Spring wildlife at Stoneywell
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 after a long cold winter are the palmate newts, who have spent the harsh weather 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 the conditions at Stoneywell perfectly suitable. Here the newts come to the plunge pool that sits beside the well house to breed, before returning back to the shelter provided by the nearby rocks.
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 more colourful of the two.
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 high pitched almost laughing sound, called a 'yaffle', 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 canopy before flying back down again, know that you've spied a treecreeper.
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.
Around April slow worms start to emerge from their winter slumbering spots. Despite their name, slow worms are a type of lizard without legs and can be found in the heathland or or sunny patches of bare earth in the garden, if you look carefully you might spot one, or its legged relative - the common lizard - on a warm rock.
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, a small black insect that is actually a day flying moth - these occur in large numbers on warm spring mornings hovering above the meadow.
It's a wonderful time of year to enjoy a stroll around the garden and woodland and take in the sights and sounds of spingtime at Stoneywell.