Summer is a fantastic time to watch wildlife, and coniferous woods are one of my favourite places. I love the smell of pine trees, and the woods are teeming with insects at this time of the year. Conifers are evergreen trees that have pines instead of broad leaves. Conifer trees include redwoods, pine trees, and douglas fir, among many others.
Birds of prey, including kestrels, hobbies, and buzzards, can be found in coniferous forests, where they feed on small animals and birds. Wood ants keep the floor clear of waste matter, and many tens of thousands of colonies may be seen. Large mammals such as deer are active in summer, and while amphibians and reptiles make them their home, coniferous forests are not ideal.
If you want to know more about some of the wildlife in coniferous forests, please read on.
In summer, insects are busy, and those around conifers are some of the most active. Wood ants are essential to coniferous habitats, and you can often see large colonies of them going about their business.
Wood ants can be seen clearing the floor of the dead remains of other insects while also looking for waste matter and food material they can take back to share with the nest. If you see pine needles almost moving by themselves, you know that wood ants are taking them back to their nest, where they aid in repairs.
Butterflies fly around the trees looking for food and will often be found around flowers that they use to feed on nectar. The Pine sawfly and Wood white butterfly can be seen in summer, especially in pine forests.
Because summer brings out a considerable amount of insects, this also means that there will be plenty of birds to dine on them. In summer, coal tits get plenty of food around conifers and bring up their young on sawfly larvae and other insects.
Some birds that are primarily seed-eaters will also feed on insects in the summer months. The seeds are too hard to find, so they turn their attention to an easier meal.
Several birds of prey may also be seen nesting among the conifers. Kestrels will feed on some smaller mammals and less fortunate birds. Tawny owls can often be heard at night, while goshawks and hobbies, both large birds of prey, can be seen. Buzzards will feed on carrion and worms and insects if food is scarce.
Coniferous woods are not just a fantastic place to spot animals but also some great plants and trees that look great in summer.
An aromatic plant, wood sage is different to the cooking ingredient but has a distinct smell. Wood sage attracts plenty of bees with its white flowers.
The broad buckler fern has green leaves and grows in moist, shady places. It starts to grow in May, and by the height of summer can be seen growing in thick clumps.
In summer, many plants flower, and the bright yellow flowers of Tormentil, blue flowers of Heath speedwell, and red flowers of Bilberry can all be seen.
Because most conifers are evergreen, they do not lose their pines during the year. This makes a massive difference to the woodland floor. Because the trees keep their leaves (pines) all year, the sun has a harder time getting through the tree canopy.
Any plants that need plenty of light to grow will not grow in coniferous forests due to the low light.
Because coniferous woodland does not get plenty of light throughout the year, they provide the warmth and safety required for some larger mammals.
In North America, large mammals such as moose, elk, and lynx can all be found in coniferous woods, using the tracks to navigate and get around.
In the United Kingdom and Europe, many of the larger mammals can also be found. Badgers will build their sets, using the extra darkness afforded to them by the evergreen canopy to give them time to forage.
Deer can often be found around conifers, particularly for the shade. However, they are not fond of the large, stiff needles, opting to feed on other easier to digest plants.
Male fallow deer grow their antlers in summer. When the antlers have stopped growing, they rub the velvet covering onto trees and branches. If you are lucky, you may see a young fawn, although, in summer, these are usually left in a safe place while the mother goes off to find food.
Foxes can be seen in conifer woods during the day, where they like to rest in the shade. When they need to feed, they will move into open areas.
Toads are active in summer. While most will have finished breeding in May, some may not end until June. In summer, toads are terrestrial animals, but they still have to ensure that their skin doesn’t dry out so they can never be too far from a water source.
The canopy of coniferous trees stops toads from getting too warm as they can only spend a few minutes in the sunshine to warm up. One species found in the Southeastern United States is called the Pine woods tree frog and can be found climbing up pine trees.
Frogs may also be found around conifer woods, although, as with toads, they also need to be near a water source. Because there is not as much humidity in a deciduous forest, they are not as ideal as other types of woods for amphibians.
Coniferous forests are home to many reptiles. For example, all six native species in Britain, including the adder, grass snake, smooth snake, common lizard, sand lizard, and slow worm, can live among conifers.
Most reptiles can usually be spotted basking in the heat during the morning, while in the afternoon, they take shelter from the sun at its strongest.
However, coniferous forests do not have as much humidity as deciduous forests and are not ideal for most reptiles.