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Fauna

The Spinney is full of wildlife. Woodpeckers, owls and woodpigeons can readily be seen and heard, as well as garden birds, bats, foxes and muntjac deer. Here are a few of the most common visitors and residents:

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

The lesser spotted woodpecker is the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers that are resident in Britain. The male is distinguished from the female by his bright red crown. It tends to nest and feed higher up than the green woodpecker and is quieter in its tapping, feeding on insects. Usually located by its call, and its drumming. When feeding it creeps along branches and flutters from branch to branch, flying with an undulating flight in the open. The best time to look for it is in spring when it is active and there are not too many leaves on the trees, and when it is likely to call and drum.

Green Woodpecker

The green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head.  It has an undulating flight and feeds on insects, especially ants. It climbs tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching, and can be seen all year round.

 

Robin

Males and females look identical, but young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown.  Robins feast  on worms, seeds, fruits and insects and sing nearly all year round.  Despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will sing at night next to street lights and can be seen throughout the year (not just at Christmas!).

Blackbird

The males live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown, often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most striking garden birds. One of the commonest UK birds, its mellow song is also a favourite. They are found all year round and feed on insects.

 

Wood pigeon

The UK's largest and commonest pigeon, it is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches, clearly visible in flight. Although shy in the countryside it can be tame and approachable in towns and cities.  Its cooing call is a familiar sound in woodlands as is the loud clatter of its wings when it flies away. They usually eat crops like cabbages, sprouts, peas and grain, but also buds, shoots, seeds, nuts and berries, and can be seen all year round.

Collared Dove

Distinctive with its buffy-pink plumage and black neck collar, usually seen singly or in pairs, although flocks may form where food is plentiful (usually seeds and grain).  It feeds on the ground but readily perches on roofs and wires. After rapidly spreading across Europe in the early half of the 20th century, the collared dove is now one of our most common birds and its monotonous cooing is a familiar sound.

 

Noctule Bat

Along with serotine bats, noctules are one of the largest British species, and are one of the first to emerge in the evening. Noctules are one of Britain's largest bats. They have short, golden-brown fur, with a slightly lighter underside. The ears, nose and wing membranes are dark brown and the fur extends on to the wing membrane. The ears are short and stout. They emerge early, sometimes before sunset, to feed on moths, beetles and other large flying insects. They fly fast and high above the ground. From October to April, noctules hibernate in trees, bat boxes, buildings and rock fissures. In the summer, they roost in tree holes and occasionally buildings. Noctules are migratory in mainland Europe, although movements across Britain have not been recorded.

Nuthatch

The nuthatch is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs. It breeds in central and southern England and in Wales, and is resident, with birds seldom travelling far from the woods where they hatch. They are found all year round and feast on insects, hazel nuts, acorns, beechmast and other nuts and seed.

 

Tree Creeper

The treecreeper is small, very active bird that lives in trees. It has a long, slender, downcurved bill. It is speckly brown above and mainly white below. It breeds in the UK and is resident here. Birds leave their breeding territories in autumn but most range no further than 20 km.  Its population is mainly stable and they eat insects and spiders, and some seeds in winter.

Blue Tit

Its colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green make the blue tit one of the most attractive resident garden birds. Almost any garden with a peanut feeder will attract them and they readily breed in nestboxes though they eat insects, caterpillars seeds and nuts. In winter they form flocks with other tit species and a garden with four or five at a bird table at any one time, may be feeding 20 or more.

 

Great Tit

The most popular tit, green and yellow with a striking glossy black head with white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. It can be quite aggressive at a birdtable, fighting off smaller tits. In winter it joins with blue tits and others to form roaming flocks which scour gardens and countryside for food.

Willow Tit

Between blue and great tits in size, with no yellow, green or blue, it has a large sooty-black cap extending to the back of the neck and a small untidy black bib. It is mid-brown above, with whiter cheeks and pale buff-grey underparts. Its wings show a pale panel not found in marsh tits. Its recent population declines make it a Red List species. They eat mainly seeds and berries and can be seen all year.

 

Tawny Owl

The tawny owl is an owl the size of a pigeon. It has a rounded body and head, with a ring of dark feathers around its face surrounding the dark eyes. It is mainly reddish brown above and paler underneath. It is a widespread breeding species in England, Wales and Scotland but not found in Ireland. Birds are mainly residents with established pairs probably never leaving their territories. Young birds disperse from breeding grounds in autumn. They eat small mammals and rodents, small birds, frogs, fish, insects and worms and are seen all year round.

Stag Beetle

The stag beetle is Britain's largest insect and one of the most well-known of all the beetles. The male is easily recognised because of his mouthparts which have evolved into enormous jaws, resembling the antlers on a stag's head. Despite their fearsome appearance, these antlers are useless for biting, and are used to fight other males. It is the smaller female we need to be wary of - her tiny antlers may look less threatening but they can inflict a sharp nip! Although it is known that the larva eats decaying wood, scientists are not certain whether adult stag beetles eat anything at all.

Fox

Foxes have a very varied diet, Urban foxes also eat earthworms, insects, fruit and vegetables and a wide variety of both domestic wild birds and mammals. Insects include large numbers of beetles, cut worms (the larvae of noctuid moths, which they get off lawns on wet nights), and both larval and adult craneflies. Most of the birds they eat are feral pigeons and small garden birds, and the most frequently eaten mammals are generally field voles, abundant on allotments, railway lines and other grassy areas.

 

 

Muntjac Deer

Muntjac were introduced into the wild in Britain around 1925 with escapees from Woburn Safari Park and Whipsnade Zoo, and have spread rapidly ever since.  They originate in China and are short, stocky animals, about the size of a large dog, and have distinctive v-shaped "eyebrow" marks on their foreheads.  Males have short antlers, about four inches long.  They feed on vegetation and tree shoots and are usually solitary or found in pairs.  Another name for them is the "barking deer" as they can emit a loud barking sound.

 

Other birds

The following is a list of birds spotted in the Spinney, kindly compiled by "bird man" Phil Davies.  If anyone can add anything to this please contact us at enquiries@obeliskspinney.org

Blue tit, great tit, longtailed tit, coal tit, nuthatch, tree creeper, wren, goldcrest, blackbird, songthrush, mistlethrush, jay, carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, chaffinch, bullfinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, skylark, yellowhammer, redwing, fieldfare, waxwing, tawny owl, wood pigeon, stock dove, collared dove, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, robin and hedge sparrow or dunnock.