In this week's Cumbria Wildlife column, we hear about the delights of winter.

In January, many people can feel a little blue with the cold weather and the dark nights often a difficult proposition for both young and old.

One thing one can hold onto, however, is the beauty of the world around us. Here in Cumbria we are particularly blessed when it comes to vast open spaces, flourishing eco-systems and beautiful wildlife.

With people often taking to our region's nature reserves and parks for some exercise during this period, they may well be wondering about the wildlife they encounter every day that live side by side with us, in and amongst our communities.

Winter is a time for rest and recovery for much of our wildlife but if you look carefully there is still plenty to enjoy. It’s a chance to see migratory birds which specialise in finding food during our mild winters. Winter is also a chance to enjoy the form of deciduous trees and the squirrels that hide in them. Here are some mid-winter highlights that may be seen when visiting Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s reserves.

The vast expanse of Drumburgh Moss Nature Reserve near Carlisle gives a great winter wilderness experience. Beautiful Exmoor ponies can be seen grazing the wet heath and deer venture onto the bog from the surrounding woodland to browse. The viewing platform offers great views over the bog and beyond. If you’re lucky you may spot a short-eared owl hunting low over the moss.

Nothing beats a windswept winter walk in the dunes with the low sun over the sea. At Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve near Ravenglass the sheltered estuary attracts many wintering birds including curlew, oystercatcher, widgeon and goldeneye.

With more snowy days than its more westerly counterparts, Smardale Nature Reserve near Kirkby Stephen is an amazing winter wonderland when the landscape is picked out by lying snow. Look for dipper in the beck, buzzard, green woodpecker and winter tit flocks in the woods. Abundant fruit and berries always make for a great winter wildlife spectacle.

In winter, the salt marshes and mud flats of Morecambe Bay attract thousands of migratory birds and South Walney Nature Reserve is the perfect place to see them. Look for great flocks of oystercatcher, redshank, dunlin and knot roosting at high tide or wheeling around in the low sunlight. Grey seals haul out on the spit and can be seen playing in the Walney Channel.

These mid-winter days are short and may sometimes seem bleak, but there is still an abundance of wonderful wildlife to be found if you know where to look!

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is the only voluntary organisation devoted solely to the conservation of the wildlife and wildplaces of Cumbria. The Trust stands up for wildlife, creates wildlife havens, and seeks to raise environmental awareness.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is part of a partnership of 46 local Wildlife Trusts across the UK. With more than 800,000 members and 2,300 nature reserves, we are the largest UK voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the full range of the UK’s habitats and species.

To find out more about where to see winter wildlife at these and other Cumbrian nature reserves, go to