Wildlife around the Grounds of Middleton Hall

Due to the cold wet conditions this spring, I was expecting a negative impact on the annual bird box survey.  Although nest building started two weeks later than usual, the occupancy of the boxes has been better than ever, with only 2 boxes empty out of 40.  We have 26 Blue Tit, 5 Great Tit and 4 Tree Sparrow nests with 3 half built nests where the species are as yet unknown.  The great news is that we have doubled the RSPB red listed Tree Sparrow occupancy, building on last year`s first of 2 pairs.

Some of you may know that we are setting up a `Nest Watch` scheme, where we have placed cameras in 2 of the boxes as well as the Owl box, screening via the reception TV.  Of course, when working with fauna things do not always go to plan and in this case the Owls deserted 1 egg in April.  The Stock Doves then moved into the box, built their nest but then also deserted.  At the time of writing, the other 2 boxes containing cameras have a fully built nest and a half built nest respectively and we are hoping that one of these will lead to a successful brood allowing `Nest Watch` viewing.

In April, I was lucky enough to spot a Weasel in my garden, while in the same month the Estate team disturbed a Stoat and a week later a Fox taking a drink from the woodland water hole.  This area is located on the woodland walk as you enter the woods after the new woodland and is a great place to observe the wildlife.   

The Moorhen multiplication is happening again, with one successful brood of 4 already reared on the pond and the adults sitting on a second clutch of eggs.  The Estate team have also found a further Moorhen nest in the overflow pond on the golf course, the Moorhens presumably not able to wait for the main lake on the waterside to fill up!  Pat Webb has been taking some excellent pictures of the Moorhens as part of the photography club; please see Audra Hunt, Living Well Manager if you are interested in joining this club or any of the other numerous clubs /events taking place.  

Picture courtesy of Pat Webb

The African migrants were late arriving this year, with the Chiffchaffs finally arriving mid April followed by Swallows, House Martins and Willow Warblers.  The Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Swifts did not arrive on site till early May.  This year we have had quite a few Lesser Whitethroats on site making this our 75th recorded bird species.

David Richardson

Head of Operations