There’s loads of wildlife to explore round about Milngavie and Bearsden

SCOTTISH Natural Heritage (SNH) staff are reporting all kinds of exciting winter wildlife sightings at national nature reserves – and are encouraging people to go out and spot some wildlife themselves.

SNH looks after four national nature reserves within easy reach of Milngavie and Bearsden.

They are great places to see a variety of wildlife throughout the winter, including otters, red deer, whooper swans and short-eared owls.

Martin Twiss, SNH area officer, said: “It might take a bit of extra effort to get outdoors in winter, but it’s certainly worth it. As well as dramatic winter scenery, wildlife is often easier to spot with bare branches, ice and snow. It’s the best time of year to watch ducks, geese and swans – as their numbers are highest then – and it’s also great fun looking for animal tracks in the snow.”

The Clyde Valley Woodlands are a great place to visit in winter - there’s a better chance of glimpsing wildlife with no leaves on the trees.

Foxes are very active at the moment and you might spot shy roe deer through the trees.

Keep an eye out for woodland birds like treecreepers, great spotted woodpeckers and even the elusive woodcock as well.

Winter is also the best time to appreciate the dramatic wooded landscapes, with cascading burns tumbling in spate through narrow gorges. Otters are often seen around the Falls of Clyde in February and March.

The Clyde Valley Woodlands national nature reserve, south east of Glasgow, is home to one of Scotland’s oldest and richest forests, lying hidden in dramatic gorges.

Loch Lomond is winter home to whooper swans, a flock of white-fronted geese all the way from Greenland and even the occasional water vole, just starting to return to the loch after many years of absence.

The Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve is on the southeast side of the loch.

It includes the island, Inchcailloch, where you can take your pick of tranquil walks on a magical wooded isle. Or wander down to the loch shore to enjoy the rich wildlife of the Endrick Mouth.

At Flanders Moss, winter is a time for seeking shelter and enough food to last through the cold season.

This makes it a good time of year to see red deer around Flanders Moss, as they come down from the hills in search of grazing.

You can also get lucky and see a short-eared owl or even a hen harrier hunting low over the Moss.

Flanders Moss is west of Stirling, a vast expanse of all things damp and wonderful.

From a distance you can make out the perfectly formed domes of peat as they rise gently from their surroundings.

Closer up, squelchy mats of sphagnum moss carpet the reserve with their swirling colours.