British wildlife guide: best places to see and what to spot each month

From White mountain hares to bottlenose dolphins, the UK is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Television presenter and wildlife expert Nick Baker has picked a selection of the best animals to see and where each month.

Starling

The UK is home to a huge variety wildlife, in our annual wildlife guide, wildlife expert and television presenter Nick Baker has picked a selection of the best animals to see and where each month.

Nick Baker said: “From whales to birdlife, deer, insects and more, Britain is brimming with nature and that’s something we can often forget. It doesn’t take long to get out of the hustle and bustle of a city or town, and once you do, you’re greeted with great scenery and an array of animals to spot.

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If amazing wildlife is a must when planning your travels, you really don’t need to go abroad as there is so much here in the UK. The most important thing in 2019 is that we celebrate it, and in turn, protect it”.

JANUARY

Animal: White Mountain Hares

Where: In England, within the Peak District or Upper Pennines. In Wales, only in Snowdonia and for Scotland, the ‘white rabbit’ is common throughout most of the highland region of Scotland.

white mountain hare (lepus timidus) seen in Scotland in the mountains, turns white during the winter
white mountain hare (lepus timidus) seen in Scotland in the mountains, turns white during the winter

What better way to start the year, than to spot a unique creature surrounded by beautiful scenery? The white mountain hare isn’t another breed that you haven’t heard of, but a Mountain hare in its winter coat. Starting in November and keeping its coat right through to April, January is prime time to head out on a picturesque winter walk. The coat turns white to camouflage the hare in snow, but if the grass is green, you stand a great chance of spotting these cute, snowy white animals.

Brown hare, Lepus europaeus

FEBRUARY

Animal: Starlings

Where: Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Somerset, Brighton Pier, Sussex and Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, single bird standing on sea weed, Lothian, Scotland, winter 2009
Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, single bird standing on sea weed, Lothian, Scotland, winter 2009

The cold, wintery months still provide more than enough reason to get outside and experience nature. Its still unknown why these murmurations take place, however they create a truly other-worldly, awe-inspiring sight. Across the country thousands of starlings take part in this dance in the skies, creating ever changing shapes before settling in trees, on buildings or even under piers. Some of the best places to catch a murmuration can be in Somerset, Sussex and Nottinghamshire. Try heading out just before the sun sets for the best views.


MARCH

Animal: Migrating birds including Chiffchaffs, Sand Martins, and Wheatears

ChiffChaff-8085a37

Where: Across the United Kingdom

Early on in the year is a great time to see birds, and March signals the start of the migration back into the UK for multiple species. Whether you’re in your back garden or out in the forest for a walk, you’ll notice emerging birdsong from the likes of chiffchaffs, sand martins, wheatears and more. With the warmer weather starting to come through too, March is the perfect time of year for the avid bird watcher.


APRIL

Animal: Common Lizard

Where: Your local nature park

Those first warm breaths of Spring bring out the sun-bathing reptiles. This is our most widespread and common reptile, so you can search for it anywhere there is short vegetation at the edges of paths and on walls. They can be tricky to see as they are super-fast when thermally charged, usually all you get is a quick rustle and the glimpse of a tail as they run for cover at our approaching feet. A tip to see them is to freeze when you hear this and simply wait, in most cases the furtive little reptile will re-emerge and resume its original position soaking up the early spring sunshine.


MAY

Animal: Arctic Tern

Arctic tern in flight
Arctic tern in flight ©Getty

Where: Farne Islands, Northumberland

David Attenborough describes this as his favourite place in the UK, and it isn’t hard to see why. There’s thousands of sea birds here, in addition to a grey seal colony. You’ll need to take a boat out to this group of islands, but in May its well worth the trip, as this when you’ll spot nesting birds, including the instantly recognisable Arctic Tern, with its whitish grey feathers and black ‘cap’ on top of its head.


JUNE

Animal: Minke Whale

Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, AustraliaDwarf minke whale - thought to form yet-to-be named sub-species of common minke whale
Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Dwarf minke whale – thought to form yet-to-be named sub-species of common minke whale

Where: Northumberland coastline

Many might think that you need to go much further afield to spot whales, however a June trip to the east of England in Northumberland and you could be lucky. You’ll need to take a boat trip out (as with almost any whale watching experience around the world) but then you could be perfectly placed to spot a pod of minke whales in their natural habitat.


JULY

Animal: Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth
Bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth near Cromarty.

Where: Falmouth, Cornwall

Continuing with our sea theme, we’re leaving the east coast and whales, for the south west and dolphins. Not surprisingly, they’re a major draw for tourists of Cornwall and heading to Falmouth in July should maximise your chances of seeing them. They can be seen throughout the year, however the best times (not just for the weather) are between June and August, so July couldn’t be more perfect for a summer trip to the coast to see these amazing animals during their search for plankton.


AUGUST

Animal: Seal pups

GRIMSBY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: A Grey Seal pup lies in the grass at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Donna Nook nature reserve on November 24, 2014 in Grimsby, England. Seal pup numbers have increased on last year with over 800 pups born at the reserve so far. Large bull seals are the first to arrive at the reserve in late October or early November where they will wait for females. The Cow's arrive later and are herded into harems by the bulls, where they give birth to a single pup which is covered in white fur. The seals return to the North Sea in January before returning to the same area to give birth the following year. The Donna Nook reserve is the UK's premier destination to see Grey Seals and thousands of visitors from across the country come to see the wildlife spectacle every year. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 24: A Grey Seal pup lies in the grass at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Donna Nook nature reserve on November 24, 2014 in Grimsby, England. Seal pup numbers have increased on last year with over 800 pups born at the reserve so far. Large bull seals are the first to arrive at the reserve in late October or early November where they will wait for females. The Cow’s arrive later and are herded into harems by the bulls, where they give birth to a single pup which is covered in white fur. The seals return to the North Sea in January before returning to the same area to give birth the following year. The Donna Nook reserve is the UK’s premier destination to see Grey Seals and thousands of visitors from across the country come to see the wildlife spectacle every year. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Where: Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales

West Wales plays home to around five thousand Atlantic grey seals, and August in particular, is a great time to spot seal pups resting on the rocks with their parents. Seals are of course protective of their pups, so pup on more secluded beaches at the foot of the cliffs around Moylegrove, St. Davids and Cemeas Head.


SEPTEMBER

Animal: Bats

Batimage-8c8d507

Where: Cambridge

As Summer starts to merge into Autumn, there isn’t many better ways to spend a balmy September evening than with a ‘Bat Safari’. Yes, you heard that right, from May until late September, the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust runs bat safari punting tours between Cambridge and Granchester Meadows. For approximately 90 minutes, you’ll be gliding along the river as bats swoop around you in the low light. The tour even includes the use of specialist equipment that converts the bat’s sonar signals into audible frequencies. A truly memorable experience.


OCTOBER

Animal: Fallow and Red Deer

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Where: Richmond Park, London

If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city, there’s not many better place than Richmond Park in London. This huge expanse of land plays home to hundreds of deer and is a must do if you live or are just visiting London. October marks the annual deer rut, so for beautiful scenery mixed with the drama of these rutting deers, be sure to go IN THIS Autumn month. Just make sure to give the deers a wide berth and keep any dogs on their leads.


NOVEMBER

Animal: Salmon

SELKIRK, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 31: Salmon attempt to leap up the fish ladder in the river Etterick on October 31, 2012 in Selkirk, Scotland. The salmon are returning upstream from the sea where they have spent between two and four winters feeding with many covering huge distances to return to the fresh waters to spawn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The salmon are returning upstream from the sea where they have spent between two and four winters feeding with many covering huge distances to return to the fresh waters to spawn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Where: Dartmoor, Wales and Upland Rivers in Scotland

Head to the highlands where the rivers run fast and furious. Salmon are returning to the gravelly river beds of their youth in order to complete their lifecycle and spawn. Many of them will have travelled thousands of miles since the last time they swam these waters, having spent up to 4 years feeding in the ocean.Now is a good time to catch up with them en route ‘home’. The best places to head to are the weirs and the waterfalls – here you’ll get to see the fish leap spectacularly out of the water as they fight the current and gravity to get to their final destination. This is fish twitching at its best.


DECEMBER

Animal: Reindeer

Reindeer_Lying_GettyImages-358872a

Where: Cairngorms, Scotland

How else could you end a year of wildlife spotting? Truly get in the Christmas cheer in Cairngorms with some reindeer spotting. You can see these majestic animals all year round, but with the chance of a crisp frost or even snow at this time of year, December in the Cairngorms is the recipe for a Christmas to remember. At 150 strong, this is the only free-roaming herd of reindeer in the entirety of the UK.

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Nick Baker has partnered with Premier Inn to detail just how many amazing animals are right beneath our noses right here in the UK.