Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Dry Stone Walling at Wallington

A sunny day was enjoyed by staff and volunteers at the dry stone walling training day lead by Wallington Rangers Tom and Matt. After Matt had explained the basics we all got stuck in clearing the stones back and preparing the area ready to relay the wall.

A short break was well deserved after all that heavy lifting.

The wall started to take sharp as a home was found for each stone.

We didn't quite get the wall finished as we ran out of stone, but we were all pleased with our days work. Thank you to Tom and Matt for teaching us the art of dry stone walling.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pond Life

For the forth Wildlife Wednesday of the summer holidays it was time to get the pond nets out. We had a perfect sunny day and lots of fun was had by children and adults delving into the depths of Gibsides historic Lily pond in the shadow of George Bowes' iconic Monument to Liberty.

The nets were cast into the pond to see what slimey treasures would be revealed.

After some wet toes and a hunt around for the
emergency pair of socks at the bottom of Mum's handbag...

...the wonderful, alien creatures of the pond...

Azure Damselfly

Southern Hawker Dragonfly
 ...and the air, could be identified!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Running Around in Circles

Roe deer are the only species of deer present here at Gibside and late summer is  their breeding season or 'Rut' as it is known.  Dominant bucks with their well developed antlers are busy patrolling and marking their territories by fraying young trees and scraping the ground with their feet as a warning to other trespassing bucks.  Fights occasionally break out between well-matched bucks and these can be brutal resulting in serious injury or even death for the loser.

Roebuck during a bout of rutting

Roe deer scrape done to leave scent from glands in feet

Tree 'frayed' by roebuck to leave scent from gland between antlers

Yearling does usually come into season first and the older does, with their new kids born during April and May, a few weeks later.  When in season the doe will be closely accompanied by the buck and they will endure bouts of chasing and games of 'follow the leader'.  The doe leads these chases followed closely by the buck, often nose to tail,  and often on reaching an object such as a tree, bush or hillock they will often chase around it in circles many times forming a well defined ring known as a 'Roe Ring'.

Roe doe with new kid

Roe deer ring around tree

All this rutting behaviour can take its toll on the bucks and between bouts they can sometimes be observed taking a well-earned rest.

All this rutting is tiring work

As you walk around Gibside or your own local woods you may be lucky to witness some of this behaviour or come across some of these signs.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Bird Ringing at the Stables

As part of the Wildlife Wednesday events over the summer holidays, Richard Barns a local bird ringer has been doing bird ringing demonstrations at the Stables. Richard rings birds all over the borough, logging vital data which he then passes onto the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). They then use the data to find out important statistics about bird population sizes and their breeding and migration patterns.

Thin nets called mist nets are set up along rides in wooded areas and checked regularly to see if anything has been caught. This is Richard with an early catch as he has five birds. The bags are used to keep the birds in a safe, calm place while they can be processed. Morning is the best time for bird ringing as it's when the birds are at their most active.

 Back in the court yard at the stables the birds are processed. This is where the birds get a ring gently put on their leg (the ring can move freely up and down and is just like you or me wearing a braclet) they are then weighed, their wing measured, sexed and aged. The birds colourations and feather patterns in their wings are used to tell their sex and age.


Female Great-Spotted Woodpecker in the hand

When the birds have been processed its time to release them. Sometimes the birds fly away straight away, but if your lucky they lie for a short time while they get used to their surroundings. They soon hop up though and fly away to get on with their day.

Catch Richard for one last time bird ringing at the Stables on 22nd August. You can also come along and pond dip with us on the 15th August and learn about animal tracks and signs on the 29th August.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mini Beast Hunting

Hollow Walk Mini Beast Hunt

It was a fairly overcast day when the time came for this years mini beast hunt, but this did not darken anyones enthusiasm. Fun was had be children and adults running round the meadow trying to catch something in their nets. The tricky part was identifying what the creepy crawly was!

Even the Rangers joined in with the fun, demonstrating through dance the different way that Drangonflies and Damselflies hold their wings.