What to look for on a woodland walk

Old Beech tree in woodland on Goodwood estate in England

If you go down to the woods today...

HF Nature Leader Russ Hedley is passionate about spreading the word about the wonderful world of British wildlife. Here, Russ describes some of the species you can spot in ancient oak woodland while out walking and shares some fascinating facts about the plants, birds and animals you might encounter when exploring on your own or as part of a guided walking holiday with HF. Take a look at what you might encounter and you’ll come away with an enhanced appreciation for the beauty and complexity of our woodlands and their essential place in our landscape..

Oak Tree
oak Tree
  • There are two native species of oak in Britain – sessile and English. You need to look at the acorn to identify each. The sessile oak’s acorn has no stalk whereas the English oak’s acorns has a stalk.
  • Mature oaks can reach around 45 metres high and can live up to 1,000 years
  • A single oak produces over 10 million acorns during its lifetime
  • There are more ancient oaks in Britain than all of Europe put together
  • 2,300 species of British animal use the oak for food
Four-Banded Longhorn Beetle
Four-Banded Longhorn Beetle
  • When a tree gets ill or starts to die, it becomes food for a host of native creepy crawlies, such as the impressive long-horned beetles
  • The larvae of the four-banded longhorn lays it’s eggs on old tree stumps. The larvae are wood borers who dug down and eat the rotting wood.
Great-Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • With plenty of grubs in the wood, woodpeckers are attracted to find food
  • The great spotted woodpecker has three legs (right, left and bottom – the tail feathers are stiffened and act as a support)
  • Its skull is re-enforced so that it doesn’t knock itself unconscious when looking for food
Wood Anemone
Wood Anemone
  • Wood anemone is one of the first spring blooms
  • Look for them in old and ancient woodland that suits their slow growth
  • Wood anemone is an ancient-woodland-indicator plant
Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood butterfly
  • Butterflies often perch in sunny spots, spiralling into the air to chase each other
  • The Speckled Wood has experienced an extraordinary a 71% increase in distribution and 84% increase in abundance in the last 40 years as a result of the changing climate
Pied Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
  • The pied flycatcher is a summer visitor and breeds mainly in western areas, spending the winter in West Africa
  • Males often stop singing once they have found a mate, which increases the difficulty of seeing them
  • The UK has only 40,000 pairs
  • Badgers can’t run for long, and only at a maximum of 19 miles per hour
  • Badgers are part of the family Mustelidae which includes ferrets, weasels and stoat
  • A male badger is called a boar, the female is called a sow and the young are called cubs
  • The badger is the only wild animal that sometimes feeds on hedgehogs, but a lot of the badgers diet is made up of worms
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