Winter Wildlife in the Yorkshire Dales

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The short days and long dark nights might not seem the best time for nature spotting in the Yorkshire Dales but the lack of leaves on trees means that birds are that much easier to spot, and a covering of snow overnight will show just how busy the countryside is when we are tucked up safe in bed.


Look out for the winter sun catching the speckled breast of a Mistle Thrush, singing its heart out from the top of a tree. It is often known as the storm thrush because of its habit of singing in that eerie light just before thunderclouds roll in.

Keep an eye open for otter footprints in the snow along river banks – this shy animal has made a strong return in the Dales but you are very unlikely to see one as they are usually only out and about at night. Finding a set of footprints is almost as thrilling as seeing the animal though, as it means the otter is thriving. (picture credit ©Whitfield Benson)


Flocks of special winter visitors like fieldfares, or if you are lucky enough to see them, waxwings, come down from harsher northern climes to gorge on our hedgerow berries.

Enjoy the early snowdrops peeping though in the coldest weather. Many clumps have been naturalised alongside village walls and woodland edges. Some gardens have special open days for snowdrop viewing, for example at Austwick Hall and at Fountains Abbey.


Flocks of blue tits, long-tailed tits, great tits, chaffinches and the occasional nuthatch or tree creeper can be spotted flitting along hedges or through trees in mixed groups, twittering and fluttering about busily looking for insects hidden in nooks and crannies. (picture credit © Simon Philpotts)

Roe Deer

Early in the morning you might catch a glimpse of the white rump of a roe deer disappearing into the gloom in woodland. In Spain they are known as the ghosts of the forest. If you startle one it might bark at you – an eerie sound echoing through the still winter air.

An unexpected encounter with a roe deer may not leave you with enough time to record it on iNaturalist for the NPUK Look Wild project but, don’t forget the free nature identification app will name plants and animals for you and contribute to a huge National Park-led citizens’ science project at the same time. It’s free to learn about the natural world around you and do your bit to protect it at the same time. (picture credit ©Whitfield Benson)

If you’ve been inspired to get out into nature, you can share any photos or observations with us and get featured on our social or our newsletter! Send your observations to

Join iNaturalist and start identifying nature near you today! LookWild is a brilliant citizen science project that helps contribute to our data and knowledge of wildlife and habitat health across the UK.

This Blog was written by Sally Robertshaw, Volunteers Development Officer at Yorkshire Dales National Park.


Find out more about wildlife and priority habitats in the Yorkshire Dales.


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