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Nearly 300 acres of woodlands, paddocks and ponds at Barnsoul attract an abundance of wildlife, including deer, fox, badgers, otters, red squirrels and a huge variety of bird life. Here are some birds and animals you might be lucky enough to spot while you are here - and don't forget, if you do spot any wildlife, be sure to tell us by filling out a wildlife spotting report, or pop into the office where we can add the sighting for you.


Another animal to spot in springtime at the ponds, the newt is much rarer than the frogs and toads. By late July they return to the land, where you are less likely to spot them. They are nocturnal, and are likely to be hiding under stones during the day.


The mallard is a large duck, and should be easy to spot at Barnsoul. The male has a yellow bill and a dark green head, but the female is mainly brown with an orange bill. They eat seed, plants, insects and shellfish.

Peregrine falcon

The peregrine falcon is a very impressive hunter, and will tackle birds up to the size of a pigeon. It will also prey on small mammals. When it spots its prey, it snaps its wings back and the plunges down to swoop in on its victim.


The merlin is on the smallest birds of prey in the UK, at about 30cm in size. It's very fast, very agile, and can hover and hang in the breeze when hunting prey. They mainly eat small birds.

Water vole

Another tricky-to-find animal is the water vole. It is an excellent swimmer, and is active both day and night. They feed mainly on waterside plants and grasses, biting out the best parts and leaving behind a trail of debris.


You're most likely to find dragonflies near the water. They feed on insect larvae, and the largest dragonflies can even manage to eat tadpoles. During the larvae stage, which lasts for several months, they live entirely underwater. Once emerged as an adult, they live for less than a month.


All toads are in actual fact frogs - but what we consider to be the 'true toad' normally has shorter hind legs that are better adapted to walking than hopping. They also have warty, dry skin and prefer a drier environment. Toads tent to lay their eggs in long chains, rather than the clusters of frog spawn.


The best place to spot the frogs is, of course, at the ponds. From March onwards you'll see the telltale signs of frogs: clumps of frogspawn, which over the next few weeks will develop into tadpoles.

Brown hare

Much larger than a rabbit, but seen much less frequently, the brown hare also feeds mainly on grass. Your best chance to see one is in the early morning or at dusk. During the daytime it will be sleeping in a shallow depression it scrapes in the ground.


Give yourself a huge pat on the back if you manage to spot an otter. They are very shy, solitary animals, and cover a large territory. The otter is mainly nocturnal, and its main diet consists of fish. They will travel overland to move between river systems in search of food.


It is the male who is the most colourful pheasant, with its rich chestnut, golden-brown and black markings, dark green head and red face, whereas the female is much less showy, mottled brown colour. You're most likely to spot them on the edges of the woodland, where they like to eat seeds, grain and shoots.


Hedgehogs are nocturnal, solitary animals, so dusk may present your best chance to see one. They like to eat slugs, snails, caterpillars, beetles, earthworms and birds' eggs. During a night they might roam over a mile in search of food. During the coldest part of winter, hedgehogs hibernate in a specially prepared nest under a layer of leaves or logs.

Wild rabbits

Rabbits are one of the easiest species to spot at Barnsoul. They like to feed on grass close to their warrens, and are most active at dawn and dusk. When a rabbit spots danger it will warn others by thumping its hind foot. Although rabbits can live for up to nine years, most wild rabbits live for less than one year.

Roe deer

The roe deer is relatively small, and only the males have antlers. It's mainly active during twilight hours, and likes to feed on grass, leaves, berries and young shots. Roe deer usually live in small groups of one male, two or three females, and a number of young fawns.

Great spotted woodpecker

The great spotted woodpecker is about the size of a blackbird, and can be difficult to spot as it will often cling to tree trunks and branches on the opposite side from the observer. You might hear its loud call, or in the spring, its distinctive 'drumming' display.

Grey heron

Grey herons do not migrate, so you should be able to spot one all year round. The best place to look is by the ponds as they mainly eat fish, but they will also eat small birds, small mammals and amphibians.

Canada goose

You can spot a Canada goose by its very distinctive large white throat patch on a black head and neck. The species was originally introduced into the UK from North America.

Red squirrel

Although native to Britain, the number of red squirrels has decreased dramatically due to competition from the grey squirrel. Grey squirrels also carry the squirrelpox virus, which is harmless to greys but deadly to red squirrels. Dumfries and Galloway is a stronghold for red squirrels and we have a lively population at Barnsoul.