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 Tit taken on a bird feeder at the Community Woodland, February 2019. Marsh Tits are a resident in the UK and normally live in deciduous woodland but often come to garden feeders.
Chiffchaff taken in April 2019 near Windmill Hill. 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 is how they get their name.
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.
Great Tit taken on a 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.
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 Bunting taken on a feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019. Reed Buntings are quite plentiful in our area and are usually found around wetlands.
Chaffinch in April 2019 in a tree on the edge of the 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.
Greenfinch feeding on the seeds of a woodland feeder in May 2019. 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 (seen here). Greenfinches are a common garden visitor and can often be heard singing along hedgerows with often a wheezy sound.
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.
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 has not got the yellow bill or eye ring.
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.
At the White Street sports field, Swallows can be seen gliding low to the ground, catching small flying insects.
BIRDS OF THE MOORS by Tony Hoskin (text and pictures)
Lapwing at Helland in February 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.
Kingfisher at Helland in March 2019. Kingfishers live around rivers and streams and nest in burrows in riverbanks. The one pictured here is a female as she has an orange lower beak, while the male’s beak is all black.
Mute Swan on North Curry Moor, April 2019. 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.
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:
Mallard on North Curry Moor, April 2019. 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.
Yellow Wagtail at Helland, May 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.
Sedge Warbler at Helland, 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 to get a good view of this lovely little bird.
Kestrel at Heland in March 2019. 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.
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