photo of eagle owl in snow

Best places for wildlife in January

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.

After this list of organised trips, there is a list of posts on this website of more places worth a visit in winter.

photo of a red-breasted goose
Red-breasted Goose

Bulgaria

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.

Estonia

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.

France

Check my page The naturalist in France in Winter for ideas

Photo of 4 white pelicans on water

Greece

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 PelicansDalmatian PelicansGreater FlamingosPygmy 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.

Photo of the Lanzarote coast

Spain

See my round-up of the best of Spain in January

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.

Sweden

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.

photo of a flock of waders

Portugal

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.

Poland

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.

UK

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 in winter

Photo of Rocina Marshes

Doñana National Park

How to get the most out of a visit to the Doñana National Park. My recommendations after several visits.

Winter birds at the Tejo Estuary

Some 70,000 water birds spend their winter on the Tejo estuary near Lisbon in Portugal. That can mean some serious birdwatching there.

The naturalist in France in winter

France isn’t an obvious place for nature-watching in winter, but there are plenty of birds, and even some mammals to see. Here are some suggestions of where to find them.

The Lauwersmeer in winter

The Lauwersmeer National Park, in the northern part of the Netherlands, provides a fantastic winter feeding ground for geese and other birds that breed further north.

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4 thoughts on “Best places for wildlife in January

  1. 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

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is awesome! You photography is so good. Wildlife is so important and so cool to observe in their natural habitats. Great post!

    Like

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