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Nature of Britain Calendar: December

Updated Monday, 1st December 2008

As the year draws to a close, wild birds could do with your help - and there's still lots to see in the winter landscape.

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Winter waders Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Other - from calendar, cleared for use online

Do one thing

Make a bird table or put up a feeder to help birds survive the winter.

What to look for

Most leaves have fallen by now, but ferns stand out on the woodland floor, especially the glossy evergreen fronds of hart’s-tongue fern and hard shield fern.

An obvious fungus on dead wood is the candle-snuff fungus which looks like a blackened candle-wick.

Dark December days mean that many creatures such as grey squirrels are gathering what food they can in a short time.

Rooks and crows roost together in huge flocks in woodland, and if you’re lucky, you might see a barn owl ghosting over a frosty field late one afternoon.

There are still a few late flowers: chickweed, red dead nettle and winter heliotrope.

Yellow clumps of mistletoe dotted with white berries are food for mistle thrushes, fieldfares and wintering blackcaps.

Down by the coast you can see grey seals with their pups and many wading birds.

Did you know

Common dolphins generally dive for only a short time (10 seconds to 2 minutes), although dives of 8 minutes have been recorded. They keep offshore but you can see them at any time of year, although numbers are greatest between August and December. Find out more at Dolphin Care and Seawatch Foundation.


Habitat of the month: Estuaries

Many birds visit Britain in the winter to escape from the cold further north. When the day is short winter waders have little time to feed so they probe the sand and mud for food when the tide is out.

Photo opportunity: Winter waders

When the tide comes in birds huddle together in large groups and it’s a spectacular sight. Wrap up warm and wear dark clothing so the birds don’t become alarmed. A telephoto lens and tripod are essential as you are unlikely to get close.

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