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18 June 2014
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Activities | Woodlands

Woodland wonders

Red Squirrel

Woodlands are great places to see wildlife. Take a few tips from the Hands on Nature team as we get close to wildlife with three activities that you can do near your home.

Or why not find out about new woodland locations to visit!

Woodland rarity

Here are several activities that you can try out throughout the year in woodland areas:

New Forest wildlife

DeerThe historic New Forest is a nationally important environment comprising woodland, heaths, bogs and the remains of timber plantations.

The New Forest is of great ecological value, largely because of the relatively large areas of lowland habitats which still survive.

This makes it a brilliant place for nature watchers. Here's our top tips on badger spotting and reading animal footprints.

BadgerBadger spotting tips

* Look for signs of badger activity - soil spoils, bedding thrown out of setts. Watch out for badger prints - they have five toes with big front claws. Good places to look are along streams where you may find a crossing place with softer mud.

* Once you've located Badger activity and setts, fully explore the area in day time to get the lie of the land. Make a mental note of where the Badger paths radiate from the setts.

* When you return in the evening, don't tread on the Badger trails and avoid leaving your scent in this area. Badgers have a very keen sense of smell.

* Bring a box of matches, strike one and work out which way is 'downwind' of the Badgers and locate yourself there.

* Be prepared to wait, stand against a tree to disguise your body.

* Wear clothes that aren't noisy - no Velcro!

* If you're really lucky, the badger may come out before it gets dark. The female badger has a long, thin neck, slim body and narrow tail. The male or boar is chunkier in size and shape.

* The best time to see badgers is April and May at about 8.30pm.

* Wait for Badgers to return to their holes and leave as quietly as possible so you don't disturb them.

Reading animal prints

* Badgers - five toes with big front claws and smaller back ones.

* Foxes - four toes (like a dog).

* Why not make an imprint of your animal prints? Mix plaster of paris and water in a bag. Make a hole in the bag and pour it onto the track you've found.

Cover it with leaves, return a few hours later and you'll find a beautiful cast.

Bird watching

OspreyAbernethy Forest in is one of the oldest woodlands in the Britain, renowned for its soaring Scots Pines, its stunning Ospreys, and its abundance of wildlife.

The diversity of wildlife at Abernethy Forest is immense ranging from Red Squirrels feeding on the Scots Pines' cones, to birds like Grouse and Capercaillie.

Capercaillie spotting

* Join a Caper Watch in a forest hide. Don't forget your binoculars.

* Look for something black in the landscape. Also watch for a flash of its large white rump.

* Capercaillies can sometimes be seen eating Scots Pine needles in the trees.

* Watch out for the Capercaillie 'lek' or dance when male birds strut their stuff in the hope of getting a mate.

* The best time to see the 'lek' is during the season between April-May.

Dating a tree

* Measure round the trunk - you need to be about five feet up from the base, avoiding bits that stick out.

* As a rough guide - every 2.5 cm of girth is about one year's tree growth.

* Once you've measured your tree, divide the number of centimetres by 2.5 and you have the approximate age of the tree.

Coppicing a wood

Bradfirld WoodBradfield is a classic English lowland woodland, and is probably the best example in Britain of a traditionally managed wood using coppicing.

Today the wood is managed in the same way as in medieval times when the monks of Bury St Edmunds Abbey were its first custodians.

Coppicing fact file

* Trees are cut back almost to ground level in Winter in cycles of between ten and 25 years.

* The trees are cut down to a base leaving a stool from which new shoots grow, usually as a group of straight poles.

* Sometimes animals use the old stumps as look-out posts or feeding tables.

* Later the wood is harvested and used for firewood, fencing and other uses.



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Dating a Scots Pine

Hands on Nature


On the rest of the web

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New Forest


access to New Forest
How to get there, opening times and visitor info.

Badger watching, animal prints and deer spotting..


Red Squirrel

access to Abernethy
How to get there, opening times and visitor info.

Nature activities at Abernethy Forest.

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