circa.4300 BC to 2019 AD
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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
                   July / 2019 - Michael Ryan

Bradgate Park with some of its 800 deer herd             Image: M. Ryan



    Extending our break after attending a wedding in Leicestershire in the Midlands of
England we got to see some of the local area. Leicestershire itself has idyllic picturesque
farmland with softly rolling hills and dales, neat cereal fields, old solitary oaks and
hedgerows overflowing with Hawthorn and Elder flowers. With lots of well-established
woods comprising mostly native broadleaved trees in the county there are also some
sizeable estates and parks one of which,
    Bradgate Park, is a former deer park of 830 acres
with a current herd of around 550 animals, mostly Fallow but also some Red deer. There
was in abundance all around the park many Yellowhammers. In Ireland these lovely bright
yellow birds are usually found around cereal fields, usually in the east of the country and
more common in the horticultural areas north of county Dublin and parts of Wicklow and
Wexford but in Bradgate they were singing from rocks in heath land, from walls and from conifer trees, delightful numbers of them singing the song which is often described as sounding like ‘A little bit of bread and no cheese’. A Cuckoo called, we saw Stonechats and Reed Bunting while Skylarks piped out their wondrous cascade of notes from above us.

Yellowhammer singing from Hawthorn in
Bradgate Park Image: M. Ryan

Ancient hollow Oak at Bradgate Park
Image: M. Ryan



 Bradgate Park was the family home of Lady Jane Grey, one of Henry VIII’s illfated wives. the redbrick ruins of the substantial house still stand and niches and alcoves in the walls provide a home for a historically dramatic plant, Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade, known for its reputation as a deadly poison. Much more benign are the spectacular ancient oak trees which grow throughout the park.
    Many over 500 years old some of them are
 literally shells, totally hollow on the inside. You could comfortably fit three or four people inside the trunk of some of them but since the tree’s growth comes through the bark not the wood they still survive, grow and bear leaves. We stayed a few nights in the charming town of Oakham in Rutland. Rutland, adjoining Leicestershire, is the smallest county in the UK but it holds the largest man-made lake in the country at Rutland Water.
    Large areas of the county were flooded in 1976 to provide a fresh water reservoir to supply the East Midlands, submerging farmland and villages but now the lake has developed into a valuable wildlife habitat with two visitor centres, acres of reed beds and many managed habitats on its shores.
    Rutland Water is internationally important for the number of birds that winter there but it’s best known as the place where Ospreys, fish eating eagles, were reintroduced into England in 1996 with chicks brought from breeding populations in Scotland. There’s always a possibility that Ospreys might be bred in Ireland. In the past they’ve spent days feeding at Broud Lough in County Wicklow and many of our lakes and waterways would be ideal for these spectacular creatures.