Sunday, 10 October 2010

Normanby Hall Country Park

A beautiful autumnal day, we visit Normanby Hall Country Park, site of a stately home surrounded by extensive, beautiful wooded grounds and including a deer park. It is rutting season so we hope to see some action, and we are not disappointed. There is a large herd of hinds kept compact by a stately stag, who ruts every now and then, in between bringing a stray female or two back to the herd. He trundled into a creek and had a splash, and then proceeded to dig some bracken to adorn his antlers.

The gardens - including a walled garden and a butterfly border - are still carpeted in flowers, and the butterflies oblige, with large numbers of Comma, Red Admiral and a few Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Woods visiting the Verbena bonairensis and Michaelmas daisies. Many old trees, including oaks, sweet chestnuts, and beech, some of them ancient and an impressive avenue of Giant Redwoods.
Red Admirals gorging on Michaelmas daisies, two more were on sight.
Old Sweet Chestnut
 The grounds, deer park and walled garden are easy to access and the deer have a 'sanctuary' where visitors aren't allowed. There is a cafe, public toilets, a gift shop (selling some of the grounds' produce) and picnic tables under each large tree in front of the hall.
 As for birds, we saw jackdaws, jays, robin and woodpigeons and heard a goldcrest.

Official Website

Normanby Nature. A blog about birds and other wildlife in the local are and beyond.

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Monday, 19 April 2010

Burton Bushes and the Westwood

This weekend we visited Beverley Westwood and the little woodland on the western side of the pasture called Burton Bushes (of which more here). A Skylark sang over the wide expanse of grassy pastures, and we also saw a Kestrel hovering nearby. There was a thick carpet of Wood Anemones (Anemona nemorosa) around the edges and inside the wood, and there were also Lesser celandine, Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) in bloom. The bluebells still on leaf, we saw no flowers. The main tree species is Oak, although there is also Birch and Field Maple with an understorey of Holly. Many dead trunks cover the ground, covered in thick moss, so I expect this to be a good site for fungi. Robins, Chiffchaffs and Blackcap sung their songs, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed. Other interesting birds that are known to live in the wood are Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Tawny Owls.
A view of the Westwood with the Black Mill in the background
Oaks at the edge of Burton Bushes wood
Wood Anemone
Dog's Mercury
Wood Sorrel
Another old oak trunk inside the wood

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

We went to Yorkshire Wildlife Park today, which hasn't even been opened one year yet (it opened to the public on 4th April 2009). The park is still growing and developing and there are huge expanses of bare soil and building work in progress, and at times the tracks are too rough, barely doable with a pushchair, but we managed. There is a cafe with hot meals - but no expresso machine-, a picnic area, a children's play area and a Jungle Play Barn with big slides, which were a hit with the kids.
Black and White Ruffed Lemur
Sunbathing Ring-Tailed Lemurs
Ring-Tailed Lemur
Some of the enclosures are very effective and allow very close contact with the animals. The Wallaby Walkabout and the Lemur Woods are walk through enclosures where you can approach - and they can approach you! - a gang of Ring Tailed Lemurs, a pair of Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, a pair of Browm Lemurs and of course, wallabies. We got to the Lemur Wood at food time and it was a great opportunity to see the lemurs in action, the agressive Black and White ones chasing the ring tailed ones for pieces of fruit and veg. It was a bit chilly in the wind so as soon as the food was eaten the lemurs hug each other or hid in their huts. The sun appeared behind the clouds and immediately, the lemurs adopted a sunbathing position which looked like they were worshipping the sun.
One of the hits with the park are the African Painted dogs (top picture), a pack of four, which are part of a captive breeding program. Their enclosure is quite large and the animals look healthy and alert. Amazing to get such close views of one of the most powerful African carnivores.

A Meerkat colony is also a great attraction, a square enclosure with side windows at ground level. Always active, there is always something happening with Meerkats. An individual on the lookout, another one digging, a pair that stand up to sunbathe...
A Racoon Dog
A donkey happy to interact with the public. The park was previously a farm opened to the public, and there are still many farm animals, goats, cattle, chickens, geese and sheep.
An Red Water Hog enjoying a rub on a tree. After a good side rub, it scratched the tree with its tusks. There are visible scratches on the trunk. 
The pair of Red Water Hogs have thoroughly dug out their wooded enclosure. I wonder how much longer the trees, many with exposed roots, will stay standing. The place looks like a bomb site!
The African Plains area, where zebra, antelopes and ostrich are kept are a large enclosure indeed, but you need a telescope to see the animals - and there is actually one available - as they prefer to stay away from the public, which is disappointing.
There is a small wood with a footpath and informative panels next to it.
The 13 rescued lions from a Romanian zoo are already in the park, but their enclosure is not yet finished. If you want to see the lions check the website to avoid disappointment.
The website is very slow in loading, but has information on prices, opening times and activities.
Indeed worth a visit, but I would recommend visiting in warm weather, so that the animals are more comfortable outside.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park website

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Sunday, 21 March 2010

A bunch of March flowers

A selection of photos of local flowers taken during March this year.
Lesser Celandine
Winter aconite
Viburnum tinus
Red dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)
Grape hyacinth (Muscari racemosum)
Vinca minor
Daisies (Bellis perennis)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Calling frogs

Spring is upon us. Male common frogs (Rana temporaria) have gathered in the pond at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden and call for females and scramble. There were plenty of males but I only saw two females in the pond and still no frogspawn. I have so many photos of the mating frogs from past years that today I decided to concentrate in trying to get the males in the moment they call. The male's white-bluish throats inflate and they tend to 'blink', which spoilt some of the photos, but I was quite pleased with a few. The call of the Common frog has been likened to a rumbling distant motorbike, but to me it sounds like a cat purring loudly, but in any case, it is only audible (to  humans anyway, I am not sure to females) within a range of a few meters, and sounds nothing like 'ribbet' at all!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

North Cave Wetlands

We've finally gone on a trip out today. It feels like months indoor but the last couple of weeks have felt very spring-like. North Cave wetlands is an old sand and gravel quarry which has been managed to produce an array of different wetland habitats and is is one of the newest Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve (open to the public in 2004). There are deep lakes, shallow lagoons, little ponds, wet fields and even a maize field where different crops have been plated to attract seed eaters. The different habitats in the reserve attract a range of birds (200 species have been recorded so far, of which around 50 breed here), and butterflies (24 sp.) and damselflies and dragonflies (18 sp.).
There are three hides, one of them, the Turret hide, in placed in a beautiful vantage point from which you can have almost an all round view of the reserve, including the sandy cliff which contains a colony of Sand Martins in the summer. The hides are plastered on informative posters and ID charts on birds and other fauna.
 We saw two Rabbit feeding and their burrows are all around (also lots of Mole hills).
Today there was a large flock of noisy Black-Headed Gulls, which breed in the reserve. Great Crested grebes were courting and a Carrion Crow fed on a dead rabbit, while another rabbit (alive) fed just a meter away!
A view of Village Lake
Turret Hide
A pair of aggressive Black-Headed gulls threatening another

More information at.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. also a printable leaflet here.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Spring feel

In the last few days the gloomy, short winter days are noticeably growing longer. Birds seem to have felt this and many species are now singing. A clump of wild primroses (Primula vulgaris) in the University grounds are now bursting with buds, and the first pale lemon colour flowers are now open. Both the latin and common name of this flower refer to how early they blossom. They are the 'first roses'.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Looking forward and looking back

Come January and I eagerly seek the first signs of spring. This has been a very cold winter so far, so my first sign of spring, the flowering of Hazel, is delayed. The Hazels in Pearson Park Wildlife Garden would normally flower on the third week of January. Look what we saw today:

Today's best catkins, tightly shut!

The fully open catkins two years ago on the same day

I don't think they are going to open in January at all this year.
The second event to come is usually the first song of the Song Thrush. A few winters this thrush has sung all through December and January. I haven't heard the first song yet.

Busy song thrush, but no singing
The third event is the Lesser Celandine flowering. This is a very unique plant. Its foliage dies out in the summer and the only surviving part of the plant is its finger-shaped thin tubers. In November, the new shoots start growing and the flowers appear in January- early February, when there are few other flowers around. Their shiny yellow flowers brighten up the dullest winter day. No signs of flowers yet. Sadly, no signs of spring to report.

Lesser Celandine flower

Patch of Lesser Celandine in March

Summer Lesser Celandine tubers (end of may 2009)

First shoots of Lesser Celandine last November