Winter wildlife at Beningbrough

Close up of a robin stood on mud

Not everything sleeps during the winter period. Many native and visiting birds and mammals are around and busy, so there's plenty to look out for in the Beningbrough parkland and gardens. Here's a guide to what you might spot in winter.


Visiting birds

In winter, fieldfares and redwings visit Beningbrough from Scandinavia. They're usually seen feeding on yew berries in the garden but also have a taste for hawthorn and rowan berries. Waxwings have also visited in recent years. Waxwings arrive in Britain from Scandinavia during most winters. When the berry crop is poor in the far north, thousands of these brightly coloured birds come south looking for food. The most striking features of the waxwing are the large crest on its head, and the black eye strip which gives it an exotic appearance.

Waxwings eating fruit at Beningbrough Hall
Wax wings at Beningbrough
Waxwings eating fruit at Beningbrough Hall


Jays are active at Beningbrough in late autumn and early winter. A shy, woodland bird, the jay is the most colourful member of the crow family. Jays arrive in October to feed on the acorn crop, and even bury acorns to retrieve later in winter. They have a loud distinctive ‘shriek’ which can be heard on winter days.

Birds hunting for prey

If you're lucky, you may see a sparrowhawk hunting in the garden or even a tawny owl searching for its prey before dark on a quiet winter afternoon. The ghostly white figure of a barn owl is also a possibility as they often feed in daylight in winter.


Birds in the garden

The American garden, beyond the walled garden has feeders and a bird hide, and is a great place for spotting birds. Here, you are likely to see blue tits, great tits, coal tits and chaffinches. Nuthatches and the great spotted woodpecker can also sometimes be seen.

Riverside wildlife

Mixed flocks of tit species can be seen flitting from willow to willow in search of food. There's usually a resident flock of long tailed tits active here too, looking for insects. Kingfishers, herons and gooseander are all resident on the river through the winter, as is the grey wagtail. A fleeting glimpse of an otter is always a possibility on a quiet day.

Woodland wildlife

A walk through the woodland areas of the parkland could be rewarded with a glimpse of a fox or even a roe deer. Small mammals are also in evidence, including short-tailed voles and wood mice. Occasionally, brown hares are to be seen in the winter fields. They have longer legs than rabbits and have black tips on their ears and tail.

Signs winter is ending

As the days begin to lengthen in January, buds on the trees begin to swell and catkins (male flowers) appear on shrubs such as hazel. On the woodland floor, the green shoots of bluebells can be seen emerging through the leaf litter and by early February, the first snowdrops are usually flowering, both in the garden and in the woods.

Carpets of bulbs mark the start of spring along the ha-ha walk
Large expanse of snowdrops under trees in winter and a blue sky
Carpets of bulbs mark the start of spring along the ha-ha walk

During the tercentenary year of Beningbrough Hall in 2016, visitors helped us to plant 300,000 bulbs to mark the occasion. This has helped to create a new ha-ha walk as one of the first elements of the new Andy Sturgeon designed 10 year garden vision begins. Visit in spring to see the bulbs flowering together and enjoy this improved area with fantastic views over the south parkland.