As we move into the winter season and the grass ceases to grow, the deer herds will be supplementary fed by the ranger team. Over a tonne and a half of carrots are fed daily along with haylage to make sure the deer stay in good condition over the harsh winter months. They now moult into their winter coats in which the longer guard hairs are hollow. These trap warm air helping provide good insulation.
The deer have fared well during the autumn rut with no casualties. The plentiful supply of acorns and sweet chestnuts in the parkland provide a valuable food source at this time of year. Condition would have been lost during the rut so it is important that this is regained as quickly as possible.
The mating season for bats has now come to an end. They must build up fat reserves ready for winter hibernation, when their bodies will go into torpor. Bats like to hibernate in places with a constant low temperature. Deep holes in trees and old buildings are favoured by different species. We have some splendid old trees in Tatton and our policy of leaving standing dead wood where possible provides places that many species will use.
Winter is a time focused on survival for birdlife. Our summer visitors have long gone to warmer climes and an influx of winter species replace them. The most obvious of these are the wildfowl that gather on Tatton’s two large meres with species travelling south to join us for the winter, swelling our resident population. Many interesting species can be seen including Goldeneye, Shoveler and Pintail (pictured below). This is also the best time to spot the rarer Smew, Bewick Swan or maybe even a diver, all of which have been seen here in the past. Winter thrushes, Redwing and Fieldfare, join us from Scandinavia. A good place to look for them is on the open grassland where the grass is short, here they gather in large numbers and the distinctive chattering call of the Fieldfare gives their presence away. Our smaller woodland birds gather in large flocks too. Strength in numbers helps to source food and to keep a look out for predators such as a hungry Sparrowhawk. With no foliage on the trees they become an easy target. It is always worth taking time to look through these wandering woodland flocks. Many tit species will be among them but they are often joined by Treecreepers, woodpeckers or maybe an overwintering Chiffchaff. Also keep a look out for Stonechats perched on the rushes surrounding the meres. Recent sightings in the park included a Green Sandpiper passing through on 6th September and Barn Owl and Kingfisher were seen on a regular basis. The onset of autumn was signalled by the sighting of the first Redwing on 4th October and over 100 Pink-Footed Geese on the 14th.
Perhaps one of the most unusual sightings of the year came in the form of a very rare and very stunning Camberwell Beauty butterfly. Seen on the 19th October by two of the park rangers, this was the first record of this species at Tatton Park with only 22 previous records in Cheshire, the last recorded in 2014. We have been in contact with experts to make sure this sighting is recorded. It was seen after easterly winds which explain why it ended up in Cheshire. The Camberwell Beauty is a rare migrant to the British Isles originating in Scandinavia and mainland Europe and it does not sustain a breeding population here. It is an unmistakable butterfly and needless to say the finders were rather taken aback!
The recent fungal foray with Fungal Punk Dave was again a great success with 96 species found even though the conditions were not ideal beforehand. The impressive list of fungi species that can be found at Tatton shows the benefits from leaving fallen dead wood in-situ. The process of fungi breaking down decaying wood puts vital nutrients back into the soil and they perform an important role in this regard. This is fascinating aspect of natural history that is often overlooked. There are some stunning fungi here at Tatton and one of the most famous is probably the Fly Agaric with its unmistakable red cap with white spots. This is the archetypal toadstool as depicted in many a fairy-tale. Many myths and legends surround this poisonous species.
Opportunities to enjoy a tractor/trailer ride in the parkland observing the spectacular sight of hundreds of deer feeding at close quarters are being run in February. (Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th December, and Tues 19th and Wed 20th February, 9:30 – 10:30 am).
Members of the local Knutsford Ornithological Society and a Tatton Ranger will be at the ‘Allen Bird Hide’ (from 11am – 1pm on Sunday 13th January) hosting a ‘drop-in’ session looking at the winter wildfowl on the meres. This event is open to all and provides an excellent opportunity to ask the experts!
On Tuesday 12th February (10am – midday), join a ranger for a guided walk in the beautiful winter parkland, observing the deer in their natural surroundings and learning about their importance to Tatton. (Please note, pre-booking is essential for the guided walk and the trailer ride– please call 01625 374428 or visit the website: www.tattonpark.org.uk for further info.
For further details on any of the activities, please contact our Education department on 01625 374428 or visit the our events pages. All events need to be pre-booked.
Complied 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.