Mammals, trees and signs of spring to look out for around Killearn

Last week we posted a blog Birdwatching in Winter around Killearn, a list of 10 birds to look out for in winter around the Carbeth Estate. This week we are looking at 10 more species of the  wildlife and plants you can see in the area in winter. Remember, share what you see with us on social media using #carbethhomefarmwinter

Mammals

There are plenty of wild mammals on the estate, but most of them are quite elusive, either only coming out at night or being masters of camouflage, so often the best thing to do is look out for signs of them.

Deer print in snow – photo by Greg Reese
Deer print in snow – photo by Greg Reese

11. Footprints in the snow (or mud).

If you look carefully in the snow or mud you will see what has been walking there before you. Although most prints are either boots or dogs, if you are up early you might see other prints too, like the triangular pattern of a rabbit hopping or the pointed cloven hooves of a roe deer.

12. Roe Deer

This is probably the most likely mammal you will see on the walk (I see them most days) If they are standing still you are unlikely to see them as they are so well camouflaged, but when they move they will catch your eye. The main distinguishing feature is the white bottom.

Roe deer – photo by Sven Lachmann
Roe deer – photo by Sven Lachmann
Molehill – photo by Samantha Lyth
Molehill – photo by Samantha Lyth

13. Mole hills

You are unlikely to see moles, but they remain active all year round. On your walk look out for new soil that has been made into a hill, particularly easy to spot on a snowy or frosty day. That’s a sure sign that the mole has been around looking for worms or a mate.

Trees

With many of the trees bare-branched winter is the best time to look at the structure of the trees and see the mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi that might be growing on them. They might be small, but they are well worth a closer look and give the woodland a magical feel. You will see some stunning trees around the village, both deciduous and evergreen. Take a close look at their bark, they range from silver through to deep red.

14. Lichen

Lichens can be seen growing on the trees around the estate and you will see them in many forms, either as a crust against the tree-trunk or as hanging from the branches like beards. A lichen is made up two or more different organisms, a fungus and an algae in a beneficial relationship. They do not harm the trees they grow on.

15. Mosses

Mosses also grow on tree trunks and form beautiful green mats of leaves. They don’t flower, but their fruits do look a bit like flowers, look out for small red fruits, giving a branch a lovely hint of red.

16. Catkins

Catkins are flowers, forming pretty, long thin clusters on some of the trees. Look out for alders by the river – they have both catkins, the male flower, and the cone which houses the seeds. Willows and silver birch also have catkins and are a good sign of spring.

Catkins – photo by Samantha Lyth
Catkins – photo by Samantha Lyth

Other Signs of Spring

As the days grow longer you will see other signs of spring on your walk – even on the coldest, darkest days:

17. Snowdrops

Look under the hedges and bushes as you go and you might see these hardy little flowers coming into bloom. Take a close look at how pretty these white bell-shaped flowers are. There are many other bulbs coming up too and you can tell that the annual show of daffodils can’t be far away.

18. Celandines

These are lovely bright yellow flowers that grow on the edge of woodland. They flower in early spring, as I write this there are no sign of flowers, but their heart-shaped leaves are coming through well, so I am expecting to see the first flowers soon.

Celandines – photo by Petra
Celandines – photo by Petra
Birch buds – photo by Henryk Borsuk
Birch buds – photo by Henryk Borsuk

19. Trees in bud

Look along the hedgerows and on the shrubs and you will notice that many of them are already coming into bud. In the hedges the hawthorn is often the first to come into leaf, particularly if it is south facing.

20. Geese

And finally, for number 20, listen out for one of the most exciting sounds and sights of winter – the skeins of geese flying over the village. I wake up to this sound most mornings – these are the true wild geese, the pink-footed, white-fronted and bean geese that over-winter in the area. They feed in the local fields and then roost on the estuaries, so there is an almost constant movement of these birds – even when it is dark.

Geese – photo by Manfred Antranias Zimmer
Geese – photo by Manfred Antranias Zimmer

Remember to share what you see around Killearn with us, using #carbethhomefarmwinter

Samantha Lyth

Samantha Lyth is a keen naturalist and lover of the outdoors. Among her running friends she is well known for her nature trail runs, which involves a lot of stopping to look at birds, insects and flowers. Along with her husband Peter they run Red Kite Services, a business that provides administrative and marketing support for small businesses. They have recently moved to Killearn and are thoroughly enjoying exploring the area.

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