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17 September 2014
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Woodland activities

Wildlife extravaganza

Castle Eden Dene c/o Natural England and Peter Wakely

If you go down to the woods you'll be in for big treat with wide range of nature watching activities... and they don't just involve looking at trees.

From butterflies and bugs to mammals and moths, woods offer an unrivalled selection of nature.

Woodlands provide great locations for a wide range of wildlife.

Here's three activities which you can participate in woodlands and surrounding areas:

* Woodland walks.
* Pond watching.
* Butterfly safari.

Woodland walks

Woodland birds c/o Thetford ForestWoodlands are great locations for walks during the summer months.

Why not test your knowledge of trees and woodland plants and birds as you meander through the woods?

Here's a few tips to make the most of your woodland walks:

* Don't forget to bring a good tree and plant identification guide so you can look for rarities.

* The woodland floor is a good place to find rare plants and flowers. Use your sense of smell to sniff out herbs and fragrant varieties.

* To spot elusive woodland birds, keep scanning the trees and stay alert.

- Look out for Crossbills, a stocky-looking woodland bird with a staccato call. The female is a distinctive yellow-green colour whilst the male is reddish and brown.

- Listen for bird calls especially Nightingales and other woodland regulars. The dawn chorus peaks in June but you'll need to be early to hear it!

Good places for woodland walks featured on the summer series of Nature's Calendar include:

* Rockingham Forest
* Castle Eden Dene
* Bookham Common

We can also recommended the following:

* Windsor Great Park, Berkshire - mature/ancient oaks.
* Yarner Wood, Devon - Oaks, mosses, lichens and birds.
* Epping Forest, Essex - Oak, Beech, insects, and fungi.
* Lower Woods, Glos - ancient Oaks and butterflies.
* Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent - excellent conifers and birds.
* Bentley Wood, Wiltshire - butterflies and flowers.
* Wyre Forest, Worcestershire - ancient woods.
* New Forest - ancient trees and deer.

Pond watching

What's interesting about woodland areas is that they often have open areas with ponds.

Bookham Commons in Northants has no less than 12 separate ponds within its grounds, five of which were man-made to help propagate fish production in the 17th Century.

You can make the most of a pond watching trip by following these tips from our nature team:

* Avoid sudden movements and try to keep your shadow off the surface of the water as this may hinder insect activity.

* Look for vegetation like lily pads on which Emperor Dragonflies, which can be identified by their bright blue abdomen, sometimes land.

* If you can't see any lily pads try creating your own insect landing spot by gently sliding a small twig onto the surface of the water.

* Take a jam jar and a small magnifying glass to catch and examine freshwater pond-life - but don't forget to put it back!

* Mid-morning or lunchtime is best as insects are generally more active around this time due to the warmer temperatures.

* If you want to take pictures make sure to use a digital camera with a fast action mode - many pond-skimmers move too fast to get a good shot otherwise.


Butterfly c/o Natural England and Peter WakelyWoodlands make great habitats for butterflies and moths especially in areas with a profusion of flowers.

Here's our top tips for making the most of this activity:

* Can you tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Moths have a hook linking their hindwing to their forewing which butterflies don't have.

* Look closely on flowers and leaves where butterflies tend to land to rest, but don't touch - their wings are very fragile and could disintegrate at the lightest impact.

* During the day, take a moth net to swish along the ground but don't forget - be careful and make sure you put them back afterwards.

* Nocturnal moth-watching can be very interesting - take a white sheet and a torch and just be patient!

* A good identification guide is essential so you know what you're looking at.

Photo credits

Butterfly and Castle Eden Dene photos copyright and courtesy of Natural England and Peter Wakely.



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