What creatures inhabit the forests during winter?
At Whinfell, you can expect to spot the captivating red squirrels. Retrieving the food they’ve buried during autumn, they’re regularly seen on the ground. Our ever-growing population of stoats are also active during the winter months, often seen dashing around in the undergrowth, usually hunting. Our bird species probably change the most during winter – some leave us for warmer climates and we get new winter visitors, such as brambling, all of which make the most of our feeding stations around the site. Although you may not see them much, badgers are still around, but spend more time in their setts during spells of really cold weather.
What do these creatures get up to in the cold?
All of these creatures spend the winter trying to shelter from the worst of the weather and find food. The stoats are fantastically adapted to life in the cold, shedding their chestnut brown summer coats in favour of thicker ones. Sometimes this winter coat is pure white with a black tip to the tail, hence why they’re also known as ‘ermine’. It’s fantastic camouflage during snow, but not so great for a predator on the forest floor when there’s no snow!
What’s the best way to spot them?
Our badgers can be seen on Badger Cam on the TV in all Whinfell lodges, generally coming out to feed in the late evening if the ground isn’t too frozen. Our reds are probably easier to spot, as the bare trees make them more visible, plus they spend a lot of time on the ground retrieving food they’ve buried and stored during autumn. They also regularly visit our feeders.
How should visitors behave with the animals?
Generally, as with all our wildlife throughout the year, if you stay quiet and keep an eye out at quieter times of the day (early morning and evening), you’ll see our wildlife, especially if food is placed out. Squirrel food is probably the best to use as it contains peanuts, which the badgers also love, and also seeds and grains, which lots of birds will take. Try scattering food on the ground behind a lodge – it’s amazing how quickly they find it!
What’s so magical about seeing these animals around during the festive period?
It’s a magical time on-site with our Winter Wonderland in full flow and it’s great to see our wildlife adapting so well to the winter conditions. Our red squirrels are always wonderful to watch and a favourite with guests – their darker winter coats and impressive winter ear tufts look especially fantastic.