West Wight Nursery Nature Garden
As part of the development of the garden at West Wight Nursery Gift to Nature installed a range of nature signs helping children spot the wildlife around them. This page gives a bit more information on each of the animals mentioned on the signs.
Badgers are a native British mammal. They are often frightened of people so can be hard to spot. The best time to see them is around dawn or dusk. Badgers live in setts, a network of underground tunnels which they dig out with their strong claws. Badgers are omnivores, eating a range of plants or animals depending on what is available, though their main source of food is earthworms. Baby badgers are known as cubs and are born in litters which usually vary between 1 and 5. Badgers usually give birth between January and March.
The Red Fox is the most widespread dog in the wild. They have red/brown fur and commonly have white chests. Foxes often make a sound which sounds a bit like a person screaming, but they also make a range of other sounds. Foxes tend to be noisier in December during the mating season. They are mostly nocturnal, but can sometimes be seen in the daytime. Cubs are born around the middle of March in an underground den.
The Buzzard is the most common bird of prey in the UK. Colours vary from dark brown all over to birds with pale heads and breasts. The call is a distinctive mewing sound. When perched the Buzzard looks like its head is hunched into its shoulders. They often nest in the same place each year. It is a slow flyer and will often catch prey by sitting very still in a tree then swooping down when something passes underneath.
Barn Owls are buff on top with pure white under-parts and a distinctive heart-shaped faced. Barn Owls make a range of sounds but they don’t “twit-twoo” – a high pitched screech is more typical. They can be seen all year round, but are often most active around dusk. They mostly eat rodents like short-tailed voles, woodmice and brown rats. They have very good hearing and can hunt by sound alone.
These birds were introduced to the UK over 900 years ago. Most pheasants are bred as “game birds” and released during the shooting season between October and February. 10% or more of these birds are not shot and go on to breed. Pheasants will often choose to run rather than fly.
This mammal with brown/grey fur is common in the UK, but is not a native. Rabbits were introduced by the Normans in the 12th century. Most rabbits in the wild live for less than one year. When a rabbit spots danger it warns others by thumping one of its back legs on the ground. A rabbit can have 20 offspring in one year.
You are much more likely to see the evidence of a mole’s digging than the mole itself. The mole has short black/dark brown fur and spade like front legs to help with tunneling. They live underground in deep burrows which can be hundreds of metres long. Where a tunnel breaks the surface you will often see a mole hill – a pile of soil left behind. They mostly eat earthworms, but also feed on insect larvae especially during the summer. King William III was killed when he fell from his horse after it stepped in a mole hill!
The Red Squirrel is Britain’s only native squirrel. The Island’s population has been able to thrive due to the absence of Grey Squirrels. Grey Squirrels were introduced to Britain around the end of the eighteenth century. It is uncertain why this was done but likely that the Victorians had little understanding of the damage this would cause. Their colouring is very variable, ranging from bright ginger, red through to dark brown and they can even be tinged with grey. In the winter they are particularly noticeable with their big ear tufts. Squirrel nests, called dreys, can be spotted in tree forks or hollows are constructed from twigs and lined with moss and hair.
The Great Tit can be easily recognised by its distinctive call which sounds like “teacher, teacher”. As its name suggests it is the largest UK tit. It is green and yellow with a black head and white cheeks
With its pointed wings and long tail the Kestrel can often be seen hovering overhead. Normally quiet, they can become noisier around breeding time and when threatened, making a piercing kee-kee-kee call.