As we move into Spring and the fresh grass begins to grow, the deer will gain condition which will benefit the females in preparation for calving. This also means that supplementary winter feeding can now cease. The deer will now moult into their fresh coats which always look spectacular. The Red Deer change to the russet colour that gives them their name and the Fallow Deer sport their handsome lighter coloured, spotty coats. Now is the time that the deer cast their antlers. The older Red Deer are always first, followed by the younger ones, the Fallow Deer soon follow suit. This is an annual event triggered by day length. Each antler drops off from the base, this is called the pedicle, and the new one begins to grow immediately. At this stage they are known to be “in velvet”.
It is now lambing time for our two flocks of rare breed Hebridean and Soay sheep. They are managed very much like the deer and left to their own devices. They lamb out in the field and unlike other fully domesticated sheep breeds; they rarely need any intervention from us. For this reason access is restricted to Temple Paddock during lambing to prevent any disturbance at this critical time. We wait with anticipation for the lambs to be born although numbers may be down this year due to a natural response to the drought conditions from last summer. You may see red buckets out in the sheep fields; these contain a lick that we put out before and during lambing to help give the sheep energy as the strains of lambing drain their natural recourses. Pictured above is a Soay ewe with a new born lamb, these can be seen in the fields opposite the mansion.
Before the woodland canopy emerges fully, wildflowers make the most of light reaching the ground, transforming the woodland floor to a carpet of colour. Bluebells flower early (mid April to late May) and Dog Wood is an area of the park that provides a spectacular show. The flowers provide an important source of early nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects. The thinning and coppicing work undertaken in the woodland over the last few years has enhanced the wildflower growth due to decreased canopy cover and the opening of glades. Other woodland flowers to look out for include: Wood Anemone, Marsh Marigold and Lesser Celandine.
There are some early butterflies to look out for in spring. One of the earliest is the Brimstone; this distinctive bright yellow species is often seen at Tatton. Its food plant, Alder Buckthorn, has been planted in some areas of the park to encourage them. Look out for the Small Tortoiseshell in early spring too which spends the winter in the adult form unlike many other species. The food plant of this species is the common nettle which is also beneficial to many other species of insect.
Although many moths are active over winter, many more will now be on the wing. Bats will also emerge and become more active taking advantage of this plentiful food supply. On the warmer, lighter evenings they can be seen flitting around, some favouring the woodland edge habitat such as the Pipistrelle others, like the Daubenton’s bat, hunt over water. They use echo location to navigate and hunt for food. The trained human ear can just about pick up on the high pitched squeaks emitted.
Spring is a fantastic time to look and listen for birds in the park as they are very active and are now in full song. Woodland birds tend to be the more elaborate songsters as they cannot be seen as easily in the woodland habitat and rely on their song to attract a mate instead of colourful plumage. The song is also used as a signal to rival males that a particular territory is occupied. Many species will be arriving here to spend the summer with us such as the Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. These two species are very difficult to separate visually but easily separated by their song. One of our first arrivals is usually the Sand Martin that can be seen hawking insects over Tatton Mere; Tatton is usually one of the first places in the county to record one. They are followed by Swallows and Martins and many migrant warbler species. Now is the time to look out for Ospreys, they are regularly recorded at this time of year passing through. Now is also the time to look for a hunting Hobby, again Tatton Mere is a good place to check.
We have had some interesting bird sightings in the park recently. Although Barn Owls are resident in the park, they are more easily seen in winter and this proved to be the case with several sightings. Woodcock were noted in some of the quieter woodlands as were parties of Siskins. Goldeneyes have been resident on Tatton Mere during the winter period and were joined by 40 Mandarins on the 1st February which was an impressive count. Wigeon, Pochard and Pintail have all been present over winter too. Ten Jack Snipe were also an exceptional find during the Knutsford Ornithological Society’s field trip to Tatton. Beech Walk was again the place to see a flock of Brambling, this is a winter visitor closely related to the Chaffinch and made the most of its favoured food, beech mast.
The ranger team run a variety of interesting guided walks and activities throughout the year. 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.