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Wildlife Photography in January

Although we are now in the grip of winter and in the human world we are probably feeling cold our wildlife and plants are still working hard to keep warm and preparing for the coming spring and their busiest time of year. Days are shorter and the wildlife have to be quick to collect up all the food they can muster through the daytime to keep them going through the cold nights. Our native birds which have stayed with us through the winter months are really grateful for our efforts to put out food for them. However please remember if you decide to put out food during the winter months to continue to do so throughout the winter as the little birds have to put in a lot of effort and use a lot of energy getting to their food source.

So what should we look out for. Well wading birds such as Avocets, Knot, Lapwing, ducks, Geese and swans flock into our wetlands and estuaries to feed on the mini wildlife. They move with the tide to feed on the exposed mud in the estuaries and at places like Slimbridge WWT Gloucestershire  you can still see the evening feed of Bewick's Swans, making the most of mans helping hands. This time of year is when the wintering waterfowl are peaking in numbers. Large flocks of Knots can also be seen swooping and darting along the shoreline. Remember during the winter months our lakes and wetlands also provide a particular sceptical of mists over the water, with a floating bird below. Of course if it is cold enough to freeze the water then skating ducks and their reflections may be a photo opportunity not to miss.

At certain sites bird flocks gather to roost in their tens of thousands, such as at the Somerset Levels where Starlings flock in wetlands and cover the reed beds like black, chattering locusts, providing both a spectacle and quite a din.

On a walk through a woodland you may hear a Song Thursh as it starts to claim it's territory or even the drumming of a woodpecker against a tree trying to get to the insects below the bark for a tasty meal. If you do glimpse a red chest it is likely to be the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Another active woodland resident, although you may also see them in your local park, this time of year are the Grey Squirrel, you may see them chasing each other as January is the time when their courtship reaches fever pitch.

In your garden on sunny days Blackbirds, Greenfinches and Great Tits will be heard singing as they start to mark their territories, whilst Blue Tits and Great Tits will be scouting for nesting sites and boxes ready for the spring, so if you put out a nest box remember to do so early enough for them to find it. Robins and Wrens are starting to pair up. At the end of January is the RSBP Big Garden Watch Weekend  where we can all take part in checking out and counting the bird species we see in our gardens and parks for an hour on either day.

Common Frogs brave the frosts to court, mate and spawn and in the south of the UK towards the end of January the males will start congregating on mass at ponds and other suitable watery areas making their purring calls to invite the females to join them. This will ritual will go northwards towards until March. If you want to do a bit of pond dipping then two species to look out for are damselfly and mayfly nymphs, Damselfly Nymphs have a long slender body wand 3 tails, which a flattened leaf-like gills, whilst the Mayfly Nymphs also have 3 tails but their gills run along the side of the body.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies hibernate in houses and sheds during the winter months, however on some sunny days you may find them waking up and fluttering against windowpanes. They have mottled brown undersides but when their wings are open then you get to see their bright orange and black colour with a row of blue crescents around the wing edges.

Tortoiseshell Butterfly Tony Hisgett

Our early morning frosts leave pearls of ice on spiders webs and sparkle in the daytime sun. Not much use for spiders, but very good for the photographer, the challenge is to get the background right so that they look as impressive in the photo as they do to the human eye. If natures background is not to your liking, the use a piece of black card to hold behind should make it stand out. Any leaves on the woodland floor can also look good after a frost with diamond crystals clinging on to them and many lawns sprinkled with ice are a good photo subject. Of course if there is a really hard and deep frost then the whole countryside landscape can look like it has been snowed upon.

Most plants are now underground and are getting ready for the spring. A few hardy bedding plants and perennials will be showing any colour they have. However towards the end of January will see the first signs of Snowdrops, picking their way through the woodland floor and our gardens, their little white flowers looking so delicate, and the first shoots of the spring bulbs, such as daffodils will start to emerge. In some sheltered areas you may also get a glimpse of the first primroses starting to appear whose flora ranges from a pale cream to vibrant yellows.

Snowdrops by Andy Hay

Although colourful plant life may be far and few between, there are still plants to be seen, mainly of the green variety, such as lichens which can be found in graveyards, ferns can be found in many damp woods and hedges and if you venture into the woodland fungi are still bright and fresh, with the slimy orange capped fungus bringing some colour to the woodland.

Avocet by Rictor Norton & David Allen


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More Information

See also the Nature and Wildlife calendar - January

Other species can be found listed in the Wildlife and Animals section of the Topic Index and plants within the Nature, Flora and Countryside section, more lists may be found from the Wildlife & Nature index page within the reference section. These lists also give you links to other websites allowing you more information on what we have and haven't yet covered.


By: Tracey Park Section: Key:

Page Ref: wildlife_photo_january

Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 12/2016

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