Spring wildlife at Stoneywell

A male woodpecker in the woods

Stoneywell comes alive at spring as a variety of creatures great and small start to emerge from their winter hibernation.

Perhaps the first to emerge are the palmate newts, who have spent the harsh winter under rocks and compost heaps. They are similar in appearance to smooth newts but have a preference to acidic soils, heathland and shallow ponds - making them suit the conditions at Stoneywell perfectly. Here the newts like to breed at the plunge pool that sits beside the well house, before returning back to the shelter provided by the nearby rocks.

A newt in the plunge pool at Stoneywell
A newt in the plunge pool at Stoneywell

As you wander through the woodland listen out for the tap-tap of a great spotted woodpecker hollowing out a tree ready to be used to raise their young. If you're lucky to spot one, how do you know if it's male or female? Male woodpeckers can be identified by the red spot on the back of their head - like so many other bird species, the male is the much more colourful one.

Stoneywell Wood is a haven to birds of all shapes and sizes, from blue tits and nuthatches to buzzards and sparrow hawks. If you hear a yaffling sound, it's probably the call of a green woodpecker, which is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. Look closely and you may spot a small brown bird blending in with the bark of a tree - as it creeps upwards, reaching the treetop canapy before flying back down again, know that you've spied a treecreeper.

Blending in: a treecreeper climbing the bark of a tree in Stoneywell Woods
A treecreeper climbing the bark of a tree in Stoneywell Woods

Birds are incredibly busy as spring approaches: robins are twittering their call for mates, while blue tits and great tits are busy selecting their nestbooxes and lining them with moss, twigs and feathers to create a cosy nest in which they can lay their eggs and raise their young. Leaving some teasels and a few weeds around your garden really helps to provide food for them - goldfinches especially like to feed on teasel seeds.

A blue tit eyeing up his new prospective home at Stoneywell
A blue tit eyeing up his new prospective home at Stoneywell

Around March the slow worm appears in the garden. Despite their name, slow worms are a type of lizard and can be found in the heathland or basking in a sunny patch of the garden.

Butterflies are also starting to flutter poetically around the garden providing an extra splash of colour. Keep still and you may spot a peacock, comma butterfly or even a chimney sweeper moth!