Magpies are common in UK, and can be a bit of a pest, thieving food intended for other birds. But catch them in the right light and they can be rather beautiful, like the above recent shot from Tatton Park.
They are particularly active in spring, with spells of amorous behaviour interspersed with avid feeding from what they can find in the ground.
The county of Cheshire contains a number of smallish lakes, or meres. Many date back to the glacial period of the last ice age, ‘occupying hollows in the glacial drift surface of the Cheshire Plain’ (see itemised list). The lake in Tatton Park, known as Tatton Mere, is one of these meres of glacial origin.
Just north west of the top of Tatton Mere lies a smaller lake, named Melchett Mere, but at a noticeably lower elevation. Is this another glacial lake? It seems not. Cheshire also has a history of salt extraction and mining, notably in the area around nearby Northwich and Wincham from the 17th century. Uncontrolled mining activity led to great subsidences of ground and the formation of lakes, such as the notorious Ashton’s and Neumann’s flashes near Wincham.
Effects of the salt mining activites, and particularly wild brine pumping, were often felt many miles away. According to the National Trust, Melchett Mere in Tatton Park was formed by a sudden collapse in 1922. The resulting lake was named by Lord Egerton after the then chairman of the extractive company he believed to have been responsible (presumably Henry Mond, 2nd Baron Melchett, who became deputy chairman of ICI in the 1940s).
Subsidence due to brine pumping activities is serious business in Cheshire, as evidence by the existence of the Brine Subsidence Compensation Board. Some of the land in this area is still subsiding. Notably this lies on the proposed route for the HS2 high speed train. I hope those guys know what they’re getting into!
Thank God the days are gone when dead trees were removed from the landscape, part of an obsession with tidiness that took little account of the web of life in which we are embedded. The dead tree is an ecosystem containing countless organisms and fungi, all about the miraculous job of reducing solid wood back to the soil it came from.
Our National Trust now usually leaves trees where they fall in the landscape. This one at Tatton Park was probably once a spectacular oak tree, now gracefully yet vulnerably declining back to its origins.
Thus individual life emerges from the collective, lives and flourishes, and eventually dies and returns home.
Tatton Park is home to two species of free-ranging deer. Most easily seen are the spectacular red deer, which often congregate near to the Knutsford entrance. More numerous are the smaller fallow deer. These are much more timid, so tend to stay away from the areas popular with people.
Recently, this grazing group presented a pretty picture, with one sentinel alert and standing guard – probably checking our dog was on his lead.
There’s a comparison of antlers for male red and fallow deer in this post.
It rained all day today, never stopping as I walked around Tatton Park. It was still worth carrying the little camera in my pocket for this chance picture of pooled water on the grass, with trees, lake and grey sky in the background.
The scene was actually a bit duller than the picture looks, due to clever camera and adjustment with Paint Shop Pro.
Towards sundown in winter Tatton Park becomes a place of magic, with wonderful images of sky, silhouettes of trees and the lakes. The recent snow and ice on the lake gave an added bonus this New Year’s Eve.
I couldn’t decide which of two similar images to include, so here they are both.
The antlers of the red deer in Tatton Park have been growing for quite a while, as they do every spring; they are ‘in velvet‘. Their texture really do look like soft velvet. They can grow up to an inch a day.
As with most photography, the lighting makes all the difference.Read More »
This long (more than an inch) black beetle was all but invisible on the stony path I was walking on in Tatton Park. I had no great hopes for the photograph, but the image comes up reasonably well with a bit of brightening up.
I think this is a Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle. Apparently, this is one of 46000 species of the rove beetle family, a fast and ferocious night time predator. And it has a nasty bite and can emit a foul smelling odour. I had sort of intuited that it was an unsavoury character!
The segmented abdomen allows it to curl the tail up, like a scorpion. Neither the Wildlife Trusts (above link) nor Wikipedia explains why – I’d guess it’s for balance.
Sometimes you get lucky. In the unseasonably warm February afternoon on Tatton Park’s lake, we suddenly spotted two great crested grebes courting. What an amazing dance they performed. The light was still good, so some sort of reasonable pictures were possible with my Panasonic Lumix TZ200 on maximum zoom, although the show only lasted a minute or two. Here’s a selection:
Many people were out to walk off the Christmas food in Cheshire’s Tatton Park. A clear sky, sun going down, still water on the lake, trees, gathering mist over the grass – promising ingredients for photographs, despite the reducing light level. How about these trees?
It’s the antler growing season in Tatton Park, Knutsford. The growing antlers have a wonderful soft appearance, compared to the harsher, more angular full grown variety. I was fortunate to capture antler pics of both red deer and fallow deer on recent visits to the park.
The antlers of the two species are completely different, in that fallow deer are the only UK deer with palmate antlers.
What a glorious springtime in many woods in the UK, with the bluebells out. The above are at Anderton Country Park, Northwich. The following are in Tatton Park, Knutsford’s Dog Wood, recently cleared of invasive species to encourage just such native plants.
At the same time you also get the deeply pungent smells of wild garlic, with its white flowers. Somehow each sticks to its own, as you rarely see them closely intermingled.
We’re walking by the lake in Cheshire’s Tatton Park on a grey late October afternoon. Red deer often congregate near the Knutsford entrance, but today are not to be seen there. Further into the park we hear the baying of a stag, then and answering roar from a slightly different direction, and so on.
Turning up towards the bank covered in the great avenue of beech trees we pass a few delicate roe deer, and then catch the pungent smell of the red deer, a deep pungency that you only get at this time of year.
Higher up, a couple of women are stopped, looking over to the right. Gaining height, we suddenly see what they are looking at – two large groups of red deer, each with a large stag at its heart, surrounded by females and younger deer.
The great stag with magnificent antlers lets out a mighty roar, soon answered by his counterpart with an equally mighty roar. The other deer appear to ignore them and carry on munching, or standing or sitting taking the air. Apart from the stags, only the watching people seem to be greatly impressed, slightly afraid even.
Power and dominance are clearly established, there are probably enough females to go around; it never comes to the locking of antlers.