Thursday, 26 February 2015

Field Trip Report Corsham Park Estate

Bath Natural History Society  on We]dnesday 18th
February 2015.
Leader: Paul Wilkins.

Twenty six of us, including three members of the public who’d read the article about Bath
Nats in BBC Wildlife Magazine, met on a very pleasant bright and sunny morning in the
dedicated car park off Lacock Road. On entering the estate Paul gave a very brief history of
the park telling us that it was acquired by Paul Methuen in 1745 and is still in the ownership
of the Methuen family today. The original landscape was designed by Lancelot Brown in
circa 1759 in-keeping with the 'pastoral' fashion of the day. It was later improved and
redesigned by Humphry Repton in 1778, this included the planting of several thousand trees
and the construction of the existing lake.

Walking across to the lake we were treated to a number of winter visitors including a pair of
very shy Goosander who remained on the far side of the lake. There were better views of two
or three pairs of Shoveler duck along with a pair of Great Crested Grebe who briefly showed
us a preview of their unusual courtship display. Canada Geese, Mallard, Coot and a few
hybrid ducks made up the rest of the waterfowl. There were also a number of gulls on the
lake, mostly Black-headed Gulls with the odd juvenile Herring and Lesser Black-back Gull
dotted amongst them.

Paul then turned our attention to the magnificent mature Oak trees and suggested that these
were probably part of the original planting from the late seventeenth century. A number of
these had started to become 'stag-headed' and produce epicormic growth on the trunk and
lower branches – a natural process as the tree ages, which in time will form a lower crown as
the tree diminishes in height. Paul also informed us that a number of species of moths and
other insects lay their eggs on or close to the buds so that the young larvae can take advantage
of the early food supply as soon as the bud begins to open, giving them an early advantage
over later emerging species. However, despite a short time searching no insect eggs were

Our walk then continued northwards toward a narrow strip of woodland which formed part of
the so called 'North Walk' originally designed by Lancelot Brown. The landscape here was in-
keeping with the rest of the estate and was dominated by fully mature and over mature Oaks
punctuated here and there with the mature European Lime and Horse Chestnuts and it was
high up in one of these trees that someone spotted a single Stock Dove and with the aid of a
telescope we were given a reasonable view of this very shy member of the pigeon family.

Bird activity was unusually quiet for the time of year and our hope of seeing a Little Owl in
this almost perfect habitat for them was not forthcoming despite many pairs of binoculars
searching the branches of the distant Oaks. Other species of birds that were seen included a
Common Buzzard flying overhead, a number of Redwings feeding in the distant grassland
and singletons of Carrion Crow, Rook, Magpie and Jackdaw. Later on a Green Woodpecker
was disturbed and flew off low towards the adjoining woodland where both Nuthatch and
Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard but not seen.

Alan Rayner pointed out the mosaic of many different species of Lichen growing on the
trunks and branches of many trees as well as the fruiting bodies of tree-inhabiting fungi such
as Southern Bracket (Ganoderma austral) and Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme).

On our return to the car park a number of members were lucky enough to spot a Mistle
Thrush to round off the still bright and sunny morning.

Paul Wilkins

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