Monday, 24 November 2014

Footpath Improvement

The maintenance volunteers have recently been carrying out some footpath improvement work in Crow wood and a sterling job they have done too! The area concerned was turning into a bit of a mud bath due to the amount of rain we have been experiencing and required a few tractor bucket loads of stone and the same again of crushed limestone. It also required installing some revetment to keep the stone in place and prevent further erosion. 

Surface water runs down the slope on the far side of the wall, across the path 
and into the stream below. Persistent heavy rainfall over the last few weeks 
had turned this area of the path into a wallow fit for a hippo.  

A nearby plantation requiring some thinning provided timber for the revetment. 
The stone has raised the hollow to the level of the rest of the footpath 
and will allow water to drain through the path towards the stream 
without water logging the surface.
The natural curvature of the wood almost perfectly matches the bend of the path,
which was of course intentional when the trees were selected.  
Finally crushed limestone is spread on top and compressed to provide
 a solid and level surface to walk on.

A number of footpaths in the park are in need of a bit of tlc and with the help of volunteers we will be continuing with more improvement works over the coming weeks and months.


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Red Deer Rut

Nothing encapsulates the sound of autumn better than the roar of a red deer stag in his prime. October is undoubtedly the best time of year for watching red deer as they fiercely fight for the chance to pass on their genes. The rut is now in full swing at Lyme Park and the next few weeks will present fantastic opportunities to witness this awesome wildlife spectacle first hand.

A dominant stag with his harem.

Here are some key facts about the red deer rut and what to look out for over the coming weeks:
  • In order to gain exclusive mating rights, dominant stags form ‘harems’ - groups of several females (hinds) - which they will fiercely defend as the hinds individually come into oestrus (oestrus being the period of sexual receptivity when successful mating can occur).
  • In red deer, oestrus is triggered by the shortening of the daylight period, which is why the rut takes place at this time of year.
  • Obviously it is the ambition of every stag to hold his own and preferably the largest harem but there are only so many females to go around. To maintain control of a harem, a dominant stag must therefore persistently drive away rivals. Dominance between rival stags is determined through a combination of one or more of the following:
  • Roaring - By repeatedly bellowing a deep resounding roar, dominant stags are broadcasting their superiority and warning other males to stay away from their females (see video below).

  • Parallel Walking Rival stags will often engage in an intense walk to determine which of them is the largest. Moving in parallel, their gait will be slow and steady and they will often raise the hair on their backs to make themselves look bigger.
  • Fighting - Fighting can occasionally result in serious injury or death. Therefore, rival stags will only willingly engage in a fight if they cannot determine dominance by other means. Contact will be initiated by one of the stags lowering his antlers. Antler locking quickly follows and the two stags will push each other back and forth until one of them is driven rapidly backwards and loses the contest. The video below was taken last week and shows two of our dominant stags engaged in a fierce dual.

  • Despite the obvious magnificence of their antlers, it is the red deer stags ability to roar which holds the key to attraction. Females will often choose the male with the lower roar as they tend to be the larger bodied stags, which indicates strength and good health. It may sound unromantic but it makes perfect biological sense.
  • During the rut stags will often appear much darker as they will regularly wallow in their own urine. The odour from the urine also helps bring hinds into oestrus.
  • Given half a chance, smaller stags will attempt to move in on harems and mate with females. These opportunities usually only present themselves as the rut progresses and when a dominant stag is either in battle or exhausted from a recent fight.
Attacks on humans are extremely rare but please be mindful that the stags are currently pumped full of testosterone and much more aggressive than at other times of the year. So if you do manage to get out and see the rut here at Lyme then please keep a safe distance and remember to keep dogs under close control. Having 200 kilos of angry stag hurtling towards you would not be an advisable experience! 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Rhodi Bashing Returns

It’s that time of year again when we’re out tackling the swathes of rhododendron down West Park drive. In addition to our committed volunteer groups who have cleared and burned vast areas of rhododendron every autumn/winter since the ‘English Woodland Grant Scheme’ project started several years ago, we have also recently welcomed a couple of volunteer work parties from the Coop Bank. Over the course of the two days they spent here to assist with the project, they cleared and burned a substantial section on one of the slopes. The steep topography prevents us clearing by mechanical means, which is why regular volunteer groups and work parties armed with bow saws and loppers are essential to this important conservation project.

Bow saws are typically the weapon of choice for 'rhodi bashing'.

It is beyond doubt that rhododendron is here to stay and will never be totally eradicated from the British countryside, however it is imperative that we do not allow it to thrive at the expense of native habitat. Due to its toxicity and alien status in Britain, few native animal species are known to be associated with rhododendron. To put this in perspective, over 400 insect species are known to be associated with oak trees, which in turn support an array of birds and mammals. Every bit of rhododendron cleared is helping us move towards our principal aim of re-establishing 1.62ha of broadleaf woodland in the West Park drive area of the park to the benefit of countless native species.

Scaling the slopes is no easy task and it requires team work to get the cuttings down and onto the fire.

Significant progress is being made, so a massive thank you is due to everyone who has contributed to the project since its beginning. If progress carries on as it is, the days that this invasive heavyweight has to dominate this area of the park are surely numbered and we can look forward to a resurgence of native flora and fauna.

Volunteers from the Coop Bank enjoying a well earned cuppa.

If the thought of rhododendron rampaging across our countryside annoys you as much as it does us, then why not join one of our regular ‘rhodi bashing’ volunteer groups over the autumn/winter? It’s a great way to contribute towards nature conservation at Lyme and also provides an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and keep fit! If you are interested in joining one of our regular groups then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the ranger team by emailing or by giving the rangers office a call on 01663761411. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Den Building

This week’s den building event was a huge success thanks to such a momentous turnout! In less than three hours, over fifty dens had popped up under the trees in Drinkwater Meadow and Knightslow Wood. There was such a variety in the size, shape and design of dens and it was great to see children (and grown-ups) getting stuck in and having fun. It was hard to pick out a favourite but we were particularly impressed with one design which included a purpose built annexe for hedgehogs! Good work.

If you’re looking for something fun to do with the family this summer then why not give 50 things a go. Den building is just one of the 50 things you can do at Lyme but you could also have a go at tracking wild animals, pond dipping and bird watching. Follow the links below where you can download a full list and also a map of the 50 things trail at Lyme. 


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Little Owl Spotted!

Mid afternoon on Saturday, Gary and I were on our way out of the park to carry out some boundary repairs. As we drove out of the gate at West Park drive and up towards Shrigley road, we suddenly spotted one of these little beauties perched on a fence post!

Little Owl - Athene noctua
It stayed there long enough for us to snap this picture before it took off across the field below. John has previously recorded Little Owls here at Lyme so it’s refreshing to know that they are still around and enjoying the surrounding farmland.

Take a look at John’s previous post on Little Owls for more information on these cute and compact little characters and let us know if you’ve spotted one this year at Lyme by dropping us an email or by commenting on this post.


Monday, 23 June 2014

New Arrivals at Lyme

If you find yourself out and about in the park or up on the moor at Lyme over the next few months, then you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of our new arrivals. It is now the time of year for our red and fallow deer to be giving birth!

A newborn fallow deer fawn closely followed by its mother in our fallow deer sanctuary.

Both deer species will usually produce a single offspring, known as a ‘fawn’ if it’s a fallow or a ‘calf’ if it’s a red. Shortly before giving birth, the pregnant hind (red) or doe (fallow) will seek an isolated spot, a short distance away from the rest of the herd. Once born, with a little bit of gentle encouragement from mum, the calf or fawn will be quick to find its feet and start suckling. The young of both species are born with a spotted coat and when lying motionless in tall grass it creates excellent camouflage. This adaptation enables them to remain concealed from potential predators while their mother is away feeding.

A hungry red deer calf leans in towards its mother to feed. 
Note its prominent white spots which will disappear with its first moult.

Within the first few weeks mum will also ensure its young remains scentless and undetectable through regular cleaning. A routine which includes… yes you guessed it… Eating poo! Nice. Seriously though, this careful attention can make the difference between life and death for these newborns.

One of our newborn red deer calves receiving a thorough hygiene check.

If you are fortunate enough to spot a fawn or calf, please ensure that you keep a suitable distance and that dogs are kept on a lead if you are walking through the fallow deer sanctuary or in areas of the park where the deer are prevalent. Getting too close will make them feel vulnerable and stressed, particularly at such a young and sensitive age.

To find out more about red and fallow or any of the other four species of deer found in Britain, take a look at the British Deer Society website where you can also download some fantastic information sheets: