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The Wonders of British Wildlife

Kate MacRae • Wildlife • Mar 10, 2021 • 15 min read

Wildlife is abundant and varied in Great Britain. Our resident expert and OS GetOutside Champion, Kate MacRae, aka WildlifeKate, takes us on a journey to explore the wonderous wildlife that can be found near you.

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Tawny Owls

Yew View is a private 7-acre garden in Worcestershire. I have worked there for seven years, creating habitats and installing nest boxes and cameras all over the site. There are three owl boxes on site and the Tawny Owls have nested in one of these for the last three years. There are three cameras set up on the box; 2 inside and one outside, giving a wonderful insight into their lives.

This will be the 4th year the same pair have used their favourite box, which now has three different cameras, covering different angles inside and outside. The female Tawny spends the day inside the nest box, leading up to her laying. Eggs hatch after about 30 days incubation. Owlets are covered in a soft white down and are entirely dependent on their parents for food. They grow fast and after about 5 weeks, they start to get more mobile and ambitious, moving outside of the box. Owlets leave the box before they can fly properly and climb into the trees, using talons and beaks. They sit, motionless during the day and then rely on the parents to come and feed them at night.

Tawny Owl and chick

Tawnies can be heard from many UK gardens, especially if there are woodlands or large trees nearby. The female produces the ‘Kee-wick’ call which is answered by the ‘Woo-hoo’ call of the male. This is where the ‘TwitTwoo’ owl call originates.

Tawnies are most vocal early in the year. The best best time to see them in local woods or in large trees, is when the owlets ‘branch’ out into the trees, where they sit all day, waiting for night to return and for the parents to feed them.

Foxes

I have been putting food out for the foxes, in the field next to my garden for the last decade. As time has gone on, my cameras have improved and so has the footage! I have numerous individuals visiting, most of which will be related in some way. At the moment, I have two vixens visiting who are pregnant and I usually see cubs coming to the feeding station around the end of May. It is he most amazing moment, when they first appear, especially if it is in daylight! These are very much rural foxes and are very nervous. They will not visit if I am there, so I watch them remotely.

Fox cub

Fox in field by garden

Birds

There are a vast number of birds species across Great Britain, here's how you can ID a few of them.

Blue tit: Easily recognisable with its blue crown and yellow belly, the blue tit is the acrobat of the garden, often feeding by hanging upside down and is one of our commonest garden birds.

Great tit: Larger than the blue tit and with a black cap and white cheeks, the great tit is a common species, bold and agile, loving hanging feeders and fat balls.

Robin: Easily recognisable with its red chest, the robin was voted Britain’s favourite bird. Renown for its friendliness in the garden it also has a beautiful song.

Goldfinch: Our brightest coloured finch, this species is attracted to gardens with niger seed or sunflower hearts.

Blackbird: The male’s melodious song is evocative of summer evenings and his handsome black plumage, with a yellow beak and eye ring, makes him distinctive. The females are a duller brown in colour.

Blackbird and Blue tit

Nesting birds

Once we hit nesting season, it can be a great way to learn about your garden birds. Putting nest boxes up is an easy way to help out the garden residents and blue tits and great tits readily take to nest boxes. You can now buy kits with cameras inside so you can watch your family grow! Larger, open fronted nest boxes can provide a home for robins and blackbirds and owl boxes can even attract tawnies, stock doves or jackdaws to nest in your garden if it is of a wooded nature.

Blue tit in nest, eggs, and newly hatched baby blue tits

Here's some common nesting birds to look out for, where they nest, egg incubation periods and when baby birds fly the nest.

Great spotted woodpeckers nest in natural tree hole cavities or excavate a chamber themselves. Both sexes excavate the hole but don’t actually build a nest as such. The female bird does most of the incubation, with both parents bringing food to the young. There is just one brood per year with a clutch size of between five and seven eggs.

Blackbirds can nest as early as March and can have up to 3 broods in a season. The nest is built in a bush, tree or hedge. The nest is constructed with grass and moss and lined in mud. The male feed the female whilst she incubates and then both sexes feed the young until they fledge after several weeks.

Blue tits take very readily to nest boxes. Natural nests occur in holes and crevices in trees. The nest is made from moss and grass and lined with soft wool or feathers. The female lays up to 15 eggs. The male feeds the female whilst she incubates and then both sexes feed the young until they fledge several weeks later.

Jackdaws naturally nest in tree holes, but sometimes use nest boxes or chimneys. They build a nest nest of stock and a whole range of other materials that they find within their environment. They lay up to 5 eggs which both parents care for until fledge.

Mammals

Our gardens can be home to lots of small mammals. If we are gardening with wildlife in mind and we’re feeding the birds, then we are very likely to attract small mammals as well. The most likely visitors will be wood mice and possibly bank voles. Another species that might appear is a shrew, but you’ll be lucky to see these tiny mammals! Rats tend to be the least favourite of visitors, but even these mammals are fine, as long as you don’t have too many!

Wood Mice and Common Shrew

Here's some common small mammal species you might find in your garden.

Wood Mouse: One of Britain’s most abundant mammal, the wood mouse is recognisable by its large ears and long tail. They are sometimes seen underneath the feeders or even up on the feeder itself.

Bank Vole: If you have a hedgerow or long grassy areas, then bank voles may appear under your bird feeders. These have a rounder face and smaller ears than the wood mouse and their tail is much shorter.

Shrews: We have three species of shrew; common, pygmy and water. The common and the pygmy shrew are the most common. They have a pointed nose and tiny eyes!


Catch up with all of Wildlife Kate's live cameras for more wonderful wildlife in Great Britain and overseas.

Published: Mar 10, 2021 Edited: Sep 08, 2021

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