What to Look For in Winter
Winters Day This is the best time of year to watch wildfowl with numbers of tufted duck, coot, wigeon, pochard and golden eye all at their highest. When the weather gets really bad look out for some of the rarer divers such as the great northern diver and the red and black throated divers. But you’ll probably need a telescope to pick them out!

Alton is a safe haven for birds from the continent in times of particularly bad weather and smew can often be seen under these conditions. Just occasionally a bittern will move into the area. Thanks to the national conservation efforts for this species this is becoming a more common occurrence and there’s a good chance that the birds may stay for quite a time. But you will have to look really carefully for this shy and elusive bird.
It is at this time that the woodland birds rely heavily on the bird feeding station at Larchwood. This is maintained and the feeders kept topped up by the volunteers. The numbers and variety of birds using the station is steadily growing and you can expect to see most of the common garden birds including greater spotted woodpeckers, green finches and goldfinches.

It’s not only the birds that can struggle to find sufficient food. We have been working on an innovative project to provide seed feeding stations for small mammals. Sudden severe weather can have a catastrophic effect on numbers of these animals. We are lucky to have several species that take advantage of what is on offer including yellow-necked mice and water shrews.
Snowy Day
Canada Geese
Now that the weed has largely died away many of the fish are left more vulnerable to predation by fish eating birds. This is a particular problem if the water level is low as the safety of the willow margins is largely inaccessible. Using natural materials several fish refuges have been constructed by the volunteers to provide additional shelter. These have the added benefit of providing spawning sites for species such as perch in the spring. Look out for fish eating birds like the great crested and little grebes and goosanders who regularly patrol around these structures. It is hoped to build more of these structures and extend there positioning into deeper water. We shall place them where they are visible from the hides.

Towards the end of winter some species start to make preparations for the forth-coming breeding season. As early as February great crested grebes can be seen performing their breeding display. In the shallow water margins huge pike begin to pair up and