As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.

An hour in the woods


Last Saturday, dad and I got early and went out into a local wood to sit for an hour to see what we could see. It was the first time I had been in the woods since I broke my leg. Even though my cast is off, I am still walking with crutches, and I cannot walk very far at all, but where we sat wasn't too far from the road, even though the wood is quite isolated. I call the wood The Mortuary since that is where I leave dead animals to rot down (the badger and the buzzard are there at the moment).

Most of the wood has mature pine trees with no grass or vegetation on the ground, but at the end where we were there were gaps in the trees, bracken and grass on the floor, and a small pond. A lot of the trees had been blown over in the storms of 2012 which is actually good for some wildlife. The plan was to see how much wildlife I could see in an hour by sitting and being quiet, and was inspired by the current series of BBC Springwatch. Anyway, here's what I saw !

This is me walking into the wood. It was very difficult.

I brought:

  • a flask of juice
  • a pencil and notepad
  • a bird identification book
  • midge repellent
  • my Bushnell binoculars

Then we sat and waited. We were just sat at the base of a tree, rather than in a hide, so we could see as much around us as possible.

7.15am Start ! There were tons of midges ! Luckily we had brought midge repellant, made from a chemical that is much too dangerous to use as a pesticide but is apparently okay to spray directly on your face. 

There were lots of birds singing up high in the branches, I think they were chaffinches. When we left home the sun was shining, but in this part of the wood the sunlight was just touching the tops of the trees.

7.21am I could hear the buzzard overhead with its call which is like a cat's meow.  Now and again I could see it through the trees.

There was a nest not far from us, but which I couldn't directly see from where I was seeing. It looked like a buzzard nest but I didn't see any activity there:

7.24am There was what looked like a blue tit coal tit with either food or stuff for its nest in its mouth on the lower branches. It busied about but seemed to come back to the same branch on the tree.

7.27am I heard a strange bird call, a bubbling sound that went up in volume.At the time I wrote down it was a lapwing, but I checked on the RSPB website and it wasn't that. But I'm pretty sure it was a dunlin.

7.29am The chaffinches were really getting noisy up in the top branches of the trees. The midges were getting really irritating but ignoring them by looking through my binoculars helped. Then a tiny wren appeared on a tree stump, easy to recognise with its sticky up tail. It flitted around on branches close to the ground.

7.35am I could hear what I thought was an owl, but dad said it was a woodpigeon with it's low coo. The blue tit was back flitting about, and dad thought he saw a coal tit.

7.45am Ahead of us there was an old pine tree with holes drilled in the side. When dad was in the wood a few days earlier checking the bodies of the badger and the buzzard for me he had noticed the tree and thought maybe the great spotted woodpecker was nesting there.

I did see the great spotted woodpecker, but it wasn't nesting there. It was fighting with two redstarts ! It got chased away in a few seconds before dad could get a picture, but what had happened was there were a pair of redstarts nesting in one of the holes, and the woodpecker was trying t get in to eat the chicks ! This is the female redstart at the nest hole.

This was the male redstart which sat on a fallen tree nearby guarding the nest:

The woodpecker flew off to a fencepost at the edge of the wood.

After a while the female redstart flew away from the nest to go and get food.

7.53am I could see through the trees to the farmland opposite, and I could see two roe deer running through the fields into the far side of the wood. It looked like a doe (a female) and her year-old child from their size, and because neither had antlers.

They ran about half way into the wood as if they were going to cross it, then they stopped as if they had smelled us. Then the mother ran off away from us, but the kid stayed eating for a while:

7.52am We could hear the woodpecker drilling into trees to the left of us, but could only occasionally see him. He didn't go near the redstart nest again.

7.57am There was a cu-cu sound which dad originally thought was a curlew, but it was the sound of an oystercatcher in the fields nearby (again I used the RSPB bird identifier)

8.02am The redstart sat cleaning and preening himself for a while on a low down branch:

The coal tit was still flying around with things in its mouth.

One thing dad saw when he was here earlier in the week was a red kite, but it was probably too early in the morning to see them. This is the one he saw.

8.07am I could hear a jackdaw, then I could see two of them hunting for worms in the field:

8.08am Two roe deer, one a buck with antlers, the other looked like an adult doe (female) ran across the wood towards us ! The doe ran straight across, into the road behind us just as a car was passing ! We could hear it slow down, but luckily it wasn't hit. The buck waited by the fence, until it heard the sound of dad's camera and ran off away from us. It looked scruffy because it was still changing coats from summer (red) from winter (grey):

8.10am I could see another roe deer at the other side of the wood. It looked like the one dad photographed earlier with its head down at the far side of the wood.

8.12am I pulled apart a small owl pellet I found next to where I was sitting:

8.15am End ! Back home for breakfast !

Species seen: Chaffinches (heard only), buzzard, blue tit, dunlin (heard only), wren, woodpigeon, coal tit, great spotted woodpecker, redstarts (breeding pair), jackdaws, roe deer.

This was a brilliant idea, and I plan to do more soon until my leg is better. You can get quite close to wildlife, and I had never seen redstarts before (they are on the RSPB red list). It is a really simple way to get close to wildlife wherever you live.

Enjoy this post ? Share it !


Findlay Wilde said...

I really enjoyed this post Jake, and not just because it is so full of birds. from Findlay

Jake said...

You looked brilliant on Springwatch - really jealous ! I was out int he woods early this morning to do another one of these, and saw a cuckoo and a treecreeper.

Marusa - Ponytailgirl said...

Hi Jake!
I LOVE this blog post! The deer was beutifull. It is probably very rare to see! Plus, bone collecting must be very exciting. Rabbit bones are good to start with, I guess. I shall read your blog when I can again!

From Marusa

Free counters!