Normanton Hall Bird Walk

Today eight of us visited the Hall, which is a gem for birding. The garden is set on higher ground looking out over the flood plain of the meandering River Soar which spills into small lakes, some used for fishing. There are views over the surrounding countryside on three sides of the garden with a wide variety of habitats - fields and meadows, tree-lined river, lakes with reed beds, hedgerows, landscaped gardens, mixed woodland, old buildings. This was the venue for our cancelled walk three weeks ago, when it snowed. What brought us here today was the sighting of three swallows yesterday, increasing to six by the end of the day, coupled with a possible view of boxing hares. The swallows nest in the horses' stables in old red brick barns. Last year, we were told that the swallows arrived on 3rd April, so surprisingly just a few days late this year. Joy had calculated that there must have been over 120 fledgling swallows last year from these barns alone.

Our first challenge on arrival was to negotiate the track, filled with young lambs and their mothers, to reach Joy and Ken's property. As soon as we parked in the yard we could see the swallows circling overhead and hear birds singing all around us. Slowly walking around the garden we began to appreciate the variety of birds in such a small area. At times it was hard to separate all the different calls - from woodpeckers drumming and cackling, to the sweet songs of dunnock, robin and blackbird. Of course the pheasant, chiff chaff and chaffinches were doing their own thing.

After spending an hour in the garden we walked down towards the fishing lakes. From the track we spied a very enthusiastic nuthatch singing his heart out, several pheasants and red-legged partridges and 6 yellowhammers fluttering around the hedgerow. Later we went to the other side of the property down by the river from where we discovered the reed bunting in the reed beds. Altogether, in two hours, we counted 33 species sighted and 3 calling.

Given the opportunity this site is one for visiting each season to appreciate the changes in the wildlife and their habitats.

Species sighted: Mute swan, greylag geese, mallard, red-legged partridge, pheasant, grey heron, common buzzard, kestrel, moorhen, coot, wood pigeon, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, barn swallow, dunnock, robin, redwing, mistle thrush, blackbird, goldcrest, wren, great tit, coal tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, nuthatch, carrion crow, house sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, reed bunting, yellowhammer

Species calling: green woodpecker, blackcap, chiffchaff


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