Summer wildlife at Belton

A bumble bee amongst the lavender in the Dutch garden at Belton House, Lincolnshire

Belton bathed in cloudless skies and warm sunshine is glorious, and it’s not only our human visitors who enjoy the added warmth and longer daylight hours. The summer heralds plenty of new arrivals around the park, whether they’re newborn or fully-fledged.

Fawns

With the previous autumn’s rut nothing but a dim and distant memory, the deer herd have overwintered as best they can. The warmer weather and all the new growth that it brings means the bucks will be eating their fill – recovering lost condition, casting their antlers, and putting on as much weight as they possibly can.

Stroll quietly through West Park and you may spot a fawn
Fallow deer fawn hidden in nettles in parkland at Charlecote
Stroll quietly through West Park and you may spot a fawn

It is vital that the fawns are left undisturbed by humans or dogs at this time of year. They haven’t been abandoned, far from it – they’re just waiting for mum to come back from feeding. Once the fawns are strong enough, they’ll run with the rest of the does and fawns in the herd and be fully weaned by the time the rut comes around again in October.

Walk quietly through West Park and see if you can spot the new fawns
Fallow deer doe with fawn in parkland at Charlecote Park
Walk quietly through West Park and see if you can spot the new fawns

Swifts, swallows, and house martins

When these chatterboxes perform their aerial acrobatics over Belton’s Oval again, you know that summer has well and truly arrived.

Common swift perched on the fence
Common Swift on fence
Common swift perched on the fence

Sometimes easily confused, the swallows have white bibs, red chins, and long streamers to their tails; the swifts are a dark-blue all over (even underneath) and make a distinctive screaming noise as they wheel overhead, and the house martins have white bibs but a much less showy v-shaped tail.

Migrating swallows flying overhead
Migrating Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) flying overhead
Migrating swallows flying overhead

The birds you see at Belton arrive in the UK from Southern Africa; they fly vast distances of up to 200 miles a day in a migration route that takes them all the way across the Sahara.

Young swallows ready to fledge the nest.
Swallow chicks in nest made of mud and straw under the eaves of a rooftop.
Young swallows ready to fledge the nest.

Butterflies and wildflowers

Belton's butterflies and the wildflowers come hand-in-hand. Good early nectar sources, such as hawthorn trees and hedges, play an essential part in supporting the butterfly and moth populations, as do the wildflowers and flowering grasses found across the parkland. Look out for whites, orange tips, common and holly blues, peacocks, small tortoiseshells, and speckled woods, to name but a few.

Common Blue
Common Blue Butterfly
Common Blue

Livestock

And finally, we’re always happy to welcome back the ewes and lambs, and this year the Hereford and Charolais cattle to the park. These animals play such an important part in helping to manage Belton’s grassland habitats sustainably.

Without livestock, the ranger team would be battling rank grasses and mountainous spoil heaps from the healthy population of meadow ants (great for the green woodpeckers!). But with their help and in partnership with local graziers, Belton’s rangers can keep the parkland healthy and in balance without the need for any drastic intervention. The livestock look pretty happy for it too.