With uninterrupted views into the tree tops, the woods become a great place for birdwatching as the trees lose their last leaves.
The behaviour of many familiar birds changes over the winter. Blue tits, great tits and coal tits, for instance, form feeding flocks together and may be joined by other species such as nuthatch, goldcrest and treecreeper. They can be seen strung out in lines through several trees, as they acrobatically inspect every nook and cranny for insects and other morsels. Each species requires slightly different food from the other so they don’t compete directly, but collectively they are more alert to danger. The downside of the absent canopy is that predators of the winged variety can see through the trees more clearly and the furry, four footed kinds down below may be alerted by their calls.
There is plenty of wild food around for all – nuts, seeds and berries on the trees and on the floor, and overwintering invertebrates in bark crevices, evergreens and leaf litter – but to help the birds through harder times and to bring them in close and easier to see, the keepers have erected feeding stations around the park.
There is one beside the Rat Barn, beneath a blue tit box on an oak tree. Another is situated opposite the badgers in an empty enclosure. Being set back a little, this one affords particularly good photo opportunities as the birds are less disturbed by an onlooker’s presence. You can find another on the way to visit Caramel, the elk, and one more near the cranes and Arctic foxes.
The same birds that co-operate in the natural setting, change their behaviour at the artificial bird feeders. There is a strong hierarchy. Great tits displace the blue tits and all below them; blue tits see off a coal tit or a long-tailed tit. Nuthatches are like little flying daggers and great tits get out of their way but even the nuthatches make way for the great-spotted woodpecker.
Be sure to approach the feeders quietly, and keep your eyes peeled and enhance your visit to Wildwood Woodland Discovery Park with a bit of winter birding. Just last week we had a surprise visitor – a wild raven! Take a look at the photo.