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The Creatures That Make Their Home in the Forest

Our forests are like giant natural housing estates, providing homes for thousands of species. Trees act as habitats, protection and food sources for the mammals, insects, birds and reptiles that live in the forest. 

As we celebrate National Tree Week, meet some of the creatures who make the forest their home:

1. There are nearly 1000 ancient oak trees in Sherwood Forest and the forest is home to 1,500 species of beetle. At their best, beetles are great recyclers, with different species working their way through dead and decaying wood, dead animals, and faeces. However adult beetles can cause more damage than good by attacking healthy trees.

2. Pine Martens, small mammals similar in size to a squirrel, with dark brown fur, a patch of yellow or white on the throat and a long fluffy tail, make their homes in hollow Scots pine trees. They are almost extinct in England but are resident at Strathyre in Scotland.

3. Red Squirrels are also mainly found in Scotland and you have a good chance of spotting one at Ardgartan Argyll or Strathyre. Squirrels make their nests, known as dreys, in the forks of large trees. Clues to their presence are scratch marks on bark, and chewed pine cones at the base of the tree.

4. Dormice are one of the few species in the UK which hibernate. They love hazelnuts so any forest with some hazel trees will be home for them. A good location for dormice is Blackwood Forest. Look for their discarded hazelnut shells, with a smooth circular cut and tiny radiating teeth marks. Dormice hibernate on the ground but nest in trees, making their nests from honeysuckle bark and leaves.

5. Butterflies and moths like broad-leaved trees such as oak and elm in woodlands with open glades. Caterpillars munch their way through the leaves and then attach themselves to the undersides of leaves or onto plant stems and weave a cocoon in relatively hidden conditions. You will find many species of butterfly during the summer months at all of our locations. If you are very lucky you may see the rare and beautiful Merveille du Jour moth at Deerpark.

6. Tawny Owls roost in holes in trees during the daylight hours. A clue to where you might find them lies in some of the old names for them: wood owl, beech owl and ivy owl. They fly out as dusk falls and are adapted for woodland hunting, with a short wing span to enable them to flit between branches. Meet our resident tawny owl, The Professor, along with Gerry the Forest Ranger at the Forest of Dean.

7. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are the most common of the 3 species of woodpecker found in the UK. They drum on trees with their beaks to establish their territory and they also excavate holes in which to set up home. Great spotted woodpeckers are widespread and you have a chance of seeing (or hearing) them at any of our locations.

8. Many of the UK’s 650 species of spider are tree dwellers. See if you can spot crab spiders, masters of camouflage, who change their body colour to match the leaf or flower they are sat upon. And look for Wolf spiders at Keldy in the spring, so called because they don’t spin webs, but hunt their prey down.

A feature connecting many of these woodland dwellers is that they are threatened or endangered species. At Forest Holidays we work with the Forestry Commission and conservation organisations to protect and create forest habitats. National Tree Week and other similar activities are opportunities for us all to become house builders for our precious woodland wildlife.

National Tree Week – 26th November to 4th December 2016

• National Tree Week, organised by The Tree Council, marks the start of the tree planting season

• This year, National Tree Week is celebrating its 40th anniversary

• It grew out of the response to the devastating effects of Dutch Elm disease, starting with (and some of us still remember this) “Plant a Tree in ’73” 

• There are 100s of free events across the country where communities can come together to develop the “treescapes” around them

• Over 1m trees will be planted this week by 250,000 people. This has many benefits, but we like to think of it above all as a national house-building programme for wildlife.