Two small tortoiseshell butterflies pause for a rest on some sun-drenched brambles on the edge of Reffley Spring Wood.

Creatures Large and Small on a Woodland Walk

Creatures large and small enlivened our walk through Reffley Spring Wood on a sunny, spring-like afternoon.

On entering the Wood on March 10th, our eyes were drawn to at least two squirrels – there could have been more,  but we only saw two together – scampering and clambering around the trees.

Bird calls and snippets of song have been becoming more evident since at least early February, as the birds set up territories. The rooks are now very obvious in terms of numbers and noise, several perching near their old, tree-top nests. There  were a few of the rooks’ cousins, jackdaws, around, too.

Rooks gather near their tree-top nests in Reffley Spring  Wood.
Rooks gathering amongst their tree-top nests in Reffley Spring Wood.

We heard robins singing and watched one make its way along an earthen path. At one point, it leapt about a foot into the air – was it catching an insect? We heard blue tits and caught sight of one perched on a helpfully bare branch. Great tits and chaffinches called, and wood pigeons, collared doves and blackbirds were about.  I was pleased to be still hearing the repetitive notes of a song thrush, since they are not so plentiful these days – at least they seem to like our little bit of ancient woodland.

Black-headed gulls, one of which was  sporting  its black head ready for the breeding season, and a couple of jackdaws had landed close to the nearby pond to take advantage of a hand-out from a family who had come to feed the ducks.

A black-headed gull pauses on the fence surrounding Reffley pond. The bird is sporting its black head, although not all members of this breed have changed into their breeding plumage yet.
A black-headed gull in breeding plumage – not all of these gulls have changed from their winter feathers yet.

Two muntjac deer were quite happily feeding on the grassy fields, just outside the Wood, one either side of the path. They didn’t seem worried by people walking along the path, though did drift away as the pupils came out of the nearby school.

A muntjac deer explores Reffley Spring Park
A muntjac deer explores Reffley Spring Park
Picture of deer foraging in green area in urban landscape.
A second muntjac deer browses contentedly in Reffley Park, in the middle of the housing estate.

Making our way back to the entrance to the Wood, we noticed some blurry shapes rushing around us. As my eyes managed to focus, these whirling objects turned into butterflies and finally came to rest on some brambles at the Woodland edge. On close inspection, they turned out to be small tortoiseshells. It’s possible a third one was also flying about nearby, but only two landed! My first butterflies of the season! Great!

Back in the Wood, another muntjac wandered through the trees. Then we spotted two more; the first held its tail high so you could see its white underside, and  it was followed by a smaller one.

I had wondered if I might see some wild flowers blossoming, but only found the green leaves of wild garlic pushing through. There were some fungi, possibly examples of King Alfred’s cakes – some of these were growing high up along one branch of a tree. On one tree stump, more of this roundish, black fungus was sharing the space with a bracket type. We also saw catkins adorning hazel branches like decorations.

Decorative catkins dangle from the hazel trees in Reffley Spring Wood.
Catkins adorn the branches of the hazel trees like decorations.
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