The Wildlife Trusts’ top Christmas tunes

Thursday 2nd December 2010

The Wildlife Trusts believe Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate some of our most iconic wildlife – and the people who give their time to protect it too. And what better way to sing their praises than through a selection of the UK’s best loved Christmas Carols. Here’s a guide to The Wildlife Trusts’ top three

While shepherds watched their flocks by night

“While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground”

The Wildlife Trusts’ grazing flocks are a precious resource, ensuring marshes, meadows and other habitats are maintained for the benefit of wildlife.

Like all livestock, most of these animals need a watchful eye looking over them, and The Wildlife Trusts often rely on volunteers to do this. These volunteers, nicknamed ‘lookerers’ often work over the Christmas period, including Christmas and Boxing Day, ensuring the flocks are comfortable through the tough winter days.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s two shepherds will be watching over more than 1,000 - mostly Shetland - sheep this Christmas, whilst eight staff and six volunteers will be keeping their eyes on the Trust’s 100 Dartmoor, Konik and Welsh mountain ponies, as they go about their conservation-grazing work.

At Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Brockholes Nature Reserve in Lancashire, longhorn cattle on loan from Cheshire Wildlife Trust will be watched over by lookerers as they help shape the landscape of the reserve in time for its grand opening in 2011.

A flock of belted Galloways grazing Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Hill Court Farm will be watched over by a team of volunteers over the Christmas period, whilst Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s grazing officer will be out feeding its herds of ponies, sheep and cows.

In the bleak midwinter

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone”

Birds and other wildlife looking for food and water over the winter can be met with bare branches, a layer of snow on the ground, and frozen ponds and puddles. Ready supplies of food and water left out in gardens can be a lifeline for them, and you can enjoy watching the wildlife that is tempted in, which is particularly visible when trees are bare and snow is on the ground.

Blue tits and great tits can often be seen in gardens where hanging feeders full of seed have been left out. Finches love snacking on seeds in wildflower patches, and also enjoy niger seed.

If you want to attract robins, leave a dish of mealworms outside for them – Robin Redbreast cannot resist this treat. Of course, they also favour the seasonal classic – a piece of juicy Christmas cake!

Don’t forget to ensure fresh water is available, as bird baths often freeze over in the cold weather. Nick Baker, naturalist and Vice President for The Wildlife Trusts, has produced short films on keeping your birds well watered and making bird feeders for the Wildlife Watch UK Youtube channel. Watch them here

The holly and the ivy

“Of all the trees that are in the wood
“The holly bears the crown”

As the UK landscape gently settles into a winter sleep, colours pale and foliage disappears. But holly defies this pattern, its scarlet berries and glossy green leaves blazing throughout winter. The evergreen plant is a useful food source for birds and other animals which can feed on the berries when other supplies have dwindled.

There are many Wildlife Trust reserves where the sight of holly can be enjoyed, including Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s The Hollies on the edge of the Stiperstones. Here, some of the UK’s most ancient holly trees can be seen. Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Piper’s Hill and Dodderhill Common, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Bystock nature reserve, and Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s Fox Hagg are also good places to appreciate its bright colours.

Wildlife gardeners should consider growing both holly and ivy to support the creatures that visit their patch. Resist cutting back ivy, as its flowers can provide nectar to insects like queen wasps through the winter months and it offers a safe winter hideaway for butterflies and small mammals. The berries of both holly and ivy will ripen through winter and provide food for birds.

Story by RSWT