Winter wildlife at Croft Castle
Senior Gardener, Jonathan Kellett, reveals more about the winter wildlife we look after here at Croft and what to look out for on your next visit.
'Winter can seem like a very quiet season when it comes to wildlife. There isn’t the all-pervading buzz of insects or the constant chatter of house martins over the garden but it is always busy and interesting if you know where to look.
In winter we get large flocks of finches that congregate together to forage around the parkland and arable fields. Recently we had the wonderful sight of an immense flock of bramblings – around 500 in total that landed en masse in the farmyard at Croft. Bramblings are northern cousins of the chaffinch and are similar in size and the males in particular are a beautiful orange colour with black and white patches. In the orchard we leave windfall apples on the ground for birds like redwing and fieldfare to feast on and our bird feeding area is always well stocked and busy with woodpeckers, nuthatches and siskins.
Tawny owls are very vocal at the moment – they are the ones responsible for the classic toowit – toowoo call which in fact is a male bird responding to a female. Sometimes when an owl is perched quietly in a tree in the daytime it can get discovered by the local robins and blackbirds who make a heck of a din to attract other small birds to add to the cacophony which generally moves the poor owl on to try and find a bit of peace.
Some of the Croft badgers also take advantage of the windfall apples and on a moonlit night it is great to watch them chomping away. It is reputed that some animals can get slightly tipsy on fermenting apples and our lot can’t seem to resist getting their fix in winter.
We always have to be on the lookout for creatures hunkering down somewhere quiet in the winter. When raking up debris and clearing overgrown areas we sometimes disturb toads and the occasional hibernating newt which are always put somewhere safe. Sometimes the toad will rise up on his legs and puff himself out to make himself look fierce which can look alarming. We also come across hibernating bats in the old cellars at Croft wrapped in their wings and hanging like some strange gothic fruit from ceilings.
Never a dull moment really – even in the depths of winter.'