Wildlife around the grounds of Middleton Hall

January 2011

WINTER EDITION

Around Christmas time a male Siskin was spotted visiting the bird table; however this winter visitor has not been seen since.  Since the cold weather the Bramblings, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings have all been sighted daily from the bird hide.

The prolonged period of snow covered ground presented poor conditions for most wildlife, especially the smaller animals such as shrews and mice.  Many shrews will have perished during the cold snap as the combination of low temperatures and less available food puts extra stress on the body.  Shrews need to eat more to increase their metabolism in order to keep warm.

Although the pond was frozen over for quite a period of time, the fish will not have been affected as the fountain provides a continuous supply of oxygen.  The deepest areas of the pond are around six feet which allows the fish to shoal to maintain their body temperature and create a state of hibernation where all bodily functions slow down.

Two foxes have been seen patrolling the pathways around the Hall.  Hopefully these foxes will assist the gardeners in keeping the resident population of rabbits down!

Probably the greatest success story so far, of our wildlife attractions in the grounds, has been the communal group of around thirty Tree Sparrows taking up residency at the bird hide / wetlands area.  A North East survey has shown that Tree Sparrows have declined by 80% since the 1960’s, mainly due to loss of habitat.  Like their cousin the House Sparrow, these little birds live in communal flocks.  There are easily distinguishable with a chestnut coloured head as opposed to the House Sparrow’s less neat grey cap.

New homes at Middleton Hall!  As a result of some advice from the local Tree Sparrow group, Alan Grainge has been constructing specific nesting boxes for the Tree Sparrows.  This involves joining three or four nest boxes together, as the sparrows always nest in communities.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that this spring the Tree Sparrows will use these deluxe new bungalows!

David Richardson

Estate Manager