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Short nature walks at Thorpe Forest

Dale Harrison from the charity, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) recommends short nature walks for wildlife enthusiasts visiting Thorpe Forest, Forest Holidays.

Spring is a great time to look for nature in the forest and the cabins Forest Holidays provide are a great base for exploring. Take a walk through Beech woodland and dense pine forest or take a gentle stroll down by the river and look and listen for wildlife.

Beech forest

 Exploring the Beech forest at Thorpe wood

A dusk walk by the river

Nightfall is a great time to see and hear wildlife. Birds will be singing before they settle to roost, and mammals start to venture out to feed. Look to the sky for a beautiful orange sunset and appreciate the tranquillity of being the only people in the grounds at this time of night.

Leave your cabin around 8:00pm as the sun begins to set and take a walk through the reedbed towards the river. Listen out for warblers in the reeds and keep an eye out for Muntjac deer as you approach the wooded riverbank.

Stand on the bridge and wait to see bats as they skim the waters’ surface, feeding on flying insects. Use this vantage point to look into the meadow for Brown Hare grazing on the grass and for Egyptian geese settling down for the night. Look out for hunting Kestrel hovering over the meadow.

Dusk walk

 Sunset by the river at Thorpe Forest

Cross the bridge and follow the boardwalk to the hedgerows and stop at the gate to look for deer with their young grazing in the fenced fields. If you’re really lucky you might hear the evocative sound of a Cuckoo calling from the trees beyond.

Retrace your steps and follow the riverbank, treading carefully as moles shake the ground as they dig, and frogs hop across the path. Stay quiet as it is thought that otter and water vole may use this stretch of the river.

An afternoon bug hunt

Midday is a great time to look for bugs, if the sun is out and it feels warm take your camera and explore the forest floor for insects.

Leave your cabin after lunch or why not take a picnic with you? Take a walk along the woodland edges and check the flowers and greenery on each side of the path for beetles, bugs and spiders.

Bug hunting habitat

 Meadows on the edge of woodland are great for bug hunting

The open areas in woodland are great for butterflies, look in the sunny patches on flowers and you should be able to see butterflies, including Speckled Wood, Brimstone and Comma.  Look out for Soldier beetles on the flowers, and bees and hoverflies probing their long tongues into the flowers as they seek a sugary, nectar treat.

Brimstone butterfly

 Brimstone butterfly on a dandelion

Soldier beetle 2

 Soldier beetle on a leaf

To find different types of bugs try moving to the heathland at Thorpe Forest but remember to walk quietly and gently past the tree stumps and ferns so you don’t disturb the wildlife.  Look out for Wolf spiders carrying their large white eggs and maybe even a Slow Worm basking in the sun.

Take a stroll near the river and keep your eyes peeled for fast flying Banded Demoiselle Damselflies as you walk near the open water.

Nature spotting from your cabin

If you’re just too tired to venture outdoors then relax in the cabin and look and listen for wildlife.

Watch out for squirrels as they run up and down the tree trunks, or sit on logs nibbling on pine cones.

Listen for noisy branches as wood pigeon fly out from the trees, or for loud alarm calls as blackbirds fly low across the ground.

Some of the cabins have homemade, pine cone bird feeders hanging on the trees near the porch. Watch these feeders and the crumbs dropped below for Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and even Coal Tit, with the white stripe on the back of its head.

In the evening check around the outside of the cabin especially by the night lights for moths, including the large-sized, Poplar Hawkmoth.

Some of the trees have bat boxes so watch patiently at sunset to see them leave the box.

Night vision at Thorpe Forest 

Our ranger Charlie met us at 9:30pm at the retreat to take us on a night walk through the forest using night vision googles!

The anticipation of seeing animals in the forest at night gives you a real buzz. We each had our own monocular with infra-red light which doesn’t scare the animals but allows you to see them.

Night vision

 Using the night vision monocular at Thorpe Forest

We walked through the forest, stopping when we heard rustling in the trees, scanning with our goggles to see if we could spot anything.

At one point, we were so deep in the forest that it was almost pitch black so Charlie used her head torch to quickly scan the forest looking for the shining eyes of mammals.

We got to our furthest point from the retreat and then heard a loud repeating bark, not a dog but a Muntjac deer. It was quite eerie to hear, especially as we couldn’t locate it but we knew it sounded close!

The night vision walk gives you a real insight into how alive the forest becomes after dark.

Share your nature sightings

Share the wildlife you have seen at Thorpe Forest by tweeting @forestholidays and filling in the nature sightings book on the reception at the retreat.

Wildlife sighting list - from 10th and 11th May 2014

  • Blackcap
  • Cuckoo - one of the UK's fastest declining migrants
  • Egyptian goose
  • Kestrel
  • Chiffchaff
  • Red-legged Partridge
  • Skylark
  • Buzzard
  • Swift
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Reed Warbler
  • Blackbird
  • Wren
  • Treecreeper
  • Chaffinch
  • Robin
  • Carrion Crow
  • Rook
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Brown Hare
  • Muntjac
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Roe Deer
  • Brimstone butterfly
  • Poplar Hawkmoth
  • Bee fly
  • Soldier Beetle
  • Wolf Spider
  • Green Shield Bug
  • Banded Demoiselle Damselfly
  • Six-spot Burnet moth

Free bird spotting app - BirdTrack

The British Trust for Ornithology would like to hear about your wildlife sightings. So, why not register with BirdTrack a free bird spotting app for storing all your bird sightings. It’s quick and simple to use and your sightings will be used by the BTO to inform bird conservation.