August 2019 - Is it a bird...?

Published : 04 Aug 2019

It is difficult to present a whole view of all aspects of a National Trust property like Chirk Castle: managing the house, the gardens and the estate is a constant balancing act, given unpredictable seasons, the number and nature of visitors and the need to make everyone’s visit a memorable one.

In past blogs we have looked out from the castle, and we have looked at the flora and fauna on the estate - a national Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): the flowers and fungi which we once took for granted are now cherished before they disappear forever. In this blog we will be looking at the many species of birds that also call the wider Chirk Castle estate home.

We have always thought of the birds which choose to use the Chirk Castle estate as their homes as a constant, reliable indicator of the changing seasons: the swifts and the swallows are often commented on by visitors when passing beneath the portcullis – some have even had to duck while impressive aerobatics are on show!

Ranger Keith Griffith (our very own Chris Packham!) recently issued the results of a Breeding Bird Survey from the British Trust for Ornithology, and he noted that there has been a noticeable drop in Swallow numbers, both here and elsewhere in the country. He tells us that there could be many reasons for this (the weather in March and April probably slowed their migration) but we’re hoping that this is just one poor year for them.

The last Breeding Bird Survey at Chirk Castle (taken in June this year) noted the numbers of some 28 species on the estate:

  • Mallard: 5
  • Red Kite: 1
  • Buzzard: 2
  • Swift: 53
  • Swallow: 7
  • Blackbird: 10
  • Wren: 12
  • Jackdaw: 46
  • Carrion Crow: 11
  • House Sparrow: 2
  • Robin: 4
  • Chaffinch: 5
  • Song Thrush: 3
  • Blackcap: 7
  • Goldfinch: 4
  • Woodpigeon: 7
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker: 1
  • House Martin: 9
  • Pied/White Wagtail: 1
  • Chiffchaff: 5
  • Coal Tit: 2
  • Blue Tit: 3
  • Nuthatch: 1
  • Mute Swan: 2
  • Greylag Goose: 2
  • Pheasant: 2
  • Coot: 1
  • Common Gull: 3
A greater spotted woodpecker high up in the branches
A greater spotted woodpecker high up in the branches
A greater spotted woodpecker high up in the branches

The good news is that the Swifts are back in good numbers – although probably delayed by the weather conditions of the early Spring.

The Chirk Castle estate offers and abundance of places to nest, such as the hammels and the pigsties behind Home Farm, the portcullis and Adam Tower clock, and the attic roof spaces and Laundries. The estate also provides ample foraging habitat such as the meadows and parkland – this is crucial for those birds which make it through their migration. Anyone who has been on the estate early in the morning will have seen how many species of birds are enjoying the developing areas of wildflower meadow, and the extra insect life this brings to the estate.

As the seasons change, the bird life on the estae changes with it. Looking ahead to September the Chirk Castle courtyard is often also used by House Martins as a space to gather before they start the long migration back South. Just another indicator of the passing seasons.