We all look forward to Christmas. But being the season of the shortest days and longest nights especially when the North wind blows, brings freezing temperatures and snow. This can be the toughest time of the year for wildlife to survive. But creatures have adapted to the conditions in many different ways. A theme I explored in a major BBC Christmas documentary several years ago. A film that took me to several different countries in midwinter, with countless challenges. Not least of which was in the mountainous volcanic country of Yellowstone National Park. A location that got my prize for the coldest place when my thermometer ceased working below minus 20 degrees Celsius. The perils of such low temperatures soon become obvious to those of us more used to living in the usually mild south west of England, when bare fingers stick instantly to metal and camera batteries die after just a few minutes of use. Let alone encountering hungry wolves and huge bison.

Wild animals survive winter in many different and ingenious ways. Many birds migrate huge distances to avoid an arctic winter. Others, from bats to butterflies, enter a deep sleep. Indeed, so deep some are barely alive. One frog we found in the woodlands of North America, even takes it to extremes and freezes solid. A process only possible because their blood contains an antifreeze. Hibernation is a way that animals can conserve energy to survive adverse weather. But perhaps more importantly the lack of food. It is a tactic to avoid the real danger of starvation during the coldest months. The process involves physiological changes as the body temperature drops and metabolism slows. In such a deep state of torpor a creature becomes vulnerable to predation, so must seek somewhere safe and secure to hide. Other animals adapt to the cold by growing dense fur or feathers. Sometimes turning white for camouflage.

But surely among the cleverest of creatures take advantage of people. Winter is the most important time to put out peanuts, seeds and balls of fat to help wild birds survive. The secret to a busy bird table is regularity. Replenishing food and tepid water at the same time every day. One of the first in our queue is the robin. Bright, bold and friendly, they have no doubt thrived alongside people for thousands of years. One of the few birds where male and female not only look identical, but both sing during winter and hold individual territories. Their red breast standing out against the snow has famously made them synonymous with Christmas and the turning of the year. Surely our favourite garden bird.

Andrew Cooper