When I first travelled around Europe, in the days before the internet, finding out about the best places and when to visit relied mainly on word-of-mouth and a couple of ‘where-to-watch’ type books. My instinct was to head south, to Andalucia, but I discovered a lot of interesting places en route. Going north, to colder climes did not appeal, yet there is so much to see if only you know where to go.
Start with the brochures/websites of companies offering nature-based trips. Even if you don’t want to go on an organised trip, these will at least give you ideas of the top places.
NatureTrek – Winter Wildlife of Bulgaria & Romania – On the Trail of the Red-breasted Goose. A 9-day winter tour in search of geese, ducks and other wildlife, taking in the Black Sea coast in both Bulgaria and Romania as well as some forest and steppe habitats.
Neophron – The northernmost part of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast – Coastal Dobroudzha – is famous for being the wintering ground for hundreds of thousands of wild geese, among which almost the whole population of the globally threatened Red-breasted Goose. In the recent 20 years up to 62 000 Red-breasted Geese have been spending the winter in the area of the lakes of Durankulak and Shabla.
Neophron – Wolves & Vultures of Bulgaria. The Eastern part of the Rhodope Mountains is locked between the valleys of the big rivers Arda and Maritsa in southern Bulgaria, near the border with Greece. This area hosts exceptional biodiversity – a result of the mixture of Mediterranean and continental climate. This is the realm of the wolf packs, as here is one of the densest populations of the Wolf in Bulgaria. The most spectacular birds of the region in winter are the vultures – Eurasian Griffon and Eurasian Black vultures.
January-February – the best time to observe Steller’s Eider when flocks can reach 1000 or more. Saaremaa, the biggest island in Estonia, and the most north-eastern point of the mainland at Cape Põõsaspea are the best places to see them, along with thousands of long-tailed ducks, goldeneye, goosanders and white-tailed eagles. Can’t see any trips advertised, but Natourest are probably the best people to advise.
All the big estuaries of the north and west coast are worth visiting, as is the Rhône Delta on the Mediterranean coast.
Best places for wildlife in February
Europe can be as fascinating for wildlife in winter as it is in the warmer months. Here are some ideas on the best places to go in February
Winter birds on the Gulf of Morbihan
The Golfe du Morbihan provides a huge feast for wintering waders and wildfowl. Here are a few suggestions for places to watch them.
Greentours – Lake Kerkini National Park is a winter bird-watching paradise and a haven for Pelicans, Waterfowl & Eagles! Let us take you on a week-long exploration of the Lake and the surrounding fields, forests, mountains and coastal lagoons to enjoy diverse and bountiful bird life!
Neophron – Dalmatian Pelican Photography – Nestled picturesquely between two separate mountain ranges, Lake Kerkini is one of the true jewels of European birding and the core of a nature reserve that is a relatively unexplored wonderland of beauty and biological diversity. Plenty of Great White Pelicans, Dalmatian Pelicans, Greater Flamingos, Pygmy Cormorants, herons, ducks and other waterbirds, riverside forests and fantastic panoramic view from the mountains of Belasitsa and Krousia give it a characteristic atmosphere. The combination of wildfowl, flora and fauna, good weather for a large part of the year and a virtually traffic-free track around the lake make it ideal for birding and bird photography.
Neophron – Winter Photography in Bulgaria and Greece – To take photos of Dalmatian Pelican we visit either the Bourgas wetlands in the South-eastern Bulgaria or Lake Kerkini in Northern Greece, depending on the winter conditions and your preferences, and for Eurasian Griffon Vultures we visit the Eastern Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, where we manage several fixed hides.
Neophron – Winter Birding in Northern Greece. In winter the wetlands of Northern Greece hold huge numbers of birds that have escaped from the harsh weather in Central and Eastern Europe. Join us for a great birding experience with opportunities to see a variety of highly sought-after species! This tour starts from Thessaloniki on the Aegean Sea. If time allows, we visit Kalohori Lagoon in the vicinity of Thessaloniki, which is a very good site for waterfowl and shore-birds in winter.
See my round-up of the best of Spain in Winter
If it’s plants you’re after, then the Canary Islands can be good at this time of year. Flowering depends more on rainfall than on date, and earlier is often better, as I discovered when visiting Lanzarote.
NatureTrek – Northern Lights & Winter Wildlife. A 6-day holiday, including one night of “glamping” in Swedish Lapland, in search of spectacular winter scenery, wildlife and the Northern Lights.
Classic places for winter birdwatching in Portugal include several wetlands in the Algarve easily accessible by public transport and from tourist resorts, and the Tejo estuary near Lisbon where a car is definitely needed.
NatureTrek – Poland in Winter. A 7-day winter adventure to Poland in search of large mammals rare or even extinct in much of western Europe.
Oriolebirding – An action-packed five days birding in Norfolk maximising the daylight hours in the field. We normally walk around 3-4 miles per day and it can be wet and muddy at this time of year. At least two evenings finish with a roost for raptors and wildfowl.
More nature-watching calendars
Best places for wildlife in March
A round-up of some of the best places for nature-watching in Europe in March.
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4 thoughts on “Best places for wildlife in January”
I loved this! So many Americans don’t consider Europe in the winter (other than Christmas Markets) but I love all of Europe in the less crowded cooler season. This has some excellent ideas for me to consider!
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What wonderful inspiration for a trip to Europe in winter…I do remember the squirrels of the UK when we were there such cheeky animals…the red breasted goose is gorgeous also
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Thank you for the inspiration!
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This is awesome! You photography is so good. Wildlife is so important and so cool to observe in their natural habitats. Great post!
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