Birds and bird watching at Hudswell Woods

Garden Warbler

Hudswell Woods is a great location to come and watch birds, whatever the season. With a selection of habitats that include the River Swale, riverside grassland, scrub and woodland edge and larger areas of ancient semi natural woodland bordering pasture with hedgerows there are opportunities to see both resident bird species and summer and winter migrants.

Kingfishers regular breed at Hudswell Woods, look out for a flash of blue flying low and fast over the water.
Kingfisher
Kingfishers regular breed at Hudswell Woods, look out for a flash of blue flying low and fast over the water.

The river Swale is a central feature at Hudswell Woods and it offers suitable habitat for kingfisher, dipper, goosander, grey wagtail and the occasional common sandpiper. Sand martins have in the past nested on steeper sections of riverbank but more recently a pair of kingfisher have occupied the prime nesting location. Alders along the riverbank often provide food for siskin and lesser redpoll in the winter months so it’s worth looking and listening for their activity in the treetops.

Dippers hunt for invertebrates in the Swale; look for them perched on rocks that break the surface of the water
Dipper
Dippers hunt for invertebrates in the Swale; look for them perched on rocks that break the surface of the water

The open riverside grassland areas hold few birds although a kestrel often hunts across the site and green woodpeckers occasionally visit to feast on meadow ant eggs. However, where the grasslands meet scrub and woodland edge around Round Howe they come alive with species such as marsh tit and bullfinch as well as a range of more usual garden and woodland birds. In the spring these margins are also home to visiting warblers such as chiffchaff, blackcap and garden warbler. Willow warbler and sedge warbler also call in but they rarely hang around to breed preferring instead to move on.

Bullfinch often form small flocks through the winter months, they enjoy picking over buds on blackthorn in early spring.
Bullfinch
Bullfinch often form small flocks through the winter months, they enjoy picking over buds on blackthorn in early spring.

Tree creepers also frequent the areas of woodland edge along with nuthatch, although they also enjoy the depths of the ancient woodland. Throughout all of the woodland owned and managed by the Trust there is an emphasis on promoting dead wood habitat (both standing and fallen timber) and this ensures a healthy invertebrate population which in turn benefits many woodland bird species.

Tree creepers are often overlooked, their thin ‘seep seep’ call is often a good way to locate them.
Tree Creeper
Tree creepers are often overlooked, their thin ‘seep seep’ call is often a good way to locate them.

In areas of open tree cover Calfhall Wood usually attracts several pairs of spotted flycatcher and in Hag Wood pied flycatcher and redstart enjoy these lightly wooded areas. Great spotted woodpecker are found across the property and in places their vacated holes are filled with the summer roosts of noctule bats. Unfortunately there have been no reports of lesser-spotted woodpecker for a number of years now but if any visitor is lucky enough to get a sighting of this fast declining species please do let us know. Tawny owls are also found throughout the woodland, they are especially active and frequently visible on evenings through the spring when fledglings leave the nest and move through the woodland in family groups attracting much noise and attention from blackbirds and thrushes. Buzzards also enjoy the woodland and are regularly seen throughout the year; it’s beautiful to hear their mewing call and see a pair wheeling in the sky above the wooded slopes.

Tree sparrows enjoy the hedgerows and ditches to the south of the woodland.
Tree Sparrow
Tree sparrows enjoy the hedgerows and ditches to the south of the woodland.

To the south of Calfhall Wood and Round Howe Wood there are a number of fields and hedgerows and although the majority are privately owned it’s possible to view species such as tree sparrow and little owl from the public footpath. The Trust owns one field and together with help from our tenant farmer we are working to restore hedgerows and a species rich hay meadow. We are also working to help the resident population of tree sparrows with the communal siting of nest boxes, supplemental winter seed and management of a small pond and adjacent ditches.