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Harby Wildlife


We share our parish with a broad range of wildlife typical of English lowland farmland. What’s more, we are lucky to have an excellent network of footpaths radiating from the village, making it easy for most of us to explore and observe the natural world on our doorstep. Below are a few notes on what you might find.


About 20 different species have been recorded. There are good numbers of Brown Hares in the surrounding fields – in fact they usually outnumber rabbits. The small Muntjac deer has become increasingly common and occasionally the larger Roe Deer is seen. Foxes, moles and hedgehogs are all regular, Grey Squirrels are very common and badgers occasional. Bats are a common sight at night and these are mostly types of pipistrelle. Several species of mouse, vole and shrew can be found and if you are very lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a Stoat or a Weasel.


Brown Hare


About 100 species have been recorded. The most regular species seen in gardens include: Blackbird, Robin, Starling, Dunnock, Wren, Song Thrush, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw. The tiny Goldcrest is also common but easily overlooked and Blackcaps (once just a summer visitor) are increasingly common all year round and will visit feeders in winter.



We have relatively healthy populations of birds of prey. Sparrowhawks are common but often unobtrusive, whereas Buzzards, Red Kites and Kestrels are easier to spot overhead. Our most common owls are Tawny (in the village or around trees) and Barn (in the open farmland). In the fields, you can find Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Pheasants, Red-legged Partridges, Carrion Crows, Rooks and occasional Ravens. Along well-developed hedgerows, look for Redwings and Fieldfares in winter, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats in summer and Yellowhammers and Bullfinches all year round. The mature trees in the churchyard are often the best place to find Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Treecreepers. This is also probably the best area to look out for Spotted Flycatchers in summer. Along the canal, Mallards, Grey Herons, Mute Swans and Moorhens are the most common waterbirds and Reed Buntings are often in the waterside vegetation. In summer both Reed and Sedge Warblers can be common and if you are lucky you may hear a Cuckoo. If you look to the skies, you are likely to see Swallows, Swifts and House Martins that also visit from Africa to breed.

Reptiles, amphibians and fish

The only reptile to be regularly recorded is Grass Snake, which is fairly common. Five species of amphibian occur. As well as Common Frog, Common Toad and Smooth Newt, the area is particularly good for Great Crested Newts and an interesting recent discovery (2023) is that of Marsh Frogs in the canal. Whether or not this large, noisy non-native species multiplies and spreads remains to be seen. Although various fish are present in the canal, the only species that has been documented is Pike. If you know about fish, please get in touch and tell us what you have seen!


Grass Snake

Invertebrates and other wee beasties…

A surprisingly high number of invertebrates have been recorded in and around the village, largely thanks to a small number of keen observers. Due to the relative ease with which they are recorded using light traps, moths are the best known group, with well over 700 species known. Perhaps more noticeable (but much less diverse), butterflies and dragonflies are both represented by about 20 species. Many other groups have been studied well, though these totals are still likely to be far short of what truly occurs. For example, parish species lists (as of April 2024) include: 132 types of beetle, 106 bugs, 78 flies, 61 bees, wasps and ants, 40 hoverflies, 35 spiders, 34 sawflies, 27 craneflies, gnats and midges, 24 slugs and snails and 23 caddisflies.

Emperor Moth, Harby w.jpg

Emperor Moth

Plants and Fungi

Over 300 species of plant have been recorded around the village, including over 200 wildflowers and about 50 trees and shrubs. As is the case in many villages, some of the most mature trees can be found in the churchyard (notably Lime, Oak, Sycamore and Horse Chestnut). Our hedgerows are predominantly Hawthorn and Blackthorn and the most common hedgerow tree is Ash. Along the canal a variety of aquatic plants occur, including various reeds, sedges, rushes and horsetails. Among the more interesting plant species to be found are Spotted Medick, Strawberry Clover, Alexanders, Salsify and Giant Horsetail. To date, 69 species of fungi and 11 lichens have been found in the area.

Good areas for watching wildlife

We are lucky to have the Grantham Canal close by, which is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) owing to the diverse aquatic ecosystem. In several areas (e.g. walking south-east from the village from Green Lane) mature hedgerows, many with numerous trees, provide good wildlife corridors. Within the village, the churchyard attracts many species and there is a small nature reserve on the corner of Stathern Lane and Pinfold Place.


The spectrum of species occurring around Harby is relatively stable, though changes are always taking place – some positive, some negative and most simply reflect the wider national situation. Species that have been lost in recent years include the Wall Brown butterfly, the Water Vole and birds like Willow Tit, Turtle Dove and Tree Sparrow. Reasons for such declines and local extinctions vary, but the most common factors are usually modern land management practices and the changing climate.


Conversely, birds such as Barn Owls have benefited hugely from conservation measures such as the erection of nestboxes, Buzzards and Ravens have returned as persecution has decreased and Red Kites have spread into the area from successful reintroduction projects. A number of species have appeared from further south as the climate changes such as the Little Egret or the Purple Emperor butterfly (though this spectacular species has not actually been recorded in Harby yet, just in the woodland towards Belvoir Castle). A significant number of non-native invasive species now occur, but the extent to which they threaten local ecosystems varies enormously.


What can individuals do to help? Simply enabling nature to breathe around your property will contribute to the health of the local ecosystem. Ideas to consider:

  • think about growing some native plants

  • let some areas go wild

  • mow less frequently

  • avoid ‘sealing in’ too large an area with concrete or artificial membranes/turf

  • try to limit the spread of non-native plants

  • dig a wildlife pond

  • don’t rush to prune or dead-head too aggressively in winter

  • reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides used

  • clean your bird feeders regularly

  • submit records of the wildlife you find (e.g. to NatureSpot – see below)

Want to know more?

In Leicestershire, we are extremely lucky to have an excellent wildlife recording facility in NatureSpot – a flagship website that details and stores records of all groups (from the largest mammals to the tiniest bacteria). It is very helpful if you need to identify something, or if you wish to find out what is likely in our area.


The parish of Clawson, Hose and Harby has its own page here: where you can browse records and photos from the parish or download a list of all the species recorded to date. Other interesting wildlife areas nearby have similar pages of their own.


The parish has been home to several keen naturalists over the years and as a result, nearly two thousand species have been recorded. However, it should be pointed out that Harby’s biodiversity is not especially high or unusual, it is just well explored. Nevertheless, many groups are still very poorly known and our species list could easily be added to should you wish to start investigating some of the smaller and more obscure wildlife groups.

Photo Credits

Brown Hare by Hans-Jörg Hellwig - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Goldfinch by © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Grass Snake by Benny Trapp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Emperor Moth by © Pete Leonard, taken in Harby garden

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