  the  trees.

You  are  therefore  more  likely  to  see  the  birds  as  well  as  hear  them, making  it  a  great  time  to  be  able  Barn owlto  learn  their  individual  songs! Sites  such  as  Snipe  Dales Country  Park  and  Nature  Reserve,  where  the  threatened  Willow  Tit  has a special  stronghold, provide an incredible array of habitats for birds and other species.

Wildfowl and wading birds flock to Britain during the winter months, providing some spectacular viewing experiences. Look out for overwintering ducks too like Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler  at  lakes,  reservoirs  and  areas  such  as  at  Kirkby  Gravel Pits  Nature  Reserve. Here you  might  also  spot  birds  of  prey  as  they  take  advantage  of  the  increase  in  wader  bird numbers.

Ancient  woodlands  provide  vital  habitats  for  countless  species. Oak  and  yew  trees may  look  lifeless,  but  under  the  bark  millions  of  insects are  surviving  the  harsh  weather.

These  trees  additionally  provide  shelter  for  birds  and  squirrels,  who  will  also  pick  off  any insects  that surface.

As  the winter  months  wane,  keep  a  lookout  for  snowdrops,  which  are prepared  to  rapidly  take  advantage  of  the  warmer  temperatures  when  they  occur.  Several species of deer also make an appearance.

Shy and elusive, Fallow and Roe deer are known to roam the Wolds, preferring woodland with large clearings.  Towards  the  end  of  winter,  you  might  be  lucky  enough  to  spot  hares  boxing  in farmland,  grassland  and  woodland.

Females  will  test  out  males’  capabilities  in  preparation for the breeding season.  Winter  is  the  perfect  time  to  experience  wildlife  on  your  doorstep.  Why  not  search for  new  sights  and  discover  Lincolnshire  in  a  different  season  thanks  to  the  bounty  of  the Lincolnshire Wolds.

For more information visit: www.lincstrust.org.uk

Article by Bryony James, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.