The Community Woodland is home to many birds, including Blackcaps, Robins, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Dunnock, Reed Buntings, Wood Pigeons and Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. In the summer, various warblers such as the Chiffchaff use the area to breed. Other birds, such as a Sparrowhawk or Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, can be seen or heard. Many of the nest boxes you will see around the site have had residents, either roosting or breeding, and as the trees mature more birds will find the woodland a safe haven in which to raise their young.
BIRDS OF THE WOODLAND, VILLAGE AND GARDEN by Tony Hoskin (text and pictures)
Marsh Tits are a resident in the UK and normally live in deciduous woodland but often come to garden feeders. This Marsh Tit was seen on a bird feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019.
Great Tits are quite common birds and are easily identified by the large black stripe down their front. This one was taken on a feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019.
Blue Tits are common all over the UK and nest naturally in holes in trees and stone walls but are quite happy to use nest boxes and are regular visitors to bird feeders. They can be found in deciduous woodlands, gardens, parks, almost anywhere there are trees and shrubs. They eat insects, caterpillars, grubs and so on. The picture shows a Blue Tit captured while going to and from the nest box in the far corner of the Community Woodland in May 2019.
Long-tailed Tits are a common resident in our region, preferring scrub land and wooded areas, and they build a very neat nest of feathers and spider’s web covered with lichen for camouflage. This is a young Long-tailed Tit which does not yet have the full adult plumage of a flush of pink both on its underside and shoulders.
Reed Buntings are quite plentiful in our area and are usually found around wetlands. This one was taken on a feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019.
The Blackcap is one of our spring visitors and has a very musical song that can be very engaging. The male has the black cap that the name suggests, while the female has a chestnut brown cap. The picture was taken in April 2019 at the Community Woodland.
Chaffinches are one of our most common and widespread birds in the UK and can be found almost anywhere, including gardens, woodland and farmland and even in towns and parks. The chaffinch pictured here was seen in April 2019 in a tree on the edge of the Community Woodland.
A yellow wing bar and yellow sides to the tail are a good identification of the Greenfinch and the male has a much brighter plumage than the female. Greenfinches are a common garden visitor and can often be heard singing along hedgerows with often a wheezy sound.
Goldfinches are common in our area and can be found in woodlands, gardens and scrub areas, often flocking together in groups. They are seed-eaters and will come to bird tables and nut feeders. The Goldfinch pictured here was singing from its perch opposite the pond at the Community Woodland while its mates fed on thistle seeds below.
Linnets are a common resident of the finch family and in winter will flock together with many other finches and buntings. The Linnet pictured here was taken in early July 2019 in a field beside Knapp Bridge.
Chiffchaffs are a spring visitor of the warbler family and many can be heard locally in spring, including at the Community Woodland, as they sing almost constantly with a ‘chiff-chaff’ sound which gives them their name. The Chiffchaff pictured was taken in April 2019 near Windmill Hill.
Willow Warblers are a common summer visitor and difficult to distinguish from Chiffchaffs. There is a slight difference in plumage but the easiest way to identify them is by their song. The picture was taken in June on the edge of North Curry Meadow.
Whitethroat are a spring/summer visitor of the warbler family and can be found in hedgerows and on scrubland, heaths and gorse-covered areas. This photo was taken on the edge of the Community Woodland in May 2019.
Pied Wagtails are a common sight in the area, preferring places with short grass such as playing fields, parks and lawns where they feed on insects. This Pied Wagtail with a beak full of insects was taken in May 2019 at the Community Woodland.
Jackdaws are common and widespread over the UK. They have pale blue eyes and a smoky grey crown, and adapt to a variety of food sources. They are opportunists not only in their food sources but also their nest sites which can range from chimneys to quarry faces, sea cliffs, holes in old trees and even owl nest boxes. Jackdaws used the Barn Owl box in the oak tree at the woodland in the spring of 2019.
Blackbirds are one of our resident songbirds and a common sight in gardens, farms, woodlands and parks. The male, as seen here, is black with a yellow beak and eye ring, while the female is brown and does not have the yellow bill or eye ring.
Song Thrushes are a common bird in our area and have a lovely repetitive song that can be heard throughout the spring as they sing from a high perch. The thrush pictured here was taken in May on Windmill Hill.
Robins are popular with many gardeners and can be found almost anywhere from city parks and gardens to farmland and villages, and will regularly visit bird tables. They have also become a firmfavourite on Christmas cards.
House Sparrows are a common resident and can be found almost anywhere near human habitation. They can be a very chirpy bird, especially during the breeding season when they will nest in any convenient hole in a house or farm building and have been known to nest in old House Martin nests. The picture shows a male House Sparrow taken in the village in May.
The Dunnock is a common yet much overlooked bird and has a tuneful song. It is generally seen at ground level, foraging for food, and will come to bird tables but again often feeding on the ground below. Dunnocks may seem rather dull little birds in colour but their eggs are a lovely bright blue. The Dunnock pictured here was taken in February 2019 in a hedgerow at the end of Horsecroft Lane.
Wrens are a small, common resident, but are not always easy to spot as they dart from cover to cover. Male Wrens will build several nests and the female will choose the one she wants to use.
Goldcrests are the UK’s smallest bird, though many assume it to be the Wren. They are a common native bird preferring fir woods where normally they spend their time high in the canopy feeding on insects so they are not easy to spot, but they can also be found in deciduous woodlands. In North Curry, they can sometimes be seen in the yews in the churchyard.
Swifts are a summer visitor, usually arriving here in early May and leaving again in August. Their screeching call as they race through the sky in the centre of the village is a characteristic sound of summer. Apart from nesting time, Swifts spend their entire life on the wing, feeding and sleeping.
Swifts are in decline, estimated to be down by 65 per cent over the past few years, and are probably suffering from a shortage of nesting sites (they like to nest under the eaves of houses) as well as insect food. Swift boxes can be put up and councils help fund them in certain areas.
Swallows are another of our summer visitors, arriving in early April and staying through the breeding season until late summer. They are quite happy living alongside people, and build a half cup-shaped nest of mud lined with feathers in almost any accessible outhouse, shed or barn, even where human activity is taking place. The Swallow has a distinct red face and a long, thin tail.
At the White Street Sports Field, Swallows can be seen gliding low to the ground, catching small flying insects.
House Martins are a summer visitor which arrive in late April/early May and build nests of mud, usually under the eaves of houses where several nests can often be found side by side. One of the best ways to distinguish a House Martin from a Swallow in flight is the short, stumpy tail and distinct white rump of the House Martin as the two species can often be seen flying together feeding on insects.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpeckers are a common resident and are found in woodland and parks and can even be regular visitors to gardens, favouring peanut feeders if provided. They can be seen and heard almost anywhere where there are trees in our area and are often heard drumming at the Community Woodland. The one pictured here was seen off Horsecroft Lane. Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest in holes in trees which they excavate with their bills.
Green Woodpeckers are a common resident, preferring hardwood woodlands, but can be found in parks and gardens. They feed on insects they find by pecking at trees and also on the ground where ants nests are favoured. Like the Great Spotted Woodpecker, they drill nest holes in trees with their long bills. Green Woodpeckers are abundant in our area, but are more often heard than seen as they can be quite elusive, especially in the summer time when the leaves are out, and they are known to hide at the back of trees to avoid the observer.
Wood Pigeons are common and widespread over the UK and often classed as pests to farmers as they can descend in number on their corn crops. Wood Pigeons build a rough type of nest often in thorn trees where they are protected from predators. This one was taken in March 2019 in the Copse on the corner of White Street.
BIRDS OF THE MOORS by Tony Hoskin (text and pictures)
Herons are a very familiar bird locally and also widespread over the UK. They can be found almost anywhere there is water where they live on fish, frogs and other aquatic life.
Not long ago, it was rare to see Little Egrets in the region but they are now becoming more common, even nesting along with the Herons at the RSPB’s Swell Woods. They have a pure white plumage with black legs contrasting with yellow toes. These two Little Egrets were seen on Curry Moor in January 2019.
Kingfishers live around rivers and streams and nest in burrows in riverbanks. The one pictured here, taken at Helland in March 2019, is a female as she has an orange lower beak, while the male’s beak is all black.
The Mute Swan is our only resident swan. It is our most common swan and is normally quite tolerant of people. There are many of them in the North Curry area as they prefer freshwater wetlands. They nest in winter or early spring. This Mute Swan was taken on North Curry Moor in April 2019.
We were lucky enough to observe a clutch of Mute cygnets hatching and to follow them over the next few weeks. Here they are at two days old:
And at eight days old on the water with their parents:
Another common bird in the North Curry area, the male Mallard is much more colourful than the female and the sexes are easy to identify as the female has a mottled brown plumage which helps her to camouflage herself when she is nesting or has young to protect. These Mallards were taken on North Curry Moor in April 2019.
Lapwings are a wader which are now on the endangered list. They are a ground-nesting bird found on farmland, moorland, heaths and wetlands. This Lapwing was taken at Helland in February 2019.
A brightly coloured bird with a long tail, Yellow Wagtails favour wetland areas. They feed on insects on the ground and are often seen feeding at the feet of grazing animals. This Yellow Wagtail was seen at Helland in May 2019.
Sedge Warblers are spring/summer visitors and are heard more often than seen as they are very vocal little birds with a wide variation of sounds from rasping, grating to whistles and trills. You may get a glimpse of them darting through the vegetation but with patience, if you sit quietly, you may be lucky enough to get a good view of this lovely little bird. This one was seen on Curry Moor in July 2019.
Skylarks are best known for their trilling and fluty song often delivered from a height while hovering in the sky. Skylarks are a ground-nesting bird, concealing its nest in long grass. They never land at the nest site; instead, they land several metres away and sneak unnoticed through the cover to the nest. Skylarks are in decline in the UK but we are lucky to have quite a few here. The Skylark below was taken on the Moor in May 2019.
Wheatears are a summer visitor, preferring open land and moorlands with short grass. They often nest in stone walls. This picture is a female Wheatear taken on Curry Moor in August 2019.
A female Stonechat seen on Curry Moor towards the end of August 2019. Stonechats are a resident but are more often found on the coast or in gorse-covered areas.
The Kestrel is a common falcon in the UK, often seen hovering over farmland, moorland and even motorway verges hunting for small mammals and birds. This Kestrel was spotted at Heland in March 2019.
Buzzards are one of our most common hawks and the easiest to find and identify as, especially during the breeding season, they can be seen soaring in the air in pairs in search of food and at this time can be quite vocal with loud screeches. Most people will have seen a Buzzard at some time as they often perch on electricity poles and fences at the roadside. Buzzards are carnivores and will pick at fresh road kills, but mainly eat mice and voles, though they will take young rabbits and lizards. They may also take worms from freshly ploughed fields.
We were lucky enough to have a buzzard nest locally and to take these photos of a chick in the nest (probably at around 2 weeks old) and as a young bird leaving the nest.
SPRING BIRDSONG by Tim Spotswood
In spring, the birdsong in the woodland and hedges is superb. Stop and listen to the melodies and variety. Have you heard the drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the melodies of the Chiffchaff and the Blackcap?
Chiffchaff singing at the top of a tree at White Street sports field. Its ‘chiff-chaff’ call is a characteristic sound of spring.
Often birds, especially the warblers such as the Chiffchaff, can be heard, but not seen. The Blackcap makes an exception to this by singing from a high point in a tree, surveying all around him and warning other male Blackcaps not to wander into his territory. Many of our warblers arrive in spring, and sing away in the trees and bushes. At the other end of the scale is the woodpecker, drumming away in the Community Woodland near the owl box in the big oak tree. He is difficult to spot unless you catch a glimpse of the red at the back of his head.
Great Spotted Woodpecker taken by Tony Hoskin near Windmill Hill
Aren’t we so lucky to live in a country with feathered friends? However, they need looking after in our gardens by planting native plants, not using pesticides and fungicides and by allowing the bugs they feed on to thrive.
THE HAUNTING CALL OF THE OWLS by TimSpotswood
Anyone in North Curry who has ventured out when it is dark in the autumn may have heard the hoo-hoo-hoo of an owl. This call belongs to the resident Tawny Owls that live in the trees of the churchyard and the Fosse. Tawny Owls are nocturnal, hunting at night but roosting during the day in hollow trees or amongst ivy; they are then nearly impossible to see unless mobbed by smaller birds. Tawny Owls sing in autumn and late winter. The male’s call is a hoo-hoo-hoo, the female’s is hoarser. Often, the male and female call in unison, giving a long hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.
Tawny Owls nest in hollow trees, laying eggs in late February to March and incubate the eggs for 28–30 days. The owlets remain in the nest for 25–30 days, and then are moved to different areas within the home range. For a further three months they are dependent on their parents for food, and it is at this time that a rather plaintive kee-wick can be heard as the teenagers demand food.
The calls other owls make are very different from the Tawny’s. Barn Owls make a single piercing shriek during courtship and their owlets have a loud ‘snore’ when calling for food.
The Little Owl calls in March and April during courtship and has a single hoot. Both these owls are very much rarer than the Tawny Owl.
We are very fortunate to have Tawny Owls in our village because their numbers worldwide are decreasing due to persecution in game-rearing areas, traffic accidents, pressure on their habitat and injudicious use of pesticides and other agro chemicals.
Enjoy the call of the wild.
Trees along the Fosse where the Tawny Owl can be heard