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
are several activities that you can try out throughout the year in woodland areas:
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.
* 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
* 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
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.
it with leaves, return a few hours later and you'll find a beautiful cast.
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.
diversity of wildlife at Abernethy Forest is immense ranging from Red Squirrels
feeding on the Scots Pines' cones, to birds like Grouse and Capercaillie.
* 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.
* 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
Coppicing a wood
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.