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Whittle Wildlife: What to Spot in the Dene during early Spring

We've gone from deep snow to snowdrops in the space of a couple of week's at the Dene, and signs of spring's return are now all around. We have been working with Woodland Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust to better understand the Dene's abundant wildlife, as well as making a note of the plants and creatures we spot. On your next walk through the awakening wood, can you smell the scent of garlic on the air, or hear the lively chatter and song of the soon-to-be-nesting birds? Here are some ideas of what to look out for next time you visit...


Snowdrops


Pushing up through the snow and flowering in recent days, the first spring snowdrops have arrived!


Deer


The deer have been in the Dene all winter, but the lighter evenings mean you might catch a glimpse of them at dusk as you wander through the woods. At this time of year, the deer are grazing and getting ready to have their fawns around May time. Can you spot their hoof prints in the mud?

Frogs


This cheeky chap was spotted in one of the ponds by the glade cabins last spring. Now is the time for the frogs to be coming out from their winter hiding places and heading to the ponds to find a mate, so look out for them by the water and in the grassy glade

Newts


The newts have been hiding out in the burn banks and other cosy spots over the winter, only coming out to find food. Spring is the time for them to head to the ponds too, which is where you're likely to spot them over the coming months


Wild Garlic


If you catch the scent of garlic on the air, chances are you're close to a patch of wild garlic. Rub a leaf between your fingers and have a sniff for the full effect! This picture shows the wild garlic carpeting the woodland floor last spring. Members of our CIC have spotted tiny new shoots over the past few days, so it won't be long before this edible carpet returns!



Bring your Binoculars!


The birds are chirping and chattering away, beautiful songs filling the morning air at dawn. Now is a great time for birdwatching, before the leaves come in on the trees, when the birds are more easily visible hopping about in bare branches. Previous visitors to the Dene over the years include yellowhammers, bluetits, great tits, long tailed tits, redwings (shown in the beautiful picture below), wrens, jays, wagtails, sparrows, woodwarblers and goldcrests to name but a few.


Photo credit: Kevin and Gillian Wilkinson


Birds of Prey


Sparrow hawks, little owls and buzzards (pictured below) are just some of the birds of prey that circle over the Dene and surrounding meadows. According to Northumberland Wildlife Trust:


"In the spring, male buzzards perform a 'roller coaster' display, soaring up high and then swooping down over and over again to attract a mate."


We'll certainly be looking out for this! Check out this great article from NWT to learn more about how to identify the different birds of prey.





The CIC are gathering lists of animals, bird and plant species spotted in the Dene so we can better understand who lives in the woodland and how to help them thrive. We'd love to know which birds and animals you encounter on your walk, or which flowers and plants you come across. If you would like to share your pictures on our Facebook page we would be very grateful.


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