Below are some hints and tips on how and where to see the various fauna that calls our wetlands home this winter
Hawthorn Wood hide is nestled on the edge of the woods and enjoys fantastic views of various birds including great-spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, chaffinch, blue tit, bullfinch and many more. Our feeders are topped up regularly all year round and many birds flit and forage around the trees and on the ground for food. Now is a great time of year to spot flocking long-tailed tit, siskin and redpoll who make the most of the feeders.
The Lookout is a large, open bird-spotting screen hidden in middle wood. This is about 100m walk from our much-loved Hawthorn Wood hide and offers just as much wildlife action. Bullfinch, great tit, coal tit, willow tit, chaffinch, robin, nuthatch, great-spotted woodpecker, dunnock and many seasonal highlights happily flit around this area, providing fantastic photography opportunities with regularly topped-up bird feeders and natural perches, as well as some peaceful time in nature.
Our centre feeders – just outside the building’s exit doors to the east of site – are regularly visited by many species of woodland bird including bullfinch, great tit, chaffinch, dunnock and more. It can get quite busy, with opportunistic sparrowhawk known to descend upon the area to hunt.
Hollowood is a haven for woodland birds too. While many visitors use it simply as a walk-through to other areas, if you take the time to stop and listen, you can hear so much calling and song, and you begin to notice that the trees are bustling with life. Treecreeper, wren, blackbird, robin, collared dove and wood pigeon are often around and can be both heard and seen regularly. The lack of leaves on trees offers more opportunity to great views, so eyes peeled!
Spring Gill woods and the surrounding meadows enjoys wonderful sights and sounds of winter wildlife. The calming sounds of the stream adds to the atmosphere while many birds frequent the tree tops with jay squabbling, blackbird calling and other over-wintering thrushes such as redwing and fieldfare search for berries. Roe deer pass through here too, so keep an eye out for those bright white rumps bounding through the trees!
Wader Lake wildlife hides offer a fantastic place to watch wading birds. The heron hedge opposite Paddy Fleming and Diageo hides is a great one to keep an eye on at this time of year, with the hopes that grey heron will begin to frolick and nest in January. Exciting views of snipe, teal, wigeon, shoveler and curlew are not to be missed at this time of year. Northumbrian Water hide overlooks the lake with Wader meadow right beside it where many geese and red-listed lapwing can be seen. Look out for mistle thrush on the meadow too!
Window on the Wear affords great views of the river Wear, with goosander, grey heron, cormorant, curlew, redshank and various sandpipers often spotted by the shoreline.Mute swan can be seen and kingfisher too; their vibrant blue plumage speeding along just above the water's surface. High tides sometimes bring Eurasian otter sightings, as well as the odd grey seal, so watch out for those.
The area around our River Viewpoint (just along from Northumbrian Water hide) has lovely views up to the saline lagoon and downstream towards the coast. During low tide, you may see tracks in the mud just below the railings, quite often belonging to otter. Waders like to make the most of the exposed mud, with species such as curlew and redshank using their longer bills to hunt for invertebrates and crustaceans beneath the surface.
Saline Lagoon hide is a great spot to sit and enjoy this unique habitat and its incredible wildlife. At this time of year, the lagoon welcomes teal, shoveler and shelduck as well as elusive kingfisher that perch on the various branches around the lagoon.
There are so many amazing wildlife moments to be had during the winter months. It's a great time to explore new routes, spot new wildlife and absorb all that nature on your doorstep has to offer!