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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Animals of Charlecote Park - My very own Spring Watch


Everyone is talking about it, it is that time of year again. 'Springwatch' fever is all over Twitter and Facebook and all over the TV. Over the last few weeks there has been so much happening and new life popping up everywhere. Charlecote Park has also had quite a lot happening over the last few weeks. So much has happened that my last few blogs have turned into a little bit of a Spring Watch on the Park itself and I have loved it. I thought I would share with you some of my highlights over the last few weeks and also a catch up on all the animals and wildlife around the park. For me Spring started with the daffodils and the lambs which makes everyone think about Easter so there is no better way to start this blog than with the lambs at Charlecote park.


I think I am not the only person who things of Spring as gardens full of daffodils and fields full of new born lambs. Charlecote's lambs as many of you know, are Jacob Lambs and very different from your usual white ones. I personally think they are gorgeous, they have such sweet faces and and as they grow their little horns do too.


This is Tubbs and Wilber who were rejected by their mothers and hand reared by staff at Charlecote Park. They were a lovely couple of lambs that I could have easily taken home. Far too cute for their own good. Both were doing so well that they have been moved to a new home and are growing fast.


    Growing lambs with their little horns.


For those who have not read my past blog and don't know what Jacob sheep look like as adults. One of these would have been the lambs father.


And one of these the mothers. Note the different colours on the sheep. Now you know who mated with whom. The boys were very busy indeed!


This week the females have been shorn as the weather is getting warmer and don't they look different?


 They look more like the lambs now. Here is a mother and her babies grazing together in Polo field.


The lambs from last year are kept separate from the other ones and you will see them at the moment grazing in Hill Park, often mixed in with the bucks who like to relax near the lake.


These sheep have not been shorn yet but I am hoping to be able to be there as I am interested in watching how it is done. Seeing something for real is always very different from watching it on the TV.


There are gates either side of Hill Park to keep the sheep in but this does not keep the deer in as they are free to roam the park as they wish. The fences inside the park are not to hold the deer in, just the sheep as you can see from the next photos.


 This one looks like a horse race with two jumping the fence at one time. I was quite far away at this time so these photos are not great but I wanted to share them with you anyway. The deer find these fences easy to jump but the staggered fence around the outside of the park is a different matter altogether. Next time you go, take a look. The different height palings (pieces of wood) are like that for a reason. Because they are so unevenly places and vary in height, it confuses the deer as to the hight of the fence so they do not try to jump it. I think that is rather clever.


The bucks antlers are growing very fast. Every time I visit I notice a difference.


This one had the biggest antlers I have seen since they all started growing their new sets. He must have been one of the first to lose his.


 These ones are still quite small but give it a couple of weeks and his will be the same as the buck above.


The does are starting to have their young now but they go to an area of the park I can not go to at the moment which is across the river where the cows graze. Just before the fawns are due, the does swim across the River Avon to Camp Ground and find a spot in the long grass away from everything. I have been told that if you are patient and watch from the other side of the river, you might just see a fawn pop into the centre avenue of Camp Grounds where the grass is shorter. Take some binoculars with you if you have some, you might spot them before me! Photos please if you do :):)


Charlecote Park do have a couple of dates for their 'Fawn check' available later this month. The walk takes you through the deer park which is currently closed to visitors. Charlecote Parks own Ranger will guide you on your walk and be able to answer any questions you have about the fallow dear within the park.
For more information on dates etc, here is a link.

 If you go, take a camera . Here is a fawn I spotted last year, taken on my pocket camera.


As everyone is waiting patiently to spot a Fawn, I thought you might like to read this... 'The Fawns by Enda St Vincent Millary' 


While looking for fawns across the river, check out the calves. There were only two at first, now there are three and with the noise coming from over there Friday evening, I would not be surprised if there was a fourth.


The Oxford Sandy and black pigs are growing fast and always hungry as pigs are.



Close to the house you will often see the Charlecote Cat who loves nothing better than to relax in the Sun.



Moving on to West Park, I guess the first signs of Spring were the herons arriving and building their nests in the same trees they visit every year.


The babies have hatched now. I have not seen them as the nests are very high but while the parents are out searching for food, there is a lot of noise coming from the top of the trees as the little chicks call for their parents.


Heron searching for food.


Next came my day out with the lovely Volunteer Ornithologists, part of the ARG (Arden Ringing Group) who are members of the BTO  who also hold special BTO licenses. They are specially trained to handle and  ring birds. They also record all their finding for further study. It is against the law for just anyone to handle wild birds or disturb nesting birds so please leave them alone and admire from a distance. I have now been out twice with these lovely people twice and here are some of the highlights from those days.

                                                       Very young Great-tits.


 This week all the bird boxes were checked to see if the Great and Blue-tit chicks had all successfully moved on out of their nests and I am very pleased to say that most have already gone on and you can now hear them singing in the trees.
We found only 2 bird boxes still with young in. One lot of chicks were very close to flying the nest which was left well alone not to force the chicks out too early before they are ready. It amazes me how much information the Volunteer Ornithologists know and how careful they have to be. I was so careful just taking photos and I was not allowed to touch them. I just watched them and listened.

Here are some very young Blue-tits that were kept in a special warm pouch during the very short time they were out of their nest so that they could be ringed. This was taken a couple of weeks ago.


A few days older.



A little older again, taken this week in one of the bird boxes.


In this bird box they were a little older.
This one is watching me :)


The Volunteer Ornithologists told me that when the young Blue-tits are at the entrance like this, they are nearly ready to fly the nest.


Mummy coming back to feed them.


Other highlights of being out with this group of people was seeing the Tawny Owls. I have been looking for them to show their heads out of the entrance of the hole in the tree where they are nesting but I have had no luck as of yet. I would love to see how they are doing but without the trained Volunteer Ornithologists, watching from afar is all I can do but I will keep looking out for them.


The baby Jackdaws I have not seen again but I guess they are also doing well.


This week I had another chance to go out with the same people, which of course I jumped at!  It was amazing, very very wet but amazing. If the rain eased off enough they were going to ring the Kestrels, something I was really looking forward to but it was such a wet day. Very fortunately, as we arrived near to where they were nesting in West Park, the rain came to an almost stop which meant I would get to see them and all I can say is WOW. They were well worth the soaking I had got that day. They were amazing birds so I had to take photos of them all  :) I was so lucky that day because if the rain had not stopped as it had, it would have been impossible to ring these beautiful birds and it would had to have been done on a different day.



If I remember correctly, there were five young kestrels all at slightly different stages of losing their fluff and the feathers appearing.



This week the Volunteer Ornithologists were also ringing the swallows that nest in the yard at Charlecote Park.


Because these people are fully trained, they know the best way to hold these delicate creatures without hurting them or damaging them. I wouldn't like to do their job even though I think what they do is great because I would be afraid of hurting them. I watched these trained men help fix a nest which would have fallen as the chicks grew if left unmended. They waited, hiding to see if when the mother came back she would notice but she was back and happily feeding her chicks. If the nest had been left, these chicks would never have survived the fall.


This one stuck his tongue out at me while he was being ringed, guess he did not want his photo taken :) The photo reminds me of Kermit the frog! Baby birds always have their mouths open expecting food! Sorry I am not your Mummy :)


There were many Swallows around the yard, also plenty of Blue-Tits and Goldfinches. I need to go back with my long lens to catch them.

Next we come to the River Avon where I first spotted this family of Greylag geese.


As you can see they are growing nicely and very quickly. It won't be long before they are the same size as their parents.


The nesting Swan on the lake who I am very pleased to say has had  four little cygnets.


This was taken last weekend. Newly hatched cygnets swimming with mother.


These were taken a few days later. Aren't they cute :)


                                   Searching for food



 And coming back up for air with a very wet head!


This photo was taken while on my visit yesterday. Already I can see they have grown again.
I guess even cygnets argue with their siblings !




                                          Grooming time.


                       This I love. All the family grooming at the same time.


There is also a second set of Swans and their young over the other side of the Park on the river Dene. I also saw four cygnets there but there could be more as they were in the long grass.


Today I have learned how to post a video within my blog rather than posting a link to it which makes me very happy as that makes life so much easier :) 
A short video I made with the very cute cygnets.



The ducks are also growing. This was taken a couple of weeks ago.


I do not have a photo of the ducks now but I do have a very short video.


 There are also some mallard ducks on the river that runs through Charlecote Estate. They can often be spotted close to where the River Dene meets the River Avon at the waterfall.


The baby coots I showed you last week still in their nest, newly hatched being feed by their parents.


Just a few days later they are darting around the water with their parents but still relying on them to feed them.



I also have a short video from this day.



Out for a late walk yesterday and it was like all the squirrels had come out to play. I must have seen at least ten on my walk. Here are just a few. The rest were too quick for me.





In West Park I have seen a small group of Canadian Geese who seem to have made their home there now. Last weekend I sat watching them for a while and was amazed at what I saw. I have recorded it so you can see for yourselves. I have always wondered why the long grass reed that grows along many rivers are often seen floating down the river, almost like it has been cut. I sat and watched these geese pulling one reed up at a time, only wanting to eat the very bottom inch of each grass and then letting them float away going onto the next one . I watched them do this over and over again. I guess the best bit must be at the bottom.


                     I think this one is keeping some for later.


Here is the video of them going into the water and then pulling the reeds up.


Friday this one looked as though it was nesting but I think it might be a little late for that now but I could be wrong.


This one was on guard I think.


    And last but not least....some of the birds I have spotted in the beautiful Woodland Gardens.


Yet to come are Charlecote's Barn Owls and a Kingfisher which I have seen but did not get a chance to photograph.

I have a few last minute photos to add to this blog from today. The Canadian geese that I thought were nesting. Look what was spotted on the river today :)



                       They are already eating the reeds.


And carrying one on the back for later :)



                                   Thanks for reading this blog. Hope you enjoyed it.


                                            www.nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park/

                                       Photos Copyright Jana Eastwood

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