Review of the Year – The Wood

Its been three years now since our dream of owning a little piece of woodland became a reality. We may not have had the wood for long, but already it has taught us so much and has become a quiet and precious haven both for us and the wildlife that lives amongst its lovely trees.

Woodcock fly across from Finland and Russia to spend the winter in the wood. They rest up during the day on the ground amongst the brambly undergrowth but come out at night to probe the soft ground with their long breaks, searching for soil invertebrates to eat.

Redwing are also to be found here in the winter before returning to Iceland and Scandinavia to breed.

This year there was a cold snap in February and snow settled onto the woodland floor:

Woodcock’s beak covered in snow

A rare sighting of deer in the wood:

Fox in the snow:

And Fox stalking a Magpie:

As spring finally arrived, parts of the wood became covered in a blanket of primroses and violets, visited by Bumblebees and Bee-Flies…

…and birds started to make their nests.

Blackbird gathering wet mud

Seventeen of the eighteen small bird boxes that we have put up in the wood were used by Great Tits and Blue Tits this year.

Great Tit taking in a wad of moss

In our first spring here, a hole in a mature cherry tree was dug out and used by a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Then, last year and again this year, Green Woodpeckers have reared their young in this same hole:

Each spring, a pair of Bullfinch has arrived and raised a family here:

Male and female Bullfinch in amongst the Bugle

There is small colony of Twayblades, a type of orchid, that comes up every year:

This year we also found a single White Helleborine, another orchid:

As the weeks advanced, young animals began to appear on the cameras:

A family of Jays
A juvenile Green Woodpecker
A pair of young Bullfinch
A fox cub tagging along behind its father

The adult foxes needed to work extra hard to find food for their cubs as well as for themselves:

Fox with rabbit

Badger cubs were also seen in the wood this year but I particularly enjoyed this photo of three adults sprawled out relaxing together. Badgers really know how to lounge:

Unfortunately there are large numbers of Grey Squirrels here in the wood. They have killed so many beautiful Beech and Oak trees by stripping bark in the early summer and are also notable predators of bird nests.

A family of Squirrels

A Roe Deer in the wood in June:

Molehills pock-mark the boundary between the wood and the adjoining field but this is the first time that we have actually seen a mole and I was surprised to see that it had a tail:

In the summer, one of the clearings in the wood becomes carpeted in Marjoram which attracts a wonderful variety of insects such as these Scorpion Flies..

The males have scorpion-like tails

.. and Silver Washed Fritillary Butterflies, gliding serenely amongst the Marjoram flowers on sunny days. It was a particularly good year for these butterflies:

As the heat of the summer started to build, birds of prey came down to the ponds to drink and bathe. Tawny Owls….

Buzzards….

.. and Sparrowhawks

In the autumn, with the breeding season long over, we went round clearing the old bird nests out of the boxes. It was surprising to find that five of the boxes had Dormice nesting on top of the bird nest.

A Dormouse in a bird box

But now it is winter once more. The Woodcock and Redwing have returned and we have again begun our winter work of coppicing the Hazel and creating dead hedge habitat along the boundaries with the cut wood.

On the brink of 2022, it has been lovely to reflect on the year that is finishing as I put together this post. I now look forward to what further natural history discoveries and delights the new year will bring.

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