A favourite activity of most birders visiting this location is to go for a so-called hat-trick of Woodpeckers, by seeing the Green, Great Spotted (GSW) and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (LSW) all on the same day - a tough assignment when I've only ever seen one before, but I knew there would always be plenty of other interesting things to see here such as the deer, as well as good views of Nuthatches and perhaps Treecreepers.
I had only been driving for about five minutes when I realised I'd left my National Trust membership card at home and, without it, parking would either be expensive or very difficult. So I turned off the East Lancs Road and went down a cut through back towards Astley Green in order to return home.
However, as soon as I approached Higher Green Lane I noticed a Kestrel flying very low over the fields here and, as the sky was blue and almost cloudless at this point, I decided to try for some photographs. The best of what I got are shown here:
Later I also got a Lapwing and a Goldfinch in the same area:
After this short but very enjoyable distraction, I returned home for my card and then set off once again for Dunham Massey Park. The first bird of note I saw was a Grey Heron high up in a tree on the north western edge of the Moat pond.
After getting my entry ticket (free to NT members), I walked under the entrance arch and soon spotted two Buzzards circling high up over the formal garden in front of the house.
I set off along Charcoal Drive where there were many Fallow Deer grazing on the grass.
Whilst taking this photograph I could hear a Green Woodpecker near the Smithy Pool. Today was also Jackdaw-city here at Dunham. These noisy birds were 'chacking' everywhere I went.
I saw a male Kestrel on the way to the Deer Barn, but there were no Green Woodpeckers on the anthills here today. However I could still hear one (and later several more) and so I made my way in the direction of the 'yaffling'. This took me back to the Smithy Pool.
Here I accidentally flushed a Green Woodpecker from the ground which then flew into a tree in the fenced off area near here. I fired off a couple of shots, but got nothing worth showing - however, they were enough to say I saw a Green Woodpecker today.
There was also a beautiful male Kestrel sitting in the same tree, although it could have been the same one that I has seen earlier - it flew out of the fenced area and into a tree on the edge of Smithy Pool.
After hanging around for half an hour or so and hearing but not seeing the Green Woodpecker again, I decided that was going to be it for today. I headed off back across Charcoal Drive towards the old Slaughterhouse building where I immediately spotted this Nuthatch working a tree outside it.
This is my best picture of the day - a classic Nuthatch downward pose.
This Carrion Crow also flew directly over me outside the Slaughterhouse.
After having a look at the displays inside the Slaughterhouse, I crossed over Main Drive and made my way to the Island Pool where there was a Mute Swan and a single pair of Tufted Ducks looking very picturesque amongst the lilies.
After walking round the pool I found this Blackbird gathering worms from under the trees on the edge of the Deer Park. I wondered if it could possibly have any young yet?
Finally I set off towards the Obelisk looking for the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. As I looked around I saw a Song Thrush on the ground and another Nuthatch, a Great Tit and some Blue Tits in the trees. And then I saw it! A flash of black and white and a bit of red. I took a few pictures as record shots and I thought I'd cracked it, patting myself on the back for an excellent find. Now I only needed the GSW for the hat-trick.
I followed the bird as it flew around from tree to tree, trying to get a better photograph. Whilst looking up amongst the treetops for where it had landed, a National Trust Ranger approached me and asked if I'd seen the LSW, to which I said 'Yes'. We chatted for a while about birds and he showed me a fresh hole which had been made by one and then told me someone had videoed it making this hole and put it on YouTube. Here's the video:
We looked up at another hole at the top of a large grey-barked Beech Tree and two GS Woodpeckers landed on it as we spoke, with one going into the hole. 'Great - there's my hat-trick', I thought to myself.
The Ranger went on to tell me lots of stuff about the wildlife and trees in this area and I even learnt a new word today - epicormic, the name for the growth of vegetation around the trunks of Lime and other trees. And after that we parted company and I went home happy, for a while anyway.
However, when I closely examined the one decent photograph I had at home, it was actually a Great Spotted Woodpecker that I had seen. How could I be so stupid? It was much too big for a LSW and I'd mixed the wing patterns up - it seems I scored an own goal rather than getting a hat-trick. Unfortunately, I'd already made report on the Manchester Birding Forum before I realised this, and I haven't worked up the courage to tell them I was wrong yet!
Well, it seems I didn't get to see the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker after all today, so that just gives me a reason for going back to this great place. For now I'll have to make do with this video of one excavating the hole in a tree here - at least I saw the actual hole today!
Here's what my Dunham Massey Park map looks like now:
View Dunham Massey Park in a larger map
It's a great place and a fantastic half or full day out, even if you only walk around the park. There's a public right of way through the middle of the park, so you don't even need to pay as long as you can find somewhere safe and sensible to park your car.
I couldn't write this post without including some more photos of the wonderful deer here, which roam freely in amongst the people throughout the park as well as having their own sanctuary areas.