WELCOME to our new section dedicated to woodland birds.....
we're not just going to focus on UK facts and figures here, we're aiming to 'keep it local', to help you identify local bird species when you're out in Monkmead Wood. So let's start with two birds that you're more likely to hear, before you see them......
The Green Woodpecker - a great ant eater
Adult Green Woodpeckers are striking in colour (with pale green, cream and yellow body plumage and a bold red patch on the head). They spend a great deal of time on the ground searching for adult ants, larvae and eggs (you've probably already spotted them on the lawn in your own back garden, but you'll rarely see them on bird tables though). Monkmead Wood is a perfect habitat for these birds with its deciduous mixed woodland and open areas of grassland and heathland. The Green Woodpecker has a tongue that can extend to just over 10cm, the tip of which is wider and covered with a stickly saliva - perfect for catching ants. Unfortunately, their numbers can decline drastically in bad winters when ants are more difficult to find. Although you'll hear this woodpecker throughout Monkmead Wood, one of the best places to spot them in flight is around the heathland area which is also a perfect spot for them to feed.
When in flight it has an undulating movement accompanied by a very distinctive, loud, almost laughing call which gives rise to the name of the 'yaffle'. Both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers belong to the Picidae family (of which there are around 210 species world wide, these include the piculets, a tiny species of woodpecker found mostly in southern/Latin America and the Eurasian Wryneck - which has an ability to turn its head almost 180 degrees!).
The 'drumming' noise that you hear in Monkmead Wood in early Spring is made by the Great Spotted Woodpecker - Green Woodpeckers rarely 'drum' on tree trunks because their bills are actually weaker than other woodpecker species.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker - fastest European drummer!
Is a very attractive bird (about the size of a Starling) and one that is no stranger to our gardens as well as our woodlands! You'll often find this bird visiting your peanut and fat feeders. With its black, white and red plumage it's an easy species to spot.
Drumming is used purely to highlight a territorial patch, infact it's similar to the way in which a song bird uses their song and has nothing to do with the excavation of a hole for a nest. With up to 15 strikes per second the Great Spotted Woodpecker is the fastest of the European drummers! They can be heard right across Monkmead Wood in early Spring - but be patient if you're trying to spot one (the best way to do this is to simply follow the drumming sound and cast your eyes up to the very top of the tree - you might just be able to catch a glimpse as they move around the tree trunk). If you make your way to the edge of the heathland area adjacent to Heather Lane, towards the end of a warm sunny afternoon you might also be lucky enough to be able to hear their sharp, metallic call 'chik, chik', chik'. But again you'll need to cast your eyes right up to the very top branches of the trees to spot them. Although it mostly feeds on invertebrates living in dead wood this woodpecker will also feed on tree seeds when invertebrates are hard to find. You'll also be able spot used nest sites excavated in old tree trunks all over the woodland.
Long Tailed Tits - pretty in pink
Like all small bird species Long Tailed Tits can be hit drastically by long cold winters (with numbers being hit by upto 80%). In recent years, due to milder weather they have increased in numbers and have been spotted all over Monkmead Wood - deciduous woodland being one of their favourite habitats. They're quite noisy, chatting away to each other as they fly in groups from tree to tree searching for insects. You'll be able to spot them all over the woodland - their 'chattering and chirping' noises drawing your attention first. Long Tailed Tits build a very elaborate oval nest containing over 2,500 feathers which actually helps to regulate the temperature within it.
They are an extremely attractive bird (easily identified by their ball and stick shape) with long black and white tails with the adults having an area of dusky pink feathers on their backs and underparts. They're also very sociable and in colder temperatures will actually huddle together on tree branches to keep warm rather than roosting in tree holes.
Like other members of the Tit family they're attracted to garden feeding stations by fat feeders and peanuts travelling in groups from garden to garden as they feed.
The Nuthatch & Tree Creeper - quite the woodland acrobats
This little bird has a very distinctive black stripe across its eyes together with beautifully coloured plumage. Nuthatches have been spotted in Monkmead wood but you need to be patient and search carefully to spot one. There's one particular habit that they have acquired which is quite distinctive and isn't one that other British birds tend to adopt - and that is that Nuthatches tend to climb down tree trunks head first whilst looking for food between the nooks and crannies of the tree bark. Their chisel-like bill is perfect for removing smaller pieces of bark to expose the insects beneath.
The Tree Creeper (or Tree Mouse as it's known) on the other hand is smaller than the Nuthatch and with its brown speckled plumage it's extremely difficult to spot as it searches tree trunks for food. Rather than climbing down the tree like the Nuthatch, the Tree Creeper tends to ascend each tree trunk from the base to the top in a circular manner, once they've searched one tree they then fly to the base of the next one and repeat the process.
Tree Creepers have been spotted on occasion in Monkmead wood - the best sites being those containing more mature trees with loose pieces of bark. (As you can see, these birds have very different shaped bills and also use their tails in quite distinctive ways whilst climbing).
The Woodcock - well spotted!
This species is normally nocturnal and tends to frequent deciduous woodland or young coniferous plantations with boggy areas. During the day their camouflage enables them to remain hidden amongst the areas of course grass and heather. They're extremely well equipped with that long bill which enables them to locate their favourite food of worms, grubs and insects. Sighting two of these birds in the heathland area of Monkmead Wood was a rare treat!
It just goes to show that you don't need a large area in order for it to become a valuable habitat to many different species of wildlife. Also by keeping the wetland open (and enlarging it as Horsham District Council are doing) it will encourage more ground nesting birds like the Woodcock.
Nightjars - it's a first time visit!
This is a first for Monkmead Wood - a Nightjar was heard singing close to the Heathland area. These birds are a noctural species and their distinctive shape and colouring make them look rather similar to the Cuckoo. Adults have a very distinctive 'churring' song and they favour heathlands and open woodlands. Nightjars are seasonal visitors to our shores usually arriving in April to mid-May and leaving between August and September. We'll soon be updating this page with more information about this and many other bird species that visit Monkmead Wood.
As the weeks progress we'll be updating the site with more interesting facts about local bird species in Monkmead Wood....