Millennium Forests: Events

Many woodland creatures are shy or nocturnal, coming out only at night. The woods may seem empty when you visit them but if you are silent and listen carefully, you may hear the calls of the birds or see the tracks of animals.

Woodland birds include the owl, sparrow hawk, treecreeper, wood warbler, woodcock, crossbill and jay. The jay - a member of the crow family - is a large, noisy, grey bird with pink and blue colouration, and has recently been found in parts of the west of Ireland where it was absent heretofore.

The most common woodland owl is the long-eared owl. This has bright orange eyes, an orangy face and long tufts on its head. The treecreeper hops up tree trunks using its long, thin bill to catch insects. The woodcock is coloured different shades of brown that make very good camouflage. The wood warbler, a rare bird, is bright green and yellow and sings tseep-tseep followed by a trill.

The beak of the crossbill is crossed to allow it to eat the seeds of conifers. The sparrow hawk is a bird of prey that swoops down to catch wood pigeons and other small creatures.

Red squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, pine martens, shrews and bats are all woodland animals.

Is the bat an animal or a bird? Although it flies, it is really a mammal, that is, it suckles its young. Dracula films have given bats a bad name but they are small, delicate creatures that sleep upside down in sheltered areas and rarely interact with people directly.

The red squirrel and the pine marten are expert tree climbers. The red squirrel lives almost entirely in the trees. The pine marten is the only hunter that can catch a squirrel in the treetops.

Badgers live underground in setts that they dig out with their big paws. Everyone knows the hedgehog rolls into a ball and sticks out its spines when scared. Be careful how you touch it! Shrews look like tiny mice with long noses but they belong to a separate species of insect eaters and are Irelands' smallest mammals.