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Observation & exploration

Look

Hedgehogs can be seen in gardens. There are many ways to help protect hedgehogs in your garden.
Foxes are a common sight in towns after dark, when the paths and roads are quieter.

Even when we are in urban environments, we are surrounded by wildlife. Many woodland animals, such as hedgehogs and foxes, have adapted to live near and around humans so you can see lots of nature from your doorstep. Others you will be able to find in their woodland habitats in local woodland and parkland.

Knowing where to look and what to look for is useful, but the biggest difference will come from looking mindfully, or with purpose. Looking carefully while sitting in your garden, or focusing on close observation while on a walk, you will be able see and notice nature all around you.

Look up!

There are a lot of woodland creatures that can be seen from your window, garden or local parks and woods if cast your eyes to the sky and over the tops of trees, buildings, hedges and fences.

Pipistrelle bat, NHM.587-2017

Bats are nocturnal, meaning they sleep in the day and come out at night. They use echolocation (a biological sonar) to catch small insects such as flies and mosquitos to eat. Bats hibernate during the winter, in trees and often in buildings which are warmer, so are a much rarer sight once it gets cold.

Look out for the sweeping bats going darting between trees and buildings at dusk in the summer months – these are often the small and quick Pipistrelle, as they emerge from their roosts to hunt for food.

Pipistrelle

NHM.586-2017

The Pipistrelle is a tiny, brown and furry bat.

Average life span: 5 years

Scientific name:  Pipistrellus pipistrellus

Diet: Small insects

Habitat: Woodlands, farmlands, grassy and urban areas. They sleep in trees, buildings and bat boxes.

Other bats swoop low to the ground to catch their prey, such as the Brown Long-Eared bat. This bat is a bit slower, and sometimes land on the ground to eat when they’ve caught an insect. They often follow the lines of fences and hedges, so keep an eye out as the sun sets over your garden boundaries!

Brown long-eared bat

NHM.588-2017

Bigger than the Pipistrelle, the Brown Long-Eared bat is so named, as you can guess, for its large ears. These make it an excellent hunter.

Average life span: 4 years

Scientific name:  Plecotus auritus

Diet: Insects

Habitat: Mostly woodlands, and sometimes gardens.

Look down!

There are a huge number of creatures all around us all of the time, but they are either so small or so hidden we have to look down and look carefully to see them.

Field (or Short-tailed) vole, NHM.763-2017

Field voles (also called Short-tailed voles) are one the most common mammals in the UK, yet are seen rarely because they are so well hidden in long grass. They tunnel through grass and burrow into grassy ground surface; look carefully and you may be able to see small tunnels running through the grass where they have cleared ‘runways’ of their common routes, and for small holes into the ground surface which might be a burrow.

Sitting still near long grass you may hear a rustle before you see them; be patient and you can sometimes spot the small grey/brown mammal dart through one of its tunnels.

Field or Short-tailed vole

NHM.757-2017

Scientific name: Microtus agrestis

Average life span: 1 year

Diet: Grass and leaves

Habitat: Grassy areas and woodlands.

Field voles are an important part of the food chain for many woodland creatures. Predators such as barn owls, kestrels, foxes and weasels depend on field voles for a large part of their diet. This is evidenced by their being found in owl pellets – find out more in FOOD CHAINS.

Look all around!

Whether you are looking in summer, winter, on the ground or in tall plants, there is always a moth or butterfly to be found. Some butterflies such as the Comma can be seen all year around. Look for this attractive orange butterfly basking in the sun at the edge of a woodland, or if you have a fruit tree in your garden you can often find eat enjoying a meal from some fallen blackberries or plums.

Comma

The distinctive orange and brown wings with ragged edges make this butterfly both easy to spot and hard to spot at the same time – as when its wings are closed it becomes camouflaged as a dead leaf.

Scientific name: Polygonia c-album

Diet: Wildflowers, nettle, fallen fruit

Habitat: Woodland, gardens.

Here’s a tip!

Make note of the diet and habitat facts in the green boxes for each exhibit. That way you can find hints of where to look for these woodland creatures! For example, the White Admiral butterfly eats bramble so I’m going to look closely when I next see a bramble – this is the plant that grows blackberries.

Other butterflies only come out of hibernation in the summer, such as the White Admiral. Summer is the perfect time to spot a variety of these delicate and colourful insects as they flutter from plant to plant. It can seem as though there are plenty of butterflies but they are in fact in decline. There are lots of ways you can help attract butterflies to your garden, providing them with food and shelter. Have a go at identifying the butterflies and moths you see.

White Admiral

This butterfly is only found in woodland – look out for it sweeping through shaded areas.

Scientific name: Limenitis camilla

Diet: Bramble, honeysuckle

Habitat: Woodlands

Let’s go for a nature walk!

A great way to feel good mentally and physically is to go for a nature walk. This is a walk outside where you focus on the plants and animals as you go. It is about having an awareness of the small things and being present as you engage your senses, which will help you connect with the nature around you. Have a go at touring your back garden, or a local park, to focus on:

  • The details of a particular leaf. What shape is the edge? Does it feel smooth, bumpy or rough? What does it smell like?
  • The texture of the bark on a tree. Does it feel smooth or rough, with gaps? Are there any changes in colour or pattern?
  • The journey of an ant, or woodlouse. Where is it travelling to? What is it doing? How does it walk?

What else can you focus on? Look out for more senses to engage in LISTEN and TRACK

Look at the top 10 wildlife sightings recommended on the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust blog, updated monthly.


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