The Copse supports a variety of fauna and flora, including 38 ancient woodland indicator plant species.
The woods at Zebon Copse are filled with colourful wildflowers from Spring through to the Summer. Many of these flowers are “ancient woodland indicators” and important food sources for many pollinating insects. They are generally slow-spreading and poor-colonisers, and so if they are present in high numbers it is likely that they have been around for a long time. From March-July, a variety of wildflowers can be easily seen from the paths, tracks and boardwalks within the Copse. Bluebells carpet the main area of woodland from April-May. Primrose, wood sorrel, wood anemone, dog violet, bugle, lesser celendine and greater stitchwort can all be easily spotted in the wooded areas between March and June. A beautiful display of marsh flowers, including marsh marigolds, cuckoo flower, water mint, marsh thistle and high numbers of common spotted orchids, can be seen from the boardwalk running through the wet mire between April and August. Three types of orchid have been recently recorded at Zebon Copse: Common spotted orchids, broad-leaved helleborine and the nationally scarce and unusual saprophytic bird’s nest orchid (Classified as Near Threatened in Britain on the Red Data List).
Wildflowers not only add a burst of colour to woodlands, but are also very important for a variety of invertebrates such as butterflies and bees.
The clearing of open areas in woodlands, called glades, encourages the growth of wildflowers, grasses and brambles. Animal species associated with these plants will also then benefit.
Wild flowers are here for everyone to enjoy – please take care to keep to the intended paths to avoid trampling vegetation.
The Copse provides a relatively safe haven for a variety of species within a fairly built-up residential area. Badgers, deer and foxes are often spotted under the cover of the woodland, dawn or dusk are usually the best times to spot them. The Basingstoke Canal provides a useful corridor for a variety of mammal species, linking the site to other quiet non-residential areas by towpaths, hedgerows and open fields.
The proximity of the site to Greywell Tunnel, a collapsed canal tunnel occupied by vast colonies of bats has lead to the development of an annual bat monitoring project in order to accurately identify which species are using the site. Pipistrelles, daubentons and brown long-eared bats have all recently been recorded at Zebon Copse. The best time to see bats is on clear nights between Spring and Autumn, as they feed over the pond or between the trees.
The woods at Zebon Copse provide habitat for an abundance of birds of all colours, shapes and sizes, including both year-long residents and migratory Spring and Summer visitors. Resident birds like robins and wrens usually feed on insects and other invertebrates for most of the year, and some turn to seeds and nuts during the coldest winter months. Spring migrants include chiffchaffs, willow warblers, black caps and red-starts, and can usually be seen and heard from April onwards. Tree creepers, woodcocks and all three species of woodpecker may also be spotted. There are lots of members of the tit family here too, including the rare marsh tit. Many garden species will also spend at least some of their time in the woodland, such as chaffinches, nut-hatches, willow warblers, red polls and gold crests.
The characteristic ‘twit-twoo’ of the most common and wide-spread British owls, the tawny owl, can often be heard at night as they hunt for small mammal prey. Other birds of prey such as hobbies, sparrow-hawks and buzzards may be seen occassionally hunting here too.
See how many different species you can see and hear as you walk around the copse!
Approximately 170 fungi species have been recorded at Zebon Copse to date. Phellinus ignarius & Mitrula paludosa are widespread amongst the wetter woodlands, both being of some national restriction; although both being fairly regular within wet willow & alder in North-east Hampshire. Lenzites betulina occurs here as within a number of the woodlands between Fleet & Odiham; again being of some national restriction. Tremella foliacea & Cortinarius puniceus have also both been recorded at this site.
Mycological records are held at the Yateley Common Country Park depot.
With so much dead wood present, a good mix of tree and food-plant present and the more recent addition of a pond, Zebon Copse is a perfect habitat for insects. During the summer, a variety of dragonflies and damselflies can often be seen on sunny days flying around the pond and wet mire areas. Other less common invertebrates present include raft spiders and stag beetles.
The success of efforts to clear holly and allow the light to bring back a good ground flora in the woodland will perhaps be most easily measured by recording the butterflies seen here over a period of years. Limited surveys have been carried out on moth species, but existing invertebrate records are still incomplete.
Reptiles and amphibians
The pond and temporary pools within the wet mire attract a wide range of reptiles and amphibians including frogs, toads, newts and grass snakes. A pond was added to the site in 2011, attracting a wide range of wildlife from frogs and toads to dragonflies and damselflies.
The site may also be home to a number of rarer, less easily spotted creatures, such as stag-beetles, dormice and raft spiders!