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Dorset’s winter wildlife

Colin Varndell captures the animals and birds hardy enough and desperate enough to be out and about in winter

As winter bites, so Dorset’s wildlife faces the darkest months of the year. Cold weather can be fatal for small mammals and birds. With long, cold, dark nights to endure, many species need to consume almost their own bodyweight each day, in order to have any chance of survival. The biggest threat to wildlife is snow, as even a relatively light covering of snow can lock away essential food supplies.

Rabbits will scratch away snow or frost to get at grass shoots

Pheasants are common in Dorset now due to the increase in organised shoots

Frost crystals pick out the fern fronds on a cold, frosty morning

A blue tit perches on a frozen teasel seedhead in its frantic search for food

Fieldfares (shown) and redwings, which have arrived in Dorset for the winter, will come into gardens searching for fruit when harsh weather bites

Hoarfrost on Lewesdon Hill with every tree and branch covered in white frost crystals

The water rail can be found throughout Dorset, but much of the time remains hidden in reedbeds. However, in frosty conditions the water rail comes out into the open more.

It is not only truly wild animals that can suffer in cold winters; farm animals are not wholly immune to the cold, but sheep are generally hardy when it comes to winter weather

Although robins are year-round residents of Dorset, they are most visible, like this one robin on a snowy morning, against the white winter backdrop

Hoarfrosts occur when overnight mist or fog is frozen to hedgerows and trees forming wafer thin blades of white ice

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