How you can look out for winter wildlife in your Essex garden

A red-breasted robin perches on a bush in winter

There are plenty of opportunities to spot winter wildlife in Essex this winter - Credit: Gerry Brown

Winter can be a difficult season for British wildlife. But the cold weather shouldn't stop us from experiencing animal encounters.

Peter Savic, from Walden Countryside, is part of a team looking after a series of small nature reserves in north-west Essex. These are his top three tips for looking out for wildlife this winter.

1. Look out of your windows

Peter said: "Nature spotting can be really simple.

"We are so lucky in Essex that we can look out of our windows and see a huge array of different birds and animals.

"In particular, look out for robins and blue tits, which are rife at the moment."

Lucky spotters can find kites and kestrels, some of which nest at Walden Countryside's Noakes Grove reserve in Sewards End.

He added: "Further out of town, you can find muntjac and fallow deer in their herds.

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"In the Littlebury Green area, you can spot up to 50 deer on a single walk."

A fallow deer drinking from a pond at Noakes Grove in Sewards End, near Saffron Walden in Essex

Fallow deer drinking at Noakes Grove in Sewards End - Credit: Walden Countryside

2. Leaves and hedges

Some small mammals, such as hedgehogs, hibernate in the cold weather.

They need warm and safe habitats, and your garden can provide a safe haven for animals.

Peter said: "We are trying to make Walden's countryside look like it did 100 years ago.

"Back then, there would have been much smaller fields with lots of dividing hedgerows.

"We now have the technology to plough much larger fields, but this means that there are fewer hedges and habitats.

"Leaves and bushes in your garden can provide shelter and safety for cold and tired winter animals."

A hedgehog looks for a place to hibernate amid the brown autumn leaves

Hedgehogs rely on warm, safe shelter while they hibernate in the winter. Look out if you're raking in bushes or among fallen leaves - Credit: PA Media/RSPB

3. Provide food and water

Birds and foraging animals, such as squirrels, will visit your garden if they know they can find food and water.

Frozen water is a particular winter risk, but a well-kept bird bath and feeder will see animals flock to your patch.

Peter said: "Our King's Field nature reserve in Hempstead is bisected by an ancient waterway - the Bumpstead Brook.

"It has been a feeding ground for many years, so it is rich in nature.

"The food chain doesn't stop in winter, but it gets more difficult for animals to find fruits and - if it's icy - water."

David Corke leads a Wild Child nature group at Noakes Grove in Sewards End, Essex

Noakes Grove in Sewards End hosts a Wild Child wildlife club, led by naturalist David Corke. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Peter added: "People think of this season as a quiet time.

"For us there's plenty going on."

Peter's flock of sheep are currently with a new ram, called Gaffer, at the King's Field reserve.

Gaffer, Walden Countryside's new ram, with sheep in Hempstead, Essex

Gaffer, Walden Countryside's new ram, with the sheep at King's Field nature reserve in Hempstead - Credit: Walden Countryside

David Corke handles a wood mouse at Noakes Grove in Essex

Many small animals hibernate, but wood mice are active all year round. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Walden Countryside - led by naturalist David Corke - is digging a new pond at Noakes Grove designed for pond-dipping and insects.

A Noakes Grove "Wild Child" club has recently spotted wood mice, yellow-necked mice, microscopic water fleas, fallow deer and foxes.

Interview by Will Durrant.

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