Wildlife Column: Celebrating Clumber Park herons

Clumber Park Heron
Clumber Park Heron

The National Trust’s Clumber Park remains one of the best and easiest walks in the region with plenty of wildlife to see and views to admire. A walk around the lake for example provides abundant opportunities to spot birdlife of both woodland and open water.

In winter, the area teems with ducks, swans, geese, and both moorhens and coots in good numbers. Nearby woods have winter flocks of finches such as chaffinch, and of coal tits, great tits and blue tits.

As these birds forage noisily and excitedly through the woodland edge, they are joined by tree-creepers, nuthatches, and goldcrests in a busy search for food during the now short daylight hours. 

The lake is a focus of bird activity mixing placid calmness as ducks and geese laze away the day with their heads down on their backs or under their wings.

We see teal, mallard, tufted ducks and pochards in good numbers.
The geese are a mix of the non-native Canada geese introduced as an ornamental adornment to created landscapes in the 1600s and 1700s, and feral reintroduced) grey lag geese. The latter is the ancestor of our domestic geese but now only found truly ‘wild’ in Scotland.

Elsewhere, the birds were reintroduced from captive stock and are often semi-tame. When something disturbs them, the geese begin to be

restless and eventually rise up as noisy flocks and head out to the surrounding grasslands and fields to feed. Around the water’s edge groups of coots and moorhens scurry about, seemingly anxious and in a hurry. I presume they are looking for food.

Our heaviest flighted bird, the mute swans flying into the lake provide an aura of serenity as their drop into their chosen spot by the lakeside.
As they do so, they disturb a grey heron which rises up like something prehistoric and croaks a harsh, guttural sound; a noise in keeping with the almost reptilian nature of the bird.

Slow-flapping, the bird drifts low over the water to rise up and perch in a nearby treetop from which lofty position it watches me warily.