Wildlife

At Park Cliffe we try to keep the environment as natural as possible, so that you can enjoy the abundance of wildlife that surrounds us.

Here are some of the species you might see during your visit.

Live on the park, but you will be very lucky to see one as they come out after dark. The main thing to remember when you go badger watching is that badgers are usually frightened of people. This is because badgers have been hunted and cruelly treated by people for hundreds of years. So if a badger thinks that there are people about, it stays in its sett.

There are slow worms (a legless lizard and not a worm at all) in the quieter parts of the park, but you will have to be very quiet to catch sight of one. Slow worms look superficially like snakes, but are actually legless lizards. One way to identify them is to see if they have eyelids. Lizards (and therefore slow worms) do while snakes are lidless. Slow-worms are semi-fossorial (burrowing) lizards spending much of the time hiding underneath objects. The skin of the varieties of slow-worm is smooth with scales that do not overlap one another. Like many other lizards, slow-worms autotomize, meaning that they have the ability to shed their tails in order to escape predators. The tail regrows, but remains smaller. These reptiles are mostly active during the twilight and occasionally bask in the sun, but are more often found hiding beneath rocks and logs. They are carnivorous and, because they feed on slugs and worms, they can often be found in long grass and other damp environments.

Buzzards soar over the park, their mewing cries are quite distinctive. The buzzard is easily distinguished from all other species of hawk by its size alone. The wingspan may vary between 48 inches to 60 inches with a body length of some 20 inches. Its plumage is a rich brown, with lighter markings beneath. In flight the wings have a ragged, moth-like appearance as this bird glides to and fro at a tremendous height. It is a slow flier, and has little chance of catching its prey on the move. The usual tactics which it adopts is to perch motionless on a branch of a large tree, its markings being excellent camouflage, rendering it almost invisible. It is a patient bird, quite content to sit for hours at a time until a young rabbit, a rat or a mouse chances to pass beneath it. Then it will swoop down on to its unsuspecting prey.

There are a lot of birds around the park. Some of the more obvious ones are robin, blackbird, song thrush, wren, blue tit, great tit, jay and great spotted woodpecker. Swallows and House Martins nest on the main buildings of the park and dash back and forth catching insects. In the spring they can be seen collecting mud to make their nests with. You may be able to see the chicks in the nests.The House Martin is a small bird with glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white under parts. It has a distinctive white rump with a forked tail and, on closer inspection, white feathers covering its legs and toes. Swallows are small birds with dark glossy blue backs, red throats, pale under parts and distinctive tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing.

Deers come out of the woods to graze on the grass, especially when the park is less busy. The Roe deer is the most common in the park. Roe deer are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent “lying up”, which is where the deer lies down to ruminate between feeding bouts.

There are a lot of trees on the park, the main kinds are oak, sycamore, alder, ash, holly and hazel. Lots of the trees are covered with a grey-green mossy growth. These are lichens, they grow in places where the air is clean and are a speciality of the Lake District. Walls and trees also have things growing on them, ivy, mosses and ferns. They tell us that the air is often damp (just in case you hadn’t noticed!)