In this language-learning level 2 webpage we have written about 37 animals:
Adder, Badger, Blackbird, Butterfly (Cabbage White), Butterfly (Peacock), Buzzard, Crow (Carrion), Crayfish (White-clawed), dormouse (Hazel), Deer (Red), Deer (Roe), Earthworm (common), Fox (Red), Frog (Common), Golden Eagle, Hedgehog, Heron (Grey), Jackdaw, Jay, Kestrel, Lizard (sand), Mole, Nuthatch, Otter, Raven, Robin, Rook, Snake (Grass), Snake (Smooth), Squirrel (Red), Stoat, Thrush (Mistle), Thrush (Song), Vole (Water), Water Scorpion, Weasel, Wren.
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. . . . . . . . . . . .SCROLL DOWN FOR AN EASY VIEW OF ALL THE LANGUAGE-LEARNING LEVELS (LEVEL 2). . . . . . . . . . .

 

Adder

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Adders are shy and secretive snakes. They don’t like to be too much in the open so they tend to hide in holes and crevices or in burrows made by other animals. Adders can often be found on heaths and moors. They can also be seen at the edge of woodlands, rocky hillsides, bushy slopes and hedgerows. Sometimes Adders live in marshes and bogs if dry ground is nearby.

Even though Adders can live in wet or dry environments, they need to be on dry ground when they want to hibernate. Hibernation is a long deep sleep during which the Adder’s heart beat and breathing slows down considerably. Before an Adder goes into hibernation, it has to store fat in its body. It lives off this body fat while it sleeps during the cold winter months.

Adders hibernate between November and February. Some Adders hibernate alone, while some Adders hibernate collectively with other Adders. They hibernate in burrows, under logs or in crevices in walls. The place the Adder chooses to hibernate in is called a ‘hibernaculum’.

Adders start to emerge out of hibernation around the end of February. They are very hungry after their long sleep so it is very important for them to find food at this stage as they need to build up body fat and energy again.

It is also very important for the Adder to bask in the sun. It has to absorb heat into the body because the body temperature needs to be high enough for the Adder to be able to digest food and function properly. The sun also regenerates vitamins into the Adder’s body which help it to become more active.

 

Badger

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Badgers live beneath the ground in homes called ‘setts’. Some setts are very large and some setts are very small. Most setts have lots of tunnels that link up with each other. Some tunnels lead to nursery chambers and some to sleeping chambers.

Badgers like to be very clean and tidy so they are often kept busy by taking straw, moss, bracken and grass to and from their sleeping chambers. When a Badger collects bedding material outside, it first rolls it into a bundle. Then the Badger clutches the bundle with its chin and forelegs and drags the bedding material backwards into the entrance hole of the sett.

Badgers like to live with a family group in a sett. The family group is called a ‘clan’ and a Badger clan can have up to twelve to fourteen adults. If a Badger clan is large, it will have more than one sett.

A Badger clan also claims a part of land as its own territory. The size of a territory depends on the availability of food for the clan. Grassland that is cut regularly will supply Badgers with lots of food so these territories are usually about seventy-five hectares in size (a hectare is the size of two football pitches). In rough moorlands where food is scarce territories can be as large as eight hundred hectares.

Fights can break out if a member of one clan wanders into the territory of another clan. When Badgers fight, they twist and turn and they try to bite each other’s rumps. They also growl and snarl. If a Badger takes up a defensive position, it curls up like a hedgehog to protect its nose.

 

Blackbird

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

A Blackbird is a member of the Thrush family. The other members of the Thrush family are the Robin, the Song Thrush, the Mistle Thrush, the Fieldfare and the Redwing. The Fieldfare and the Redwing are not resident in England, but they visit in winter.

Some Blackbirds live in colder countries than England so they migrate to England in autumn to spend time in our less severe winter. Migrating Blackbirds fly in flocks at night. They can cover great distances.

Blackbirds that are resident in England can only cover short distances and don’t usually fly in flocks. When resident Blackbirds fly, they make soft quivering ‘seeee’ sounds and beat their wings very quickly. They fly very low and fast.

If Blackbirds want to fly well and keep warm in winter, they need to keep their coats of feathers in good condition. To do this they spend a lot of time preening. When Blackbirds preen themselves, they clean and smooth their feathers with their beaks. Sometimes a Blackbird uses a bird bath that may be in a garden to keep clean. After it has had a bath, it uses its beak to pick out any dirt or fleas that may have collected in its feathers. It then smooths out its feathers with its beak to close all the gaps in the feathers. If there are too many gaps in the feathers, the Blackbird flies much slower than usual because air gets inside them.

Resident Blackbirds roost together (rest together) in large numbers in dense hedgerows and shrubs. Dense hedgerows and shrubs protect Blackbirds from the cold wind and by roosting together they can keep each other warm.

 

Butterfly (Cabbage White)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The body of the Common White Butterfly is divided into three parts. The front part is the head, the middle part is the thorax and the back part is the abdomen.

The Cabbage White Butterfly’s head has two very long antennae which are used for balancing when the butterfly is in flight. The antennae are also used to smell the air and to find food.

The eyes of the Common White Butterfly are quite large and spherical and are called ‘compound’ eyes. Compound eyes consist of thousands of tiny single simple eyes each forming a hexagon shape. Each simple eye forms a portion of an image. This is called ‘fractured vision’. The simple eyes can also tell the difference between brightness and darkness.

Compound eyes allow the Cabbage White Butterfly to see in every direction whether that is up or down, forwards or backwards or left and right. Although the Common White Butterfly has a wide vision of about three hundred and sixty degrees, it still can’t focus its vision like humans can.

The thorax is divided into three segments. Each segment has one pair of legs connected to it. The wings are connected to the second and third segment. The thorax contains muscles that make the legs and the wings move.

The abdomen is quite soft and has ten segments. It contains the heart which is almost tube-shaped. The heart pumps blood through a tube which runs right through to the Cabbage White Butterfly’s head. The abdomen also contains an ‘ovipositor’ which is like a tube through which the female Cabbage White Butterfly lays her eggs.

 

Buzzard

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Buzzard is a member of the Falcon family and is mainly resident in England. Some Buzzards from colder countries fly to the south east of England in autumn to spend time in our less severe winter.

Resident Buzzards don’t generally form flocks, but Buzzards that migrate do. Buzzards that migrate can fly long distances, but resident Buzzards rarely fly more than fifty kilometres.

When the Buzzard flies, its broad rounded wings look long and powerful. The Buzzard also has long black feathers at the end of its wings that look like extended ‘fingers’. These finger-like feathers help to reduce turbulence which means the Buzzard can stay high up in the air even when it is flying at low speeds.

The Buzzard is a slow and lazy flier that likes to rise on a thermal of warm air so it can soar and glide in the air. As the Buzzard glides and soars, it holds its wings in a shallow ‘V’ shape and reveals cream coloured feathers on the underside of its wings. Male Buzzards are lighter in weight than females so they can rise on thermals faster and can reach greater heights. When the Buzzard soars the sky, it makes a loud meowing call that sounds like ‘peee-uu’, ‘peee-uu’. The call is really similar to a cat’s meow!

The Buzzard can sometimes get drifted away by strong winds. It seems as though it is easier for a Buzzard to drift in the wind than to fly against it. The problem with this is that the Buzzard can end up in an unknown territory or it can lose its partner for a while.

 

Crow (Carrion)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Carrion Crows are medium-sized members of the Crow family. They can be seen in city centres, woodlands, farmlands, moorlands, fields, parks, gardens, hedgerows and on sea cliffs. Carrion Crows are sometimes called thieves because they steal eggs and chicks from other birds.

Carrion Crows eat worms, beetles, insects, larvae, seeds and scraps. They also eat mice and even carcasses. When Carrion Crows visit gardens, they often eat snails, slugs, weed seeds and scraps of food on bird tables. Sometimes they eat tadpoles from garden ponds too. Carrion Crows also scavenge rubbish dumps to look for food.

If a Carrion Crow lives on a sea cliff, it eats crabs, muscles and stranded fish on the shore. Before a Carrion Crow eats a crab, it drops it on a rock from a great height to break the shell. Once the shell has been broken, the Carrion Crow eats the soft body inside.

Carrion Crows like to perch high up in isolated trees so they can watch the activities of other birds. If a Carrion Crow sees a bird taking nesting material to a certain site, the Carrion Crow remembers the location so it can go back to it later to either destroy the nest or to steal the eggs. If a Carrion Crow notices a bird constantly taking food to the same spot, it waits until the bird has flown away and then flies to the nest to eat the chicks. It seems that Carrion Crows can be very crafty indeed sometimes.

 

Crayfish White-clawed 

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The White-clawed Crayfish is a freshwater crustacean. A crustacean has a hard shell, two sets of antennae and jointed legs. The White-clawed Crayfish is the only native crayfish in England.

The White-clawed Crayfish spends most of the day resting in hiding places and it hunts for food at night. It is mainly nocturnal, but sometimes on very hot days it may crawl out of its hiding place at dusk. Dusk is when it first starts to get dark in the evening.

White-clawed Crayfish prefer to live in shallow streams that have rocky surfaces and plant life. They are not usually found in shallow streams covered with mud, unless they are crossing a muddy area to look for food. White-clawed Crayfish also live in lakes, canals, water-filled quarries and reservoirs with deeper water. They prefer water that has little pollution and sediment. Sediment is natural material deposited from wind or water. White-clawed Crayfish have gills that can get easily clogged by sediment. If the gills get clogged, White-clawed Crayfish are not able to breathe under water.

White-clawed Crayfish often hide under rocks in riffles. A riffle is a very shallow area of a stream with a rocky bed over which water rapidly flows. Some riffles can be half a metre wide and only a few centimetres deep. White-clawed Crayfish also hide under very large boulders, submerged logs, in crevices of walls, amongst tree roots or water plants and even under a pile of fallen leaves under the water. Sometimes they hide in burrows they have made in water banks.

 

Deer (Red)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The female Red Deer is called a ‘Hind’ and the young are called ‘calves’. The male Red Deer is known as the ‘Stag’. The Stag has antlers, but they don’t start to branch out until the third year.

In its first year a male calf begins to develop two ‘pedicles’ on the top of its head. Antlers eventually grow from these pedicles. The first pair of antlers of the male calf takes the form of two small knobs (or buttons). The knobs fall off and the first pair of ‘real’ antlers begins to grow.

This first pair of ‘real’ antlers only has single spikes which are about ten centimetres long. They fall off and are replaced in the third year by a set of antlers which branch off into three or four points. Antlers continue to grow in length, weight and points.

Stags shed their antlers in April or May and new antlers start to grow within a week. Antlers can grow up to two and half centimetres a day. When new antlers begin to emerge, they are covered in ‘velvet’. The velvet looks like a thin layer of furry skin. It carries the blood vessels and nerves when the antlers are growing. The antlers are very sensitive during this stage so Stags try to avoid fighting each other with their antlers. Instead they ‘box’ each other by using their front feet!

Antlers reach their full-grown size within three months and then the velvet begins to shed. Sometimes it doesn’t shed, but hangs in strips from the antlers. To get rid of the velvet, Stags rub their antlers against trees. This action is called ‘fraying’.

 

Deer (Roe)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The female Roe Deer is called a ‘Doe’ and the young Roe Deer are called ‘kids’. The male Roe Deer is called a ‘Buck’. The Buck has antlers and is bigger than the female.

A male kid begins to develop two ‘pedicles’ on the top of its head in its first year. Antlers eventually grow from these pedicles. The first pair of antlers of the male kid takes the form of two small knobs (or buttons). The knobs fall off in spring and then the first pair of real antlers begins to grow.

The first pair of real antlers only has single spikes which are about ten centimetres long. The young male Roe Deer start to grow antlers with two points in the third year.

Older Bucks can have antlers with four to six points. Their antlers can grow up to thirty centimetres in length. However, in old age the Buck may go back to having single spikes again!

Bucks shed their antlers every year between October and December and new ones start to grow almost immediately. When they re-grow, they are covered in ‘velvet’. The velvet looks like a thin layer of furry skin. The velvet carries the blood vessels and nerves when the antlers are growing.

Most of the velvet dries out, shrinks and falls off once the antlers have fully grown. The velvet which doesn’t fall off hangs in strips from the antlers. This is the time the Buck is known to be ‘in tatters’ because it really does look like he is in tatters!

 

Earthworm (common)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Common Earthworm has four pairs of bristles on every segment of its body, apart from the first and the last. The bristles are under and around the body. They are used to help the Common Earthworm to grip onto the ground and onto tunnel walls. The Common Earthworm can move the bristles in and out.

When the Common Earthworm crawls, it uses its bristles like an anchor. It stretches the front of its body and then anchors the back part of its body onto the ground. This technique allows the Common Earthworm to stretch forward as far as it can. Then it draws the bristles in to release the grip and pulls the back part of the body up like an arch. By stretching and contracting the Common Earthworm can easily move forward.

The Common Earthworm covers its body with slimy mucus which lubricates its body. This helps the Common Earthworm to move more easily through underground tunnels. The mucus is also sticky which helps to line the tunnels and to hold the soil together. The mucus also strengthens the tunnels so they don’t collapse on the Common Earthworm when it is tunnelling.

The Common Earthworm can move its head or its tail first through tunnels, but it tends to move head first more. The Common Earthworm’s mouth is covered with a flap of skin. This flap of skin is called a ‘lobe’ and it is used as a wedge to force open cracks in the soil when the Common Earthworm is making tunnels underground. Some tunnels can be up to two metres long.

 

Fox (Red)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Red Foxes are very territorial and they will defend their territories by fighting with other Red Foxes if necessary. Urban Red Foxes usually have territories that cover about twenty-five to fifty hectares (one hectare is the size of two football pitches). Rural Red Foxes have territories that can cover up to two thousand hectares. Rural Red Foxes like to have a much wider area to roam in.

Red Foxes leave scent markings such as strong-smelling faeces and urine to mark the boundaries of their territories. These scent markings let Red Fox intruders know that they are not welcome. Red Foxes patrol their boundary areas and leave scent markings on a regular basis. The scent markings help Red Foxes to defend their territories. A Red Fox can have many dens in its territory. Dens are hiding places under the ground where the Red Fox can rest and take shelter. These dens are quite small and only usually have one entrance.

The Red Fox also has a ‘natal’ den to raise its cubs in. The natal den is much bigger than the other dens. The natal den also has more than one opening to allow for an emergency escape. Sometimes parents have to move cubs to another den to escape danger. The natal den is usually three metres below the ground. Natal dens are lined with grass and leaves to protect the cubs from dampness and cold. Natal dens are often south facing because the Red Fox family likes the entrance of the den to be exposed to the sun. This is because the Red Fox likes to have good visibility at the main entrance.

 

Frog (common)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Common Frogs are amphibians which mean that they spend part of their lives on land and part of their lives in water. Amphibians are also vertebrates and cold-blooded. Vertebrates are animals that have backbones and a cold-blooded animal has a body temperature that is the same as its surrounding environment.

Common Frogs can be seen in gardens, open fields and woods where there are ponds nearby. The Common Frog likes to live in a pond that has a shallow edge so it can climb out quite easily. Many Common Frogs prefer to live in a cool, moist environment under dense plants or in long grass with water nearby. Common Frogs spend more time on land than they do in water. They often look for food on land and go hunting at night.

The Common Frog eats insects, earthworms, spiders, snails and slugs. It sometimes eats minnows which are small fish. The Common Frog traps its prey with its long sticky tongue and then swallows its prey whole. The Common Frog doesn’t chew its food because it only has teeth on the upper jaw.

The Common Frog has a smooth moist-looking skin which can change colour. It can change the colour of its skin in two hours to match its surroundings. The skin also absorbs water into the Common Frog’s body which means that it doesn’t have to drink water to survive.

The Common Frog also has good hearing. It has a large eardrum behind each eye. The eardrum leads to the rest of the ear inside. The Common Frog can hear sounds that humans can’t hear!

 

Golden eagle

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Golden Eagle is a very large and powerful-looking bird. It is about eighty centimetres in size and it has a wingspan of over two metres. The male Golden Eagle weighs about three to four kilogrammes, whereas the female weighs up to five to six kilogrammes.

Golden Eagles have very strong legs that are covered with pale reddish feathers. They have very large feet. The feet have three toes that face forward and one toe that faces backwards. The toes are a greyish yellow colour and all of them have a long black curved talon on the end. The talons are very strong and they are used to seize and kill prey.

Most of the Golden Eagle’s prey is taken on the ground. The Golden Eagle catches its prey by quietly flying low to the ground. It extends one foot in preparation to grab its prey and with a swift movement seizes the animal with its talons and then carries it away. Sometimes the Golden Eagle uses both feet to seize its prey.

If a Golden Eagle catches a larger animal, like a young fox, the flight may be interrupted because of struggling and both may crash to the ground. If this happens, the Golden Eagle quickly grabs the fox by the head and then drives its talons into the soft part of the fox’s body. The Golden Eagle may even drive its talons into the fox’s lungs. The young fox either bleeds to death or dies of lack of oxygen. The Golden Eagle uses its strong curved beak to tear the flesh away from the animal. The beak is not used to kill an animal.

 

Dormouse (Hazel)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Hazel Dormouse is also known as the Dormouse or the Common Dormouse and can be found in the south of England. It often lives in semi-natural ancient woodlands where there are a variety of deciduous mature trees.

The Hazel Dormouse prefers to live in mature oak trees. These trees offer good shelter and food throughout the year. Oak trees are large deciduous trees about forty five metres high. The top of the trees are very wide and dense with lots of rugged branches. Oak trees flower in mid-Spring and their acorns ripen in autumn. Oak trees provide the Hazel Dormouse with flowers, pollen, insects and nuts.

The Hazel Dormouse also eats chestnuts, wild berries, blackberries and honeysuckle. Sometimes it eats birds’ eggs and insect larvae. The favourite food of the Hazel Dormouse is hazelnuts. It usually eats them when they are not fully ripe and when they are still on the tree.

When a Hazel Dormouse has finished eating a hazelnut, the nut looks like a tiny wooden clog. There is a neat hole on one side of the hazelnut and the inner part of the hole is perfectly smooth. On the outer rim of the hole you can see little chisel-like tooth marks. The nibbled, clog-like hazelnuts are easy to recognise on the ground and they usually suggest that a Hazel Dormouse is nearby!

The Hazel Dormouse also loves honeysuckle. Honeysuckle supplies the Hazel Dormouse with berries from July to September. The Hazel Dormouse also uses the bark of the honeysuckle to construct its nests.

 

Hedgehog

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Hedgehog does a ritual known as ‘self-annointing’ and it is a mystery why it does this. The Hedgehog spits mouthfuls of saliva over its body and builds it into ‘saliva foam’. It then energetically spreads the foam over all its spines with its tongue. This process can take up to half an hour and the Hedgehog seems to really enjoy it. Some people believe that the saliva foam helps the Hedgehog to hold off fleas and other parasites.

A Hedgehog can carry up to a thousand fleas all of which are busy sucking the Hedgehog’s blood. ‘Mites’ are also bloodsuckers. They dig into the skin of the Hedgehog and cause hair and spine loss. The Hedgehog uses its long legs and grooming claws to remove parasites, but it can’t reach everywhere.

Despite having bloodsucking parasites living on its skin, the Hedgehog doesn’t seem to be too bothered by them. The fleas only live on Hedgehogs and they do not live on people or household pets.

Hedgehogs live under shrubs and hedgerows where they build nests. In summer the Hedgehog makes a number of nests to sleep in during the day. It collects grass, leaves and even bits of paper to make its nest. Hedgehogs grunt and grumble when they shuffle through leaves.

A nest may be slept in by a number of different Hedgehogs. Hedgehogs don’t seem to mind who built it in the first place. When it is really hot outside, some Hedgehogs won’t even bother building a nest. They just fall asleep under piles of leaves.

 

Heron grey

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Grey Heron is a tall wading bird with a long neck and long legs. It can easily be recognised by its long ‘S’ shaped neck and its long yellow dagger-like beak. It is often seen on its own.

Grey Herons can often be seen near lakes, ponds, rivers and canals standing motionless in water looking for prey. They can also be seen on marshes, near reservoirs and estuaries. Estuaries are wide parts of rivers near to the sea. They sometimes even visit gardens to steal fish and frogs from garden ponds.

Sometimes Grey Herons can be seen standing in damp fields away from water. When a Grey Heron stands in a field, it isn’t easy to spot as it rests with its head sunk into its shoulders and stands very still and very quietly. If it is disturbed in the field, it is easier to spot because it stretches out its long neck before it flies away. Sometimes it makes a loud harsh croaking ‘kah-ark’ or ‘fraaanck’ call as it takes to the air.

When a Grey Heron flies, it flies with its head drawn back into its body with its long legs trailing behind. The legs and feet horizontally extend well beyond its tail feathers. The wings look large and rounded when the Grey Heron is in flight and the black outer feathers on the wings can easily be seen.

The Grey Heron beats its wings very slowly in flight and as it flies, it curves its wings into a ‘M’ shape. It has a wingspan of nearly two metres. Some Grey Herons migrate to France, Holland or Spain in winter to spend time in warmer weather.

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Jackdaw

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Jackdaws are the smallest members of the Crow family. Other members of the Crow family are the Carrion Crow, the Jay, the Magpie, the Raven and the Rook. Jackdaws are sometimes called thieves because they steal eggs and chicks from other birds.

Jackdaws also eat worms, beetles, insects, larvae, seeds and even mice. If Jackdaws live on sea cliffs, they will also eat molluscs and stranded fish on the shore. Jackdaws sometimes scavenge rubbish dumps to look for food.

Jackdaws are often seen looking for food in fields along side sheep and cattle that are grazing. Sheep and cattle keep the grass cropped short which is ideal for Jackdaws because they can find beetles and insects more easily in the soil. Sometimes a Jackdaw can be seen standing on the back of a sheep picking out ticks and taking out strands of wool to use for its nest.

In winter Jackdaws prefer to spend more time where there are ploughed fields. Ploughed fields offer Jackdaws a good supply of food. Although Jackdaws prefer to forage for food on the ground they occasionally take food from trees.

Jackdaws sometimes secretly watch other birds storing their food. They remember where the birds have stored their food and then go back to it at a later date. Jackdaws also hide food for themselves. Their food stock is often piled up under leaves, in tufts of grass, near trees and near to walls.

If a Jackdaw visits a garden, it will often hang around in a tree for some time before swooping down to take food bits from a bird table. It does seem to be a rather shy garden bird.

 

Jay

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Jays love acorns from oak trees and cache (store) as many as they can over the autumn and winter months. Jays store acorns under the ground or in tree crevices. They can store as many as three thousand acorns in a month.

In winter, when food is scarce, Jays tend not to be so shy and secretive. They venture out of the shelter of woodlands in search of new supplies of food. Sometimes an individual Jay may venture out alone, but usually a group of Jays decide to leave the cover of woodland together. When a group of Jays fly over clearings or roads, they fly over one at a time. A Jay doesn’t go out of its hiding place or fly over an open space until it sees that the previous Jay has made it safely across!

Jays like to be private so they try to keep close to cover all the time, but if they feel threatened they will make loud harsh screeching sounds. While they screech they flap from tree to tree. The screeching can be heard from a very long distance. Jays also give warning shrieks to other birds when a human is nearby! Jays are also known as ‘screamers of the woods’.

The Jay is also well-known for miming other birds. It can literally sound like another bird. The Jay can imitate the sound of a Tawny Owl if it wants to attack it during the day which it does relentlessly sometimes. At night though, the Jay doesn’t feel as confident and this is when the Tawny Owl starts to attack the Jay!

 

Kestrel

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Kestrels are ‘diurnal’ which means they are active during the day and rest at night. Kestrels can be seen during the day near motorways, stretches of road and busy dual carriageways.

A Kestrel can often be seen hovering over open spaces near motorways and roads because there is plenty of food available there. Small animals like to live in open spaces near busy roads because the spaces are usually left untended and are overgrown with weeds. Small animals are confined to the open space because there is no passage beyond the boundaries of the roads. The Kestrel seems to be aware of all this and knows if it hovers long enough, it will eventually find something to eat.

The favourite food source of the Kestrel is the Field Vole. Kestrels can easily track Field Voles because they leave a trail of urine behind them that reflects ultraviolet light. Kestrels can see ultraviolet light, but humans can’t. Ultraviolet light is the invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. Although humans can’t see this light they can feel it. It is these rays from the sun that can cause sunburn!

A Kestrel also has very good eyesight. It can spot prey from as high up as two hundred metres in the air. However, a Kestrel usually hovers ten to fifty metres above the ground when it is hunting for food. When a Kestrel has spotted its prey, it first drops a few metres in the air, then hovers again and then with an amazing speed swoops down headfirst to go in for the kill. The Kestrel seizes the prey with its talons and then carries it away.

 

Lizard (sand)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Sand Lizards are rare in England and they can mainly be seen in Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, Surrey and Merseyside. These areas have open sand that is surrounded by undisturbed thick low-growing vegetation and soft loose soil which Sand Lizards need to be able to survive.

Sand Lizards need sandy ground for burying their eggs and they need undisturbed low-growing vegetation to go hunting for food. They often go hunting deep into vegetation. Sand Lizards also need soft loose soil so they can make their burrows. It is this precise set of requirements that limits the Sand Lizard to certain areas in England.

The Sand Lizard has a short body and a long tail. It can do something quite extraordinary with its long tail. It can literally make it fall off and drop onto the ground! The Sand Lizard ‘drops’ its tail if it feels threatened by a predator.

When the tail falls off and drops to the ground, it continues to wriggle and jerk and twist for a few minutes even though it is not connected to the body of the Sand Lizard. The tail moving independently on the ground distracts a predator which gives the Sand Lizard enough time to escape to safety. The Sand Lizard eventually grows its tail back, but it is usually smaller and a different colour to the rest of the body.

The Sand Lizard makes its tail drop off by contracting muscles on a weak spot on the vertebrae. The vertebrae are the boney segments of the spinal column. The tail can break off without the Sand Lizard losing blood or hurting itself!

 

Mole

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Moles often build burrows and each Mole has its own burrow system which is a network of tunnels dug under the ground. Most tunnels are about five centimetres wide and just broad enough for a Mole to pass through. The tunnels are approximately four centimetres high, but they can be over seventy to two hundred metres long.

The depth of tunnels can vary. Some tunnels are dug just below the surface of the ground, while others are dug about seventy centimetres deep in the ground. The shallow tunnels are often used when a Mole looks for food. The deeper tunnels are mostly used by a Mole when there is a drought and when it is very cold outside.

A Mole builds one or more nest chambers in the centre of its burrow. The nests are ball-shaped and lined with dry plant material such as leaves and grass. Nest chambers are used for raising the young and for sleeping in.

Sometimes when an area is prone to flooding and the soil is not very deep a Mole may build a home above the ground outside. This outside home is called a ‘fortress’. The fortress has a network of tunnels and a food store too. It can contain about seven hundred and fifty kilogrammes of soil which creates a huge mound of earth on the ground. Fortresses are built in the countryside and in woods. In woods fortresses are more difficult to see because fallen leaves help to camouflage them.

 

Nuthatche

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Nuthatches feed on insects, beetles, caterpillars and larvae. They also like eating beech, pine and sunflower seeds. In autumn they prefer to eat acorns and hazelnuts.

When a Nuthatch eats a large food item such as an acorn or a hazelnut, it first wedges the nut into a crevice of a tree trunk. Then it repeatedly hacks at the nut with its strong beak in order to break the nut into smaller pieces. The Nuthatch breaks the nut in an upside down position with its head pointing downwards!

Nuthatches are known as ‘scatter hoarders’ because they store (cache) food items one at a time. Nuthatches store individual seeds and nuts in grooves and crevices of trees and also between the roots of trees. Nuthatches also store food in rotten wood. They cover their individual stored food items with moss, bark or lichen. Nuthatches store food throughout the year.

Nuthatches climb down trees head first to look for food which perhaps birds that can only climb upwards have overlooked. Nuthatches prefer to look for food in oak trees because lots of insects live and hide in the cracks in the bark of these trees. Sometimes Nuthatches remove bits of loose bark with their beaks to find insects. This is called ‘scaling’.

Nuthatches also scan leaves and buds with their beaks to try and find caterpillars, larvae and pupae. They also eat spiders, but more in winter when Nuthatches forage more on the ground to look for food. When a Nuthatch finds a spider, it takes it to a tree to eat it.

 

Otter

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The female Otter is also known as the ‘Bitch Otter’ and the male Otter is called the ‘Dog Otter’. The Bitch Otter usually has a territory the size of about fourteen kilometres. The Dog Otter usually has a territory of about twenty kilometres in size.

Otters mark their territories by leaving droppings in prominent places, like on the tops of logs or rocks. The droppings are called ‘spraints’ and they are made up of fish bones, fish scales, fur and also scent. Spraints look black and tarry and they have a strong musky smell. Spraints are a form of communication for Otters as they reveal an Otter’s age and who occupies a territory.

An Otter also communicates how it is feeling by making a variety of sounds. When an Otter is curious about something, it makes a gentle snorting sound. If the snort gets louder and harsher, the Otter shows that it is angry or about to bite. If the Otter is provoked, the snort turns into a low growl which gets louder and louder until it turns into a very loud scream. If the Otter screams out loud in rage, it will often attack or fight.

The most well-known sound an Otter makes is a contact call generally known as the ‘whistle’. The whistle is a really ultra high-pitched squeak which can carry a long way. The male Otter whistles to attract a female and if the female is interested in him, she will whistle back. This whistling enables Otters to find each other in dark waters.

 

Butterfly (Peacock)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Peacock Butterfly is most probably the longest-lived butterfly in England. It can live up to eleven months although it spends five to six months in hibernation. Hibernation is the period when the Peacock Butterfly has a long sleep over winter.

Peacock Butterflies start to go into hibernation around the beginning of September to avoid the cold winter months. They hibernate in large groups in hollow trees, crevices in walls and in unheated buildings like sheds, barns and lofts.

The dark underside of the Peacock Butterfly’s wings helps Peacock Butterflies to be well-camouflaged in dark hibernation sites. However, if Peacock Butterflies are disturbed during their long sleep, they rub the top part of their wings together to make a hissing sound. This is to tell invaders to go away!

Peacock Butterflies come out of hibernation around April when it begins to get warm. They are very hungry after their long sleep so they use the nectar from bluebells as their main food source. Bluebells have long thin glossy leaves and violet-blue flowers that are bell-shaped.

The Peacock Butterfly also likes to take nectar from Buddleia which is also known as the ‘Butterfly Bush’. Buddleia is a shrub that grows up to five metres high and has highly-scented, tubular-shaped flowers. The flowers are lavender or purple in colour. This shrub is visited more in autumn because the Peacock Butterfly needs to build up its fat reserves ready for hibernation. In late summer Peacock Butterflies like to feed on over-ripe fruit that has fallen on the ground.

 

Raven

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Ravens are the largest members of the Crow family. The other members of the Crow family are the Carrion Crow, the Jackdaw, the Jay, the Magpie and the Rook. Ravens are also known as ‘Northern Ravens’.

Ravens often eat dead animals (carrion). When a Raven spots a dead animal, it first lands a short distance away from it, then hops forwards and then sidewards very cautiously towards the carrion. It is as though it is making sure the carrion is really dead before eating it! Ravens love eating Blow Fly Maggots and Carrion Beetles that can be found on rotting meat.

Ravens like to eat mice, lizards, small animals, worms, insects, birds’ eggs and chicks. They also like eating cereal grains, acorns, berries and fruit. Sometimes they eat undigested portions of food found in animal faeces! They also scavenge rubbish dumps looking for human food waste.

Ravens have been known to attack smaller injured animals. A Raven dives towards an injured animal and with its strong beak aims for the animal’s eyes. If an animal is too large for the Raven to kill, it squawks out very loud to alert predators. It does this to tell predators that there is an injured animal in the area. A predator heads towards the loud squawks and then kills the injured animal. This is when the Raven moves in and takes its share of food!

Ravens like to store fat and other food when it is plentiful. They have learnt the art of hiding food without other Ravens even noticing.

 

Robin

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Robins spend a lot of time on perches hunting for food. They keep their eyes focused on the ground all the time looking for any movement. If they see anything move, they swoop down with such a speed that any worm or insect doesn’t often have a chance to escape.

The Robin loves eating worms and it will often follow a gardener around, especially if the gardener is digging up soil. The Robin keeps a watchful eye out for any dug-up worms and if it does see one, it swoops down very quickly to grab it. The Robin doesn’t seem to be bothered by a gardener’s presence at all. If the gardener takes a break, the Robin may even wait on the handle of a spade to look out for any further movement!

Robins also eat berries and seeds in winter. They also eat sweet things like cakes and biscuits crumbs that have been left out on bird tables. The favourite food of the Robin is mealworms. Mealworms are the larvae of beetles that grow in flour and other grain products. Robins love mealworms so much that they might even take them out of your hand or even take them even out of your mouth!

Sometimes a Robin may look for insects and worms on the ground instead of from a perch. When a Robin is on the ground, it hops so quickly that it almost looks like it is running. If a Robin stands still for a moment, it flutters its wings and tail and then stands very erect!

 

Rook

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Rooks are medium-sized members of the Crow family. The other members of the Crow family are the Carrion Crow, the Jackdaw, the Jay, the Magpie and the Raven. Rooks can be seen all year round.

Rooks are very sociable with each other and they are very rarely seen on their own. Flocks of Rooks can often be seen flying over open fields or flying around open areas near busy roads. Rook pairs usually stay together when they fly with a flock.

When Rooks fly in flocks, they look very aerobatic as they glide and soar through the air with ease. They also perform spectacular steep dives. Sometimes they dive or free fall from the sky to land on a chosen sight, but most times they seem to do it just for fun! Rooks really seem to play as they tumble and vigorously chase each other in the air.

When Rooks fly, they beat their wings very slowly and deeply. They seem to fly very direct and purposely. The feathers at the end of the Rook’s wings look like extended ‘fingers’. These finger-like feathers help to reduce turbulence which means the Rook can stay high up in the air even when it is flying at low speeds. The tail looks long and wedge-shaped when the Rook is in flight.

Rooks fly in larger flocks in winter before they go to roost (rest) for the night. Rooks often roost communally in thick shrubs and dense trees near open fields or in large parks at night. By roosting together they can keep each other warm at night.

 

Snake (grass)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Grass Snakes prefer to live in marshes, fens and bogs. They can also be seen in woodlands with ponds or in meadows where there is long grass and fresh water nearby. In the hibernation period they may be found in gardens and parks.

Hibernation is a long deep sleep during which the Grass Snake’s heart and breathing slow down considerably. Grass Snakes try and eat as much as possible before they go into hibernation. They need to store up enough fat in their bodies to live off during their long winter sleep.

Grass Snakes hibernate over winter between October to March. They hibernate in places that are frost free like in compost heaps, crevices in walls, old burrows or under piles of leaf litters, under tree roots, under piles of rocks and even under piles of manure! Some Grass Snakes hibernate alone, while some hibernate with other Grass Snakes in a group. The place the Grass Snake chooses to hibernate is called a ‘hibernaculum’.

Grass Snakes start to emerge out of hibernation around March and April. A Grass Snake is very hungry after its long sleep and needs to find food very quickly to build up its body fat and energy again. Grass Snakes like to hibernate in gardens and parks because sheltered ponds usually provide frogs and tadpoles for hungry snakes. When a Grass Snake first emerges from hibernation, it often spends a couple of days around the hibernaculum before it moves further away to find food.

 

Snake (smooth)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

The Smooth Snake is very rare in England and it can only be found in limited parts of south England such as Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex. Smooth Snakes need to keep their bodies warm so perhaps this is the reason they prefer to live in the south and not in the north of England. The north of England may be too cold for them.

Smooth Snakes like to live in dry sunny areas such as embankments, hedgerows and open woodland. Their favourite habitat is heathland where there is dense vegetation with light and sandy soil. Smooth Snakes need light and sandy soil so they can dig their burrows. They like to hide and rest in burrows.

They also like to rest under stones and logs that are exposed to the sun. Smooth Snakes have also been known to rest under corrugated iron sheets. When a Smooth Snake wants to bask in the sun outside, it usually goes to dense heather plants. It wraps its body around the stems of heather plants so it will be well-camouflaged from predators and humans.

A Smooth Snake needs to bask in the sun to raise its body temperature. Its body temperature needs to be high enough for it to be able to digest its food and to function properly. A Smooth Snake normally sunbathes first thing in the morning and then goes hunting for food.

Smooth Snakes like to eat Sand Lizards, Common Lizards, Slow-worms and even the young from Adders and Grass Snakes. They also eat small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews. Young Smooth Snakes eat very small lizards, flies and spiders.

 

Squirrel (red)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Red Squirrels have many set of whiskers and a few sets of ‘vibrissae’ which are sets of thick stiff hairs. The whiskers are on the head, above and below the eyes, on the nose and under the chin. Vibrissae are on the base of the tail and around the feet. Whiskers and vibrissae are sensitive to touch which help the Red Squirrel to find its way in a dark drey or den. They also stop the Red Squirrel bumping into things on a dark windy night when it is high up in the tree tops.

Red Squirrels eat a variety of food such as nuts, berries, bark, seeds, mushrooms, insects and birds’ eggs. Their favourite food is pine seeds found in pine cones. Red Squirrels store (cache) any excess food they find. They sometimes bury the food two or three centimetres under the ground in preparation for the long winter months when food is scarce. Red Squirrels also cache their food in small burrows or in tree hollows. A cache usually contains between one and four items.

Red Squirrels test beechnuts, hazelnuts and sweet chestnuts to see if they are rotten. To do this Red Squirrels weigh the nuts in their hands and shake them. If the nut rattles, the kernel is more likely to be small and shrivelled and not worth eating. Red Squirrels also eat acorns, but they don’t find them easy to digest.

When a Red Squirrel carries a nut in its mouth, the glands in its cheeks leave a particular scent on the nut. This scent helps the Red Squirrel to find any nuts it has buried.

 

Stoat

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

When a Stoat hunts a rabbit, it singles one out from many and follows it relentlessly until the Stoat is ready to attack and kill it. The Stoat is very strong. It can easily carry a rabbit away, even if the rabbit is twice the size or weight of a Stoat!

Sometimes, to catch birds or rabbits, the Stoat pretends to dance for them in order to distract them. The Stoat jumps in leaps and bounds and goes round and round in circles chasing its tail. The animals edge even nearer to the Stoat to get a better look. This is when the Stoat suddenly stops dancing and pounces on the nearest animal that is watching the show! If the Stoat doesn’t catch an animal, it carries on dancing again and waits for the animals to return. After a while it tries to catch an animal again.

Stoats like to take long naps after a good meal. They usually rest in burrows where they have previously hunted and killed an animal. Sometimes Stoats rest in rock crevices, in hollow trees or under logs.

After a stoat has rested, it often goes hunting for food again. If a Stoat is out in the open, it may get attacked by a bird of prey. If this happens and the Stoat feels it is in real danger, it quickly whisks its black-tipped tail up in the air to distract the bird.

As a Stoat gets older its tail gets shorter. A Stoat most probably loses a part of its tail every time it gets attacked by a bird of prey!

 

Thrush (mistle)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

A Mistle Thrush is a member of the Thrush family. The other members of the Thrush family are the Robin, the Blackbird, the Song Thrush, the Fieldfare and the Redwing. The Fieldfare and the Redwing are not resident in England, but they visit in winter.

Mistle Thrushes can be seen alone, in pairs and even in small flocks. Flocks are more commonly seen flying around in July and August. When a Mistle Thrush flies, it makes a rattling call that sounds a bit like a football rattle!

Also when a Mistle Thrush flies, it beats its wings very quickly, then closes its wings briefly and then quickly beats its wings again. The Mistle Thrush dips in the air when it closes its wings. It almost looks like it bounces in the air. The Mistle Thrush reveals a white coloured patch under its wings when it is in flight.

If a Mistle Thrush wants to fly well and keep warm in winter, it needs to keep its coat of feathers in good condition. To do this it spends a lot of time preening. When the Mistle Thrush preens itself, it cleans and smooths its feathers with its beak.

Sometimes a Mistle Thrush uses a bird bath that may be in a garden to keep clean. After it has had a bath, it uses its beak to pick out any dirt or fleas that may have collected in its feathers.

After the Mistle Thrush has picked the dirt and fleas out, it then smooths out its feathers with its beak to close all the gaps in the feathers. If there are too many gaps in the feathers, the Mistle Thrush flies much slower than usual because air gets inside the feathers.

 

Thrush (Song)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

A Song Thrush is a member of the Thrush family. The other members of the Thrush family are the Blackbird, the Mistle Thrush, the Robin, the Fieldfare and the Redwing. The Fieldfare and the Redwing are not resident in England, but they visit in winter.

Song Thrushes don’t gather in flocks like some birds do, although a few may be seen together if they feed along side Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings. When a Song Thrush is in the air, it flies very fast and direct. It makes short ‘tsip-tsip-tsip’ sounds when in flight. The Song Thrush reveals an orange coloured patch under its wings when it flies.

If a Song Thrush wants to fly well and keep warm in winter, it needs to keep its coat of feathers in good condition. To do this it spends a lot of time preening. When the Song Thrush preens itself, it cleans and smooths its feathers with its beak.

Sometimes a Song Thrush uses a bird bath that may be in a garden to keep clean. After it has had a bath, it uses its beak to pick out any dirt or fleas that may have collected in its feathers.

After the Song Thrush has picked the dirt and fleas out, it then smooths out its feathers with its beak to close all the gaps in the feathers. If there are too many gaps in the feathers, the Song Thrush flies much slower than usual because air gets inside the feathers.

 

Vole (water)

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Water Voles feel at home on river banks and in water even though they are not suited to a life fully in water. Water Voles don’t have webbed feet and their fur gets easily waterlogged if they stay under water for too long. Nevertheless, many Water Voles live at the edge of ponds or lakes, but most prefer to live where there is a clean, slow-flowing river.

Water Voles claim areas of land at the edge of water which they see as their own territories. They mark out their territorial boundaries by leaving a neat pile of droppings. The droppings are a blackish dark green colour, but inside they are clearly green. The droppings are about one centimetre long and are rounded at the ends.

The male Water Vole’s area is about a hundred and thirty metres in size and the female’s area is about half that size. A Water Vole attacks other Water Voles if its territory is being invaded. When Water Voles fight, they make loud high-pitched squeaks of anger. These squeaks can be heard several metres away.

Water Voles build burrows in sloping waterside banks in their territories. Male Water Voles scent mark their burrows by raking their hind feet along the sides of their bodies where there are scent glands.

Burrows can have a number of entrances to allow for an emergency exit or entrance. When a Water Vole is pursued by a predator in water, the Water Vole stirs up as much mud as possible to create a mud screen so that the predator can’t see. The predator gets confused for a moment and this is when the Water Vole quickly swims away and escapes into its underwater burrow.

 

Water Scorpion

LEVEL4 – Ages 8/9

Water Scorpions are insects known as ‘bugs’. Bugs have piercing and sucking mouth parts. Water Scorpions prefer to live in slow-flowing water, especially amongst water weeds. They keep so still in water that they look like dead leaves. This camouflage helps them to catch prey quite easily.

Water Scorpions eat water fleas, tadpoles, water lice and larvae from mayflies, stoneflies and water beetles. They also eat freshwater shrimps and small water worms. Water Scorpions can hang upside down on water plants waiting for prey to come along. While they wait, they keep really still so prey don’t notice them.

A Water Scorpion clings motionless onto water weeds and onto other water plants by using its middle legs and hind legs. When an insect, tadpole or worm passes by, the Water Scorpion raises its hind legs so that the front part of the body is quickly pushed forward. It then uses its powerful front legs to grab its prey.

When the Water Scorpion has a firm grip of its prey, it pierces the prey with its ‘rostrum’. The rostrum is the long projecting part of its mouth. The Water Scorpion inserts its long mouth part into its victim and then releases a digestive fluid into the victim’s body. This fluid partially digests the tissues of the victim which allows the Water Scorpion to easily suck out the insides of its prey. The victim is almost left with an empty shell of a body by the time the Water Scorpion has finished eating it.

 

Weasel

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Weasels choose to live in areas where there is plenty of ground cover and an abundance of prey animals. In summer Weasels often live in fields, meadows, farmland and moors or on the outskirts of wooded areas. In winter they prefer to enter deeper into woods for protection and because food is more plentiful.

The Weasel has powerful jaws and teeth to catch and kill its prey. It kills an animal with a strong bite at the back of the animal’s neck. If an animal is killed inside a tunnel, the Weasel takes it outside to eat it. The Weasel chews the animal’s bones at the corner of the mouth like dogs do. The Weasel often leaves the tail and feet of the animal outside the entrance.

To catch birds the Weasel sometimes does a trick dance called the ‘Weasel’s dance of death’. It dances by leaping and twisting and running round in small circles and sometimes it rolls over and does a somersault. While the Weasel performs its dance, animals like birds and rabbits watch with interest and even edge nearer to the Weasel for a better view. This is when the Weasel makes a quick dash to catch the nearest viewer! If the Weasel doesn’t catch an animal, it carries on with the dance until the animals return and then it tries to catch one again.

When food is in abundance, Weasels store (cache) any extra food. A cache could contain up to forty freshly killed mice. Weasels prefer to eat fresh food, but they will go to a cache if food should ever become scarce.

 

Wren

LEVEL 4 – Ages 8/9

Wrens are energetic birds that can sometimes be seen in gardens flitting from bush to bush. Wrens fly fast, straight and very close to the ground.

When a Wren flies, it uses its primary feathers which are also known as flight feathers. The Wren has nine to ten of these stiff flight feathers which are on the end of the Wren’s wings, farthest away from the body. These feathers help the Wren to propel itself forward when it is flying. If these flight feathers are damaged or lost, the Wren can’t fly.

Just before a Wren lands, it stops beating its wings and glides very briefly. As it glides, it spreads its rounded wings and its tail which makes the Wren look like it is parachuting in the air. The Wren also uses its tail feathers to act as a kind of brake shortly before landing. The Wren has twelve tail feathers which also help the Wren to steer and balance as it twists and turns in flight. When a Wren beats its wings in flight, the wings makes a whirring sound which is similar to the sound of a buzzing bee.

The Wren often forages for food on the ground. It hops very quickly when it looks for insects and spiders. When the Wren hops, it also bobs its head up down and constantly flicks its tail. The Wren also uses its long beak to probe into crevices and cracks to find food.

During the daytime Wrens are not very sociable with each other, but at night in the cold winter months Wrens often roost (rest) communally. They often roost together in crevices to keep each other warm.