Wonderful winter wildlife
While we're enjoying cosy nights in and drinking hot chocolate, out in estate our wildlife are surviving in the harsh wintery months.
Autumn was a season of abundance with plants producing plenty of berries and seeds, providing food for mammals and birds alike to stock up on energy reserves. Mammals, such as squirrels, will create caches of seeds and will revisit them when food sources are scarce. The craftier squirrels will watch others bury their acorns in order to steal them! You're sure to see plenty of squirrels scurrying around our grounds.
As we move into winter, many of the birds you would have seen earlier in the year will have flown south. However, if you look around, you may be able to see kestrels and buzzards circuling up in the sky.
In order to save their limited food resources, there are three types of mammals that will hibernate for the winter at Shugborough; dormice, hedgehogs and bats. Hibernation is a type of deep sleep where the body temperate and heart rate drops to a minimum to conserve energy. We have a variety of bat species here at Shugborough that can often be seen swooping overhead.
In the summer harvest mice will weave small grassy nests in the shape of a tennis ball suspended in tall grasses or reeds to rear their offspring. By the autumn, the young mice will have left the nest and have moved on to creating new nests closer to the ground, where it is warmer during the winter months.
This is a time when our rangers undertake our scrub management on our grassland and heathland sites. They will reduce the amount of scrubby species, such as bramble and birch, to promote the growth of certain grassland species. Here at Shugborough, we do not have bonfires to burn the arisings, as this would damage the grassland. Instead, we create habitat piles. Dead woody materials are a great habitat for invertebrates and can provide shelter for hibernating reptiles and amphibians. So, be sure to keep an eye out both high and low to see what animals you can spot as you walk thorough Shugborough.