Our outing today contained lots of surprises and mystery! The venue was Lotherton Hall and parkland, home to the Gascoigne family and now owned by Leeds City Council. The council has made a considerable effort in transforming the Hall and gardens into a Christmas attraction for families.
Our group of 16 started with a walk to the deer viewing hide and adjacent bird viewing area. There were good views of a Red deer stag and his harem from our path however the deer viewing hide was a disappointment as was the bird viewing area (not any nuts and seed in the feeders). We continued our perimeter walk along a green lane with mixed, laid hedgerows in both sides. Julia and her friends were able to identify a variety of small birds including robin, chaffinch, bullfinch, greenfinch, coal and blue tits. The party crossed an orchard of 100 trees. This was where Maddy started foraging for windfalls. The group had split by this time (what a surprise!). A small group visited the Wildlife Area and Bird Garden, the Humbolt penguins having been recently introduced as a top attraction. Julia's group amused themselves on the 12 Days Woodland Walk.
In the afternoon some of us choose to visit the House which was decorated with Christmas trees, cards and Christmas fare. There was a very personal touch to the decorations. Julia's group choose to spend time in the arboretum and gardens sprucing up their winter tree identification skills. Lady Gascoigne was a supporter of the plant hunters and the garden contains several exotic species. All in all this was a relaxed and entertaining day out enjoyed by the group in fairly pleasant weather conditions. 4 species were seen in flower by Alice also 2 ferns. 2 fungi species were identified by John.
The majority of the group proceeded to St Aidans with thoughts of seeing a short eared owl. Sadly they were disappointed and retreated to the visitor centre after a 35 minute search due to the cold weather conditions. They were seen there 5 weeks ago and are likely to return.
Thanks to Julia for driving and hopefully some pics also Marilyn and John for their help. Link to gallery