Tatton Wildlife Newsletter - Winter
The winter months bring colder, shorter days making every day a battle for survival for our wildlife. Shorter days mean less time available to forage for food, which is already in short supply at this time of year. Birds will flock together, benefitting from the advantage of more eyes to look for food or to warn of an approaching predator. Different species of woodland birds will forage together. These flocks will include tit and finch species (such as the greenfinch pictured on the right), also treecreepers, goldcrests and woodpeckers and maybe even an overwintering chiffchaff.
You can now see many more species of wildfowl as our residents are joined by migrants from the north which will winter with us to enjoy our relatively milder climate. Look out over the meres and there is every chance you will see goldeneye, pochard, shoveler or wigeon. Rarer species have been sighted here in the past too, including smew and divers. Sightings of three whooper swans on Melchet Mere on 12th October and numerous reports of stonechats in the park were sure signs that winter was around the corner. The reedbeds and woodland at the southern end of Tatton Mere are a great refuge for birdlife. The keen eyed observer has the chance to see a water rail or even a bittern which favour this habitat. In late winter this is also the place to see herons pairing up as they nest early in the year.
The Brambling, a close relative of our common chaffinch, is also a winter visitor. They love to feed on beech mast, so Rostherne Drive and the adjacent Beech Walk are good places to see them. Look out for redwings and fieldfares feeding on hawthorn berries or maybe on the ground in the short grass out in the open parkland.
As there are few leaves on the trees at this time of year, this is probably your best chance of seeing the rarer, lesser spotted woodpeckers, which also tend to join these flocks. Dog Wood is an excellent place to look out for them. The best tactic to observe these roving flocks is to listen for their diminutive contact calls and then sit quietly as they pass by.
Another bird which is easier to spot in the winter is the woodcock. Their numbers increase this time of year as our breeding birds are joined by birds from the continent. As they sit motionless on a quiet woodland floor, their cryptic camouflage allows them to go undetected until nearly trodden upon when they will spring up and take flight.
Why not come along and join us in the Allen Hide on Sunday 19th January between 11am and 1pm where we will be running a Winter Birdwatch alongside the Knutsford Ornithological Society. This is a drop-in session looking at winter wildfowl on the mere and woodland birds. This is a great opportunity to have a go with a telescope, learn some new skills and ask the experts any birdy questions!
The rut has now finished and thankfully there have been no significant injuries. After this exhausting period, it is vital that the deer regain condition as quickly as possible so that they survive the harsh winter period. Acorns and chestnuts provide a great food source in early winter which augments their usual diet of grass and foliage. Added to this, the park rangers also feed the deer herds over the winter to make sure that they have the best chance of staying fit and healthy. Carrots are fed daily along with nuts containing vital minerals and haylage is put out as required. The ranger team are running a series of winter deer feed trailer rides and deer walks over the winter months. Booking is essential, for further details on any of the activities, please contact our education team on 01625 374428 or look at the Tatton Park events listing.
The recent fungal walk was very successful with a wide variety of interesting species found. It is always a popular event and participants had the chance to learn some amazing facts about some of our numerous but often overlooked fungi. We plan to run another next autumn.
South Lancashire Bat Group have completed their fifth year of bat surveys on the park. This year, they have tried to target newer areas with a combination of detector surveys and trapping sessions. All nine of our known species were caught over the summer, with the small myotis species being targeted. This resulted in good numbers of natterer’s, daubenton’s and whiskered/brandts being caught.
2019 has seen the rangers surveying a 4000m transect as part of the UK Butterfly Scheme. We have had a successful first year, recording 17 different species. Meadow brown, gatekeeper and ringlet were most prevalent, but it was particularly interesting to see how the species seen changed over the course of the summer. This survey will now continue on an annual basis, allowing us to compare species numbers for a more sustained period.
Compiled by Tatton’s Ranger Team
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Free Parkland Explorer Booklet - Compiled by Tatton’s ranger team
Download your own copy of the Parkland Explorer Booklet (PDF, 1.5MB), designed by Tatton's Rangers!
Learn how to be an expert tracker, twitcher and observer of all the beautiful, natural elements of Tatton Park. This is a fantastic way for children and their families to explore the Parkland, with 16 pages of fun activities.