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Month by month guide to spotting wildlife in the UK

If amazing wildlife is a must when planning your travels, you really don’t need to go abroad to see it. With a huge variety right here on our doorstep wildlife expert and television presenter Nick Baker teamed up with Premier Inn to create a wildlife calendar showing the best places to visit in the UK;

JANUARY:
Animal: White Mountain Hares
Where: In England, within the Peak District or Upper Pennines. In Wales, only in Snowdonia and for Scotland, the ‘white rabbit’ is common throughout most of the highland region of Scotland.

What better way to start the year than to spot a unique creature surrounded by beautiful scenery? The white mountain hare isn’t another breed that you haven’t heard of, but a mountain hare in its winter coat. Starting in November and keeping its coat right through to April, January is prime time to head out on a picturesque winter walk. The coat turns white to camouflage the hare in snow, but if the grass is green, you stand a great chance of spotting these cute, snowy white animals.

FEBRUARY:
Animal: Starlings
Where: Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Somerset, Brighton Pier, Sussex and Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire

The cold, wintery months still provide more than enough reason to get outside and experience nature. It’s still unknown why these murmurations take place, however they create a truly other-worldly, awe-inspiring sight. Across the country, thousands of starlings take part in this dance in the skies, creating ever-changing shapes before settling in trees, on buildings or even under piers. Some of the best places to catch a murmuration can be in Somerset, Sussex and Nottinghamshire. Try heading out just before the sun sets for the best views.

MARCH:
Animal: Migrating birds including Chiffchaffs, Sand Martins, and Wheatears
Where: Across the United Kingdom

Early on in the year is a great time to see birds, and March signals the start of the migration back into the UK for multiple species. Whether you’re in your back garden or out in the forest for a walk, you’ll notice emerging birdsong from the likes of chiffchaffs, sand martins, wheatears and more. With the warmer weather starting to come through too, March is the perfect time of year for the avid bird watcher.

APRIL:
Animal: Common Lizard
Where: Your local nature park

Those first warm breaths of Spring bring out the sun-bathing reptiles. This is our most widespread and common reptile, so you can search for it anywhere there is short vegetation at the edges of paths and on walls. They can be tricky to see as they are super-fast when thermally charged, usually, all you get is a quick rustle and the glimpse of a tail as they run for cover at our approaching feet. A tip to see them is to freeze when you hear this and simply wait, in most cases the furtive little reptile will re-emerge and resume its original position soaking up the early spring sunshine.

MAY
Animal: Arctic Tern
Where: Farne Islands, Northumberland

David Attenborough describes this as his favourite place in the UK, and it isn’t hard to see why. There are thousands of sea birds here, in addition to a grey seal colony. You’ll need to take a boat out to this group of islands, but in May its well worth the trip, as this when you’ll spot nesting birds, including the instantly recognisable Arctic Tern, with its whitish grey feathers and black ‘cap’ on top of its head.

JUNE
Animal: Minke Whale
Where: Northumberland coastline

Many might think that you need to go much further afield to spot whales, however, a June trip to the east of England in Northumberland and you could be lucky. You’ll need to take a boat trip out (as with almost any whale watching experience around the world) but then you could be perfectly placed to spot a pod of minke whales in their natural habitat.

JULY:
Animal: Bottlenose Dolphins
Where: Falmouth, Cornwall

Continuing with our sea theme, we’re leaving the east coast and whales, for the southwest and dolphins. Not surprisingly, they’re a major draw for tourists of Cornwall and heading to Falmouth in July should maximise your chances of seeing them. They can be seen throughout the year, however the best times (not just for the weather) are between June and August, so July couldn’t be more perfect for a summer trip to the coast to see these amazing animals during their search for plankton.

AUGUST:
Animal: Seal pups
Where: Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales

West Wales plays home to around five thousand Atlantic grey seals, and August in particular, is a great time to spot seal pups resting on the rocks with their parents. Seals are of course protective of their pups, so pup on more secluded beaches at the foot of the cliffs around Moylegrove, St. Davids and Cemeas Head.

SEPTEMBER:
Animal: Bats
Where: Cambridge

As Summer starts to merge into Autumn, there aren’t many better ways to spend a balmy September evening than with a ‘Bat Safari’. Yes, you heard that right, from May until late September, the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust runs bat safari punting tours between Cambridge and Granchester Meadows. For approximately 90 minutes, you’ll be gliding along the river as bats swoop around you in the low light. The tour even includes the use of specialist equipment that converts the bat’s sonar signals into audible frequencies. A truly memorable experience.

OCTOBER:
Animal: Fallow and Red Deer
Where: Richmond Park, London

If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city, there’s no better place than Richmond Park in London. This huge expanse of land plays home to hundreds of deer and is a must do if you live in or are just visiting London. October marks the annual deer rut, so for beautiful scenery mixed with the drama of these rutting deers, be sure to go during this Autumn month. Just make sure to give the deers a wide berth and keep any dogs on their leads.

NOVEMBER:
Animal: Salmon
Where: Dartmoor, Wales and Upland Rivers in Scotland

Head to the highlands where the rivers run fast and furious. Salmon are returning to the gravelly river beds of their youth in order to complete their lifecycle and spawn. Many of them will have travelled thousands of miles since the last time they swam these waters, having spent up to 4 years feeding in the ocean. Now is a good time to catch up with them en route ‘home’. The best places to head to are the weirs and the waterfalls – here you’ll get to see the fish leap spectacularly out of the water as they fight the current and gravity to get to their final destination. This is fish twitching at its best.

DECEMBER:
Animal: Reindeer
Where: Cairngorms, Scotland

How else could you end a year of wildlife spotting? By entering into the Christmas spirit and looking for reindeer in the Cairngorms. You can see these majestic animals all year round, but with the chance of a crisp frost or even snow at this time of year, December in the Cairngorms is the recipe for a Christmas to remember. At 150 strong, this is the only free-roaming herd of reindeer in the entirety of the UK.

“A testament to just how great UK wildlife can be is how hard it was to choose one animal to see per month. From whales to birdlife, deer, insects and more, Britain is brimming with nature and that’s something we can often forget. It doesn’t take long to get out of the hustle and bustle of a city or town, and once you do, you’re greeted with great scenery and an array of animals to spot. The most important thing in 2019 is that we celebrate it, and in turn, protect it”. – Nick Baker

 

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