Wollaton Park is one of Nottinghamshire’s finest wildlife reserves, and we are lucky enough to have this natural beauty on our doorstep. The parkland itself is well managed and manages to sustain hundreds of Fallow and Red Deer populations. The lake has a diversity of water birds, some of which are rarely seen in many parts of Britain. With this vast array of wildlife not a five minute walk from the University, it is the perfect place to forget all the stress of school and to take an afternoon off.
The Red Deer are regularly seen on the North side of the park, or on the southern side of Wollaton Hall hill. On the golf course, you can often see a large group of females grazing and getting in the way of the golfers trying to complete the 18 holes. While it is prohibited to go on the golf course, the Red Deer are normally so close to the main path that you can often see the odd sneaky young male trying his luck with the ladies. The young males, or bucks, will try and regularly fail to mate with the mothers and young females in the group. If you’d rather a closer look at some bigger and more impressive males in the deer population, I highly recommend walking to the south side of the house to see the older male group, or Lek. These males are fed on fodder beet to sustain themselves during winter when there is little nutrition in the grass.
When grazing, the males pay little interest to any human activities, allowing you to get a good look at their colossal antlers and observe their social life. Of course it should still be said, that despite the tame nature of these beasts, they are large, and well-armed. Treat all these animals with respect, and do not get too close. The females will be particularly protective over their young come spring, and after being told by a local walker that he had to fend a female off with his umbrella when she charged at him, I am always careful to keep my distance.
While the deer of Wollaton are something not to be missed, the birds on the lake are equally entertaining, and should be paid a visit by walking to the east end of the park. The coots are medium sized black diving birds, who will bob around the water before disappearing and coming back up with a bit of weed for lunch. The Mallard ducks are a more common breed, and can often be seen with a couple of females followed by a gang of males. The mallards have a heavy male bias, and so there is a lot of competition between males to partner up with any female that is available.
There are also the Great Grey Herons which are possibly one of the most regal residents of the park and can be found clustered on the island in the lake. It is unusual to have Herons grouping together quite like they do at the park, but with the abundance of insects, and fish in the lake, there is enough food to support them. At the moment, the males are all sitting at their nests, very still, and waiting for a female to choose them as a partner. Interestingly, and unusually, the males can also be choosy when picking a mate. If a female comes along to join him at the nest whom he does not approve, the male will express his lack of interest by violently chasing her away from his territory. When a lucky male has bagged himself a lady, the pair will tend to the nest together to prepare for spring. Come spring the male will then set out to work for the day, collecting food and carrying out important daily activities, while the female stays to keep up with the housework, and look after the children.
There is so much here at Wollaton Park, and I can guarantee that there will be something for everyone to see. I have restrained this guide to just a few of the animals who make Wollaton their home, but I can promise that every time you pay a visit, more wonderful animals will be seen, appreciated, and remembered. With spring looming, the most exciting times are to come as all the birds, deer, and other wildlife are preparing to father the next generation.
Featured and embedded images by Georgina Bray