Dipper © northeastwildife.co.uk


Dippers are water birds that feed on caddis fly larvae, tiny molluscs and fish eggs. They operate along the entire length of the stream. You may hear their high-pitched call and catch site of them speeding along close to the water. They perch on stones and bob before plunging into the water.

Grey wagtail

Grey Wagtail © steve whitehead

Grey Wagtail

Grey wagtails don't plunge into the water like dippers, but flit about chasing insects among the stones. They're easy to see, with their long tails and lemon-yellow underparts.


Otter © Andy Rouse


You'll be lucky to see an otter at Colby, but we know from their droppings or 'spraints' that they pass through the garden on a nightly basis. Look for spraints on stones or along the banks.

Long grass for wildlife

The meadow in high summer © Steve Whitehead

The meadow in high summer

We allow the grass in the meadow to grow tall, only cutting it when everything has set seed. This means that it's rich in wild flowers and butterflies. You'll also discover field mice, voles, frogs and toads.

Grassland butterflies

Common blue butterfly © Marilyn Smyth

Common blue butterfly

Whites, blues, coppers, browns: these are the colours of the grassland butterflies you'll see flitting about the meadow in summer.

Reptiles and amphibians

See toads in the damper areas of grassland © northeastwildlife.co.uk

See toads in the damper areas of grassland

Frogs spawn in the stream, but you'll see them in the damper areas of grassland. We leave a few sheets of tin around the meadow - lift these carefully and see what you find. Toads, voles and maybe even a grass snake might be underneath.

About the woods...

  • The valleys above Colby Lodge contain important oak woods
  • The oak trees were grown to provide pit props for the coal mines
  • They were coppiced, which is why they grow so tall and straight
  • Sixty years ago people tried to replace them with conifer trees
  • We've reversed this, removing most of the conifers
  • Look for honeysuckle, heather, woodrush - signs of ancient woodland
  • These woods are full of woodland birds including the rare wood warbler
  • The dawn chorus in the high-sided valleys is deafening


Lesser horseshoes live in the old buildings around the bothy. Lots of bats use the old mine shafts and holes in trees in the woodland. A rare Bechstein's bat was found here in 2009.

Pond-dipping along the stream

Pond dipping at Colby © Christopher Sleight

Borrow some kit and try pond-dipping for yourself.

Butterfly activity days

Butterfly activity day at Colby Woodland Garden © Christopher Sleight

Discover the grassland butterflies with an expert - he'll catch the difficult ones for a closer look.

Mini-beast safaris

Mini-beast safari at Colby - what's in this oak-apple? © Christopher Sleight

Some amazing tiny creatures live in Colby's nooks and corners - discover them on a mini-beast safari.