Winter Wildlife: Where to Go and What to See
If you’re looking to experience winter wildlife, you might not have to travel as far as you think. Here in the UK, many species of birds fly South to escape the extremely harsh conditions of the Arctic circle and the likes of northern Russia and much of Scandinavia. That said, there are a number of mammals that can still be seen in winter in parts of Scandinavia and there’s also North America to consider. Therefore, whilst much of the animal kingdom will be sleeping in winter, there is still much to see and do.
What to Spot in the UKThe likes of the Scottish highlands, the west coast of Scotland and the Cairngorms are all excellent places to visit to see wildlife in winter and there are several companies which can put package holidays together. You’re likely to see the biggest member of the grouse family, the Capercaillie, along with ptarmigan, crested tit, and the golden eagle. You may also be lucky enough to see otters and pine martens and even the red deer are easier to spot as they come down from the icy hilltops. Mountain hare are also quite common and these can also be found in other areas in winter in the UK such as the Peak District.
Berwick Swans are a particularly fascinating sight to see in Britain in the winter as they migrate here in large numbers from the Arctic regions of Russia. The smallest of the three British swans, the Welney Wetland Centre near Peterborough is a good place to see them arrive as is the nature reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.
Winter Wildlife in SwedenSweden has quite a range of wildlife winter package holidays on offer and people often combine winter sports activity holidays with a few days of wildlife watching. Expect to see elk, roe deer and red deer, red fox, brown hare and mountain hare, mink, weasel and stoat. In fact, many people enjoy going out on tracking expeditions. There are other more elusive mammals around such as lynx, beaver and wolf but these are more difficult to spot.
Whale Watching in GreenlandMaybe Greenland isn’t a place you’ve ever thought of going to as it still seems to be ‘off the radar’ when it comes to winter holiday destinations. However, you can go on winter whale watching expeditions, see polar bears and there’s also the Arctic hare and white-tailed eagle. Many people combine winter wildlife holidays in Greenland with a Northern Lights experience.
North America - Yellowstone ParkNorth America is famous for its winter wildlife trips. Popular places include Yellowstone Park where you can see wolves, antelope and bald eagles. The park is also popular for cross country skiing expeditions on which you can track elk and bison. Alaska has to be every wildlife enthusiast’s dream and, depending on what month you travel there in winter, you could see bears before or after they’ve hibernated, sea lions, sea otters and perhaps even orca and humpback whales.
Wildlife Watching in CanadaCanada too is famous for its wildlife with moose, elk, caribou, big horn sheep, coyotes and wolves all making appearances over the winter months.
Obviously with any winter wildlife holiday, doing your research first is important if you want to be fairly sure that the birds or mammals you’re coming to see are going to be around during the dates you are travelling but to experience a wildlife holiday in winter is an amazing experience and gives a totally new perspective to wildlife watching as you witness the will of survival of some creatures whilst you’ll be amazed at how others are able to adapt to living in such harsh environments.
Remember, however, that you're likely to experience extremely cold weather conditions in a lot of these places so ensure that you're prepared when it comes to clothing and gear. If you're going on an organised package holiday, the tour operator will be able to tell you the types of conditions you're likely to encounter and what to bring with you to combat the cold weather conditions.