The woodland habitat along the nature trail in Sonairte serves as a refuge for many forms of wildlife.
In the spring and summer months, many kinds of birds, flowers, plants and animals can be found in the woodland.
Bullfinch are rather shy woodland species, often found in pairs. They are slightly larger than other finch species with stubby, powerful beaks to feed on seeds and berries in the woodland. Bullfinch have striking, rosy-coloured breasts, particularly bright in the males, and dark black caps.
Blue Tits are familiar garden birds common to the woodland. They are easily identified by their blue feathers and yellow neck. Great Tits are larger than Blue Tits and with far duller plumage. The Long-tailed Tit, a less regularly seen species, may recall the familiar Wagtail but can be quickly set apart by the maroon hue in their feathers and seemingly over-sized heads. These birds nest deep in the woodland and rarely venture far from it.
Blackbirds and Robins are familiar woodland birds and frequent garden visitors. Both species are omnivorous and will feed on a broad variety of insects, worms, berries and seeds. These birds are bold in behaviour and will make extensive use of humans in the wintertime, both in rural farmlands and urban gardens. Ploughing, digging and harvesting exposes worms and burying insects from the soil which Blackbirds and Robins will take full advantage of. In harsh winters, they also depend heavily on garden bird-feeders.
The Dunnock is a somewhat less familiar but similarly widespread woodland species. With their dull brown feather patterns, these birds can often be often be overlooked as they forage quietly on the forest floor for insects and seeds.
The Wren is a well-known species for its mouse-like qualities and recognizable, cocked tail but it may be difficult to spot due to its tiny size. Like Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Robins, the Wren forages for insects in the woodland vegetation. Its nest is somewhat warbler-like and closed with just a tiny hole for the Wrens to get in and out. These nests are usually built under dense vegetation in the woodland.
In Spring, the woodland begins to come to life again as new growth unfolds. With warmer temperatures and longer days, leaves and flowers start to form on the trees and woodland plants. The latter attract a whole host of pollinating invertebrates including bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, hoverflies, moths and wasps.
Dog Violets are a common flowers to see in the woodland from Spring through early summer. There are two species of this plant which commonly grow wild in Irish woodlands; the Early Dog Violet and the Common Dog Violet. These can be distinguished quite easily by the spur which protrudes from the back of the flower. In Early Dog Violets, the spur is darker or at least as dark as the flower itself. With the Common Dog Violet however, the spur is always noticeably paler than the flower.
Germander Speedwell is one of a number of different speedwells, but can be distinguished by its upright spikes of bright blue flowers with four petals and a white middle (giving it other common names such as ‘Bird’s Eye’ and ‘Cat’s Eye’). It has two rows of long white hairs on opposite sites of its stems, unlike the rarer Wood Speedwell, which is hairy all round the stem.
Lesser Celandine, Buttercups and Wood Anemones all belong to the family Ranunculeae and make up a prominent part of the woodland flowers. Lesser Celandine are the first to appear as early as March. Wood Anemones appear soon after, followed by Buttercups in May.
There are two species of Bluebell growing in the Sonairte woodland area. Spanish Bluebells, an introduced garden species, can be found along the trail, particularly nearest to the gardens. Native Irish Bluebells are found deeper in the woods, on the hill further away from the trail. Irish Bluebells can be distinguished from Spanish Bluebells as they hang with all the flowers growing out of one side. On Spanish Bluebells, flowers grow on either side in more of a crown shape.