Winter Holiday Watch


Posted by Ed Roberts on 1st December 2021

Introducing Winter Holiday Watch

Winter activities

There are so many activities and wonderful things to see out in nature during the wintertime. It’s a time for recuperation and conserving energy, yet we can still witness some beautiful sights and sounds all around us.

Below, we have compiled a blizzard of fun activities and interesting ways to spend your December, January and February. So, pull your wellies on, wind yourself in a thick woolly scarf and cosy, warm coat and head out into the fantastic British winter to see which animals and birds are braving out the season and how you may be able to help them. Follow us and read how you can make the very best of your holiday this winter season with the RSPB.

We are also running a photography competition to win a £300 voucher towards your next break.

Photo comp


Discover forests and woodlands

As quiet as our forests and woodlands may seem in the depths of winter, look closer and you will see traces of bird and animal activity everywhere. Even though the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees, lushness endures in the pine and conifer woods, plantations and forests across the UK. Here are a sprinkling of activities that you could enjoy during the winter with your friends and family in some of our wilder spots, whether you plan to spend the season inland or at the coast.

Wintery walks

Our forests and woodlands are home to an abundance of nature trails. It’s here that you may experience brief yet wonderful encounters with winter birds and animal life. It’s also where you can seek out clues as to where the forest’s inhabitants may be hiding. Look for prints on the ground, at the edge of muddy pathways or towards gaps in the undergrowth. In the winter, you may discover traces of foxes, deer and red squirrels, as well as domestic and farm animals out in the fields, such as horses and cattle, all huddled up to keep warm when not sheltering in their barns together. More winter walks.

Be a nature detective

After the snowfall, rush out to the woods to see what footprints you can find left by the forest animals and birds, and even a few pets like cats and dogs! Can you tell the difference between a fox’s pawprint and a dog’s? Or a rabbit’s and a hare’s? You never know which animals could be close by, but with a sprinkling of snow, they leave evidence of their movements. Why not make an animal tracker, a handy homemade device where forest dwellers may leave a trail whilst you are fast asleep or away someplace else? Find out how to build your very own animal tracker.

Winter blooms and mosses 

Many of us may mourn the loss of colourful flowers in winter, however, keep an eye out for those that flower between January and March.

A winter walk will also reveal mosses and lichens, some of which thrive during the coldest part of the year. Mosses can be found in a variety of habitats that include woods, heathlands, grasslands and moorlands. There are over 1,800 species of lichens in the UK and 1,000 mosses; many require a microscope to spot and identify them successfully too.

All about lichens

How to help wildlife during winter

We can all do our bit to help birds and wild animals in winter. Like us, they need to conserve as much energy as possible so we can assist them greatly in a number of ways. 

Winter birds

In our gardens, we can introduce bird tables and posts where you could hang fat balls and seed blocks for our feathered visitors to feed upon. Keep a log of the birds that come by to sharpen your identification skills and look out for any rare species that may stop by too. You are most likely to see the hardy robin redbreast, blackbird, mistle thrush, and goldcrest on their rounds.

One particular spectacle to keep an active eye out for are the murmurations of starlings that take place daily around dusk. More often than not, you can see these cloud formations of birds wheeling through the air in remote rural places but there are some urban locations where you will be able to see them too. Bideford in North Devon hosts a natural display at the old bridge, a centuries-old winter roost for the local flocks to take shelter, or you can also spot them around the West Pier ruins in Brighton. Of course, you can also witness starling murmurations at some of the country’s RSPB bird reserves. It’s an unforgettable experience and one of the natural highlights of the British birdwatching winter.

When visiting an RSPB reserve, public park or lake, try your best not to disturb or upset the birds; for instance, if you are taking a dog along with you on your walk, keep them on a tight lead. Every time a bird takes off unnecessarily, it is burning energy that it could be conserving to search for food. Small children love to chase ducks and pigeons too, so please be mindful! It’s not something we think about, but our behaviour and proximity to the wildlife can sometimes have a negative impact.  

If you are curious, you can learn how different birds feed during a difficult winter, and how they have adapted to survive. Here’s what could be at the top of their menu this Christmas time.

If you are looking for some excellent places to go bird spotting around the UK this year check out our blog: Five good birdwatching spots in the UK


If you have room in your garden, build a bug hotel, or if you don’t have as much time, a compost heap. Assembling such an edifice can be a fun challenge; bug hotels provide warmth and shelter for creepy crawlies everywhere. Insects offer a source of food and goodness for your garden’s ecosystem. With layers and layers of wood and cardboard, and assorted debris from your garden, including stuffed wood, straw, moss, leaves, woodchips, bark, sand, roof tiles and so much more, you could build quite the citadel for your mini-beasts. Create a bug hotel with your children as a part of their RSPB wild challenge! Get building! 

Frogs and toads

Frogs and toads like to sit the winter out by finding a sleeping place at the bottom of a garden pond or in a hollow on the ground - a snug spot to stay warm and cosy. You could also create them somewhere to hide away by building a small frog habitat all you need is short twigs and branches, a few bricks and flat stones, and perhaps some wildflower seeds down by the pond where it's a bit warmer. 

RSPB Sparrow

Winter gardening

Roll out the welcome mat for wildlife in the new year by planting some new trees and bushes. Adding a few saplings to your garden is a great way to entice birds and the odd squirrel. Also, raise your pot plant and herbs game so that the inside of your house is fragrant and emboldened by their small-scale leafy presence. Preparing your garden for the months ahead is a great pastime and the results of your hard work will come to fruition in the spring and summer months. In February, you will begin to see the first signs of the early flowers like crocuses and daffodils (if you live in the south of England). Cut back your winter jasmine after it has flowered and it will return even more glorious the following winter. For more tips on winter gardening and getting prepped for the spring, enjoy the RSPB’s handy blog, Gardening in February.

Winter gardening


A trip to the coast

The British Isles is home to miles and miles of wild coast. If you love a dramatic seascape where you can safely watch winter waves batter our coasts, there are endless swathes of the country to seek out. From the remote and characterful north coast of Scotland to the jagged granite cliffs of Cornwall, it’s a total contrast to the views which can be found in these spots during the summer months and a fantastic way to see nature when at its most furious and impressive.

Whilst the sea is hard at work, where is the wildlife? Well, sea life thrives and multiplies beneath the waves in the winter; it’s also a good time to see seals and their pups because it’s this time of year that they haul out to give birth and take refuge. Some of the best spots are in North Cornwall, Norfolk, and the east coast of England and Scotland.

Seals and their pups


The winter is a great time of year for clear skies so why not take a holiday in one of the UK’s Dark Sky Discovery Sites.  Wrap up warm and take a drive to a remote spot to soak up the view of the heavens in all their starry glory. Which constellations can you see? Bring a telescope or binoculars to improve your view and buy a star map to help you identify which planets can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere – they’re great to help inquisitive children learn more about space too. Take along a red light to illuminate the way because they aid your night vision as opposed to the glare of brighter white lights; a rear bike light is perfect if you don’t own a red torch. Visit our blog to find the best places to stargaze in the UK.

Watch the night sky

More inspiration

For even more inspirational winter reading, check out some of our blogs. Visit Forest Holidays in the UK, Surfing in the UK: autumn and winter, and Top 10 winter walks in the UK. There's so much to discover during the British winter.

Why not browse our collection of self-catering holiday cottages for a winter break? We have thousands of cottages throughout England, Scotland and Wales for you to choose from.

Browse collection

Need inspiration for your Winter Holiday Watch photo?

Have a look at some of last year's entrants in two of our blogs below:

Get involved

Do you love taking photographs? Then why don’t you share your favourite snaps with us? What will you see on your winter walks? Cunning foxes, busy robin redbreasts, hungry seal pups, or swooping owls?

For every photograph submitted on our #WinterHolidayWatch via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we’ll be donating 50p to the RSPB* and you can win £300 towards your next break.

*Donations to the RSPB for the Winter Holiday Watch are up to a maximum of £1,000.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.