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Wildlife at Clanger Wood

Clanger Wood is a flower-rich ancient woodland that is home to an impressive population of butterflies and moths. Several scarce butterfly and moth species can be found in the wood. The wood also has an important community of breeding birds.

Once the richest butterfly woodland in Wiltshire, Clanger Wood has suffered a decline in butterfly numbers in more recent years as ground-level plants were shaded out by trees, especially conifers. Now the Trust is working to restore the wood to its former glory for butterflies, as well as for other wildlife. At least thirty-five species of butterflies are resident, including all six of the fritillaries that feed on violets. They include the rare high brown fritillary and the scarce pearl-bordered fritillary as well as silver-washed, dark green and small pearl-bordered.

In more open parts of the wood you can see grizzled, dingy and Essex skippers as well as brown argus and Duke of Burgundy. The latter is a small orange and brown butterfly that’s on the wing in springtime and is one of the UK’s fastest declining species. Its caterpillars feed on primroses and cowslips. Another species that is on the wing in spring is the orange-tip, which thrives in the varied habitats. The males are unmistakeable – look for a white butterfly with bright orange wing tips.

Elsewhere, some species spend most of their time up in the wood’s trees, such as the white admiral, white-letter hairstreak, green hairstreak and purple hairstreak. The purple hairstreak, which can be seen in July and August, depends heavily on mature oak trees for food both as an adult butterfly and as a caterpillar. You can often see them in the early evening, flying around the upper branches of Clanger Wood’s oak trees.


Clanger Wood also has a rich moth community with more than 300 species recorded. These include the narrow-bordered bee hawk moth, a big moth that flies during the day in spring and early summer. It looks very much like a huge bumble bee, which can alarm some people who encounter it. Other moths include the rare and vulnerable small eggar moth and the lesser spotted pinion.

Open glades and rides are maintained at Clangar Wood to provide moths and butterflies with the habitat they need.

A variety of dragonflies has been observed in the wood, including the black-tailed skimmer, keeled skimmer and banded demoiselle.


One of the wood’s highlights is the nightingale, which is a frequent visitor during the summer months. They nest here too as do a number of other small, insect-eating birds which are attracted by the wood’s shrubby habitat.

Although nightingales are characteristically an evening songbird, they can be heard singing at Clanger Wood during the day. Lots of other migratory birds spend the summer in the wood, including cuckoo, turtle dove, garden warbler and blackcap.

The wood is also attractive to species that nest in holes in trees, such as willow tit, nuthatch, green woodpecker, greater-spotted woodpecker and tawny owl. Kestrels and sparrowhawks are also thought to breed in the wood.

Other birds recorded here include grey heron, mallard, Canada goose, buzzard, hobby, pheasant, moorhen, lapwing, snipe, woodcock, whimbrel, curlew, wood pigeon, collared dove, stock dove, little owl, barn owl, long-eared owl, nightjar, swift, lesser-spotted woodpecker, skylark, sand martin, swallow, yellow wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, redstart, grey wagtail, blackbird, fieldfare, redwing, song thrush, mistle thrush, grasshopper warbler, sedge warbler, reed warbler, icterine warbler, lesser warbler, whitethroat, wood warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, goldcrest, firecrest, spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, marsh tit, long-tailed tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, treecreeper, jay, magpie, jackdaw, rook, crow, starling, crossbill, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, siskin, linnet, redpoll, bullfinch and reed bunting.

Other animals

The mature oaks are a particularly important habitat for bats, especially where there is some dead wood. The woodland is habitat for breeding communities of three bat species: greater horseshoe, lesser horseshoe and Bechstein’s.

Three reptile species have been recorded: common lizard, grass snake and slow-worm. Small mammals include bank vole and common and pygmy shrew, while badger, fox, stoat and weasel can also be found in Clanger Wood.