A Walk in the Park: Happy New Year

In today’s post, Jason takes a closer look at Whitworth park, and the wildlife within it.

Where has the time gone? I can’t believe that it is 2019 already!

With a new year comes new opportunities, and often enough, new resolutions.

Here in Whitworth Park, you only need to look to discover what a new year brings to the great outdoors.

Life in Whitworth Park

Once known as Potter’s field (owned by Beatrix Potter’s uncle), Whitworth Park has been open to the public since 1890. Home to an abundance of wildlife, the park provides food, habitat and opportunities to its inhabitants. One of our most colourful residents can be heard screeching from the tree tops.

Can you find the parakeets in the park?

          A pair of parakeets sitting in Whitworth Park

 

Here is a closer look at what Parakeets look like:

 

Male and female ‘Ring-necked Parakeet’ or ‘Rose-ringed Parakeet’ (Psittacula krameri) images (Source: RSPB)

Do you think you would recognise the call of a Parakeet? Have a listen to the British-birdsongs UK recording below.

Rose-ringed Parakeet – Listen to me tweet

These green and vibrant birds can be seen anywhere from high in the canopies, nesting in tree holes or foraging for seeds, nuts and berries in urban gardens. Between January and June, Parakeets may be seen nesting and incubating their eggs inside tree holes.
Although Parakeets are not native to Manchester (or even to the UK) they have been established in the UK for some time. There has been much discussion as to how and when they first came to be.
Here are a few of my favourite theories below:

– Escaped birds from an aviary
– Jimi Hendrix was on narcotics and released a pair named Adam and Eve into the streets of London
– Parakeets escaped from the film set of ‘The African Queen.’

Although we’re not entirely sure of their origin in the UK, what we can be sure is they have been extremely successful in England, with the RSPB estimates reaching 8600 breeding pairs. From Manchester to South-East England, these birds can be seen widespread throughout England. So long as there are trees and habitats for them, ring-necked parakeets will continue to thrive.

A familiar tree

Speaking of trees, The Whitworth Park plays host to a diverse range of trees. From the vibrant colours of the red maple tree to the iconic drooping of the Weeping Willow trees, the park is filled with nature wonders to amaze everyone. A particularly interesting tree is the ‘London Plane’ that can be found commonly throughout the park.

Close view of the London Plane (Platanus acerifolia)

You might notice that the tree looks like it is flaking. London plane trees (or plane) have an interesting ability to retain pollutants in their bark and shed them, like we shed dead skin. The bark eventually thickens, breaks off and reveals a new layer of bark. As the process continues again and again, the tree begins to look slightly discoloured and patchy.

It could be suggested that Plane trees were planted to not only populate the urban spaces but to combat the heavy polluted conditions from the industrial revolution.

Plane trees can be seen in parks, cities and even along roadsides!

On your next visit to the park, why not try the University of Manchester’s treetrail to see what you can find in Whitworth Park.

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are a common sight in almost all urban areas of Manchester. They can be found across nature reserves, woodlands, parks and even gardens, living in nests called ‘Dreys.’

 

Squireel drey
Grey Squirrel next to its Drey (Source: BBC; Credit: Doug Wechsler/Naturepl.com)

These small mammals can usually be found foraging for nuts, acorns and bulbs during the day. However, they can also be seen exploring bins and/or food litter in urban areas.
In some cases, grey squirrels have been so acquainted with humans that they will scurry up close to people and look at us longingly for food. Although when they realise you have nothing to offer them, they will begin to leave and readjust their attention elsewhere.

 

A wild squirrel appears, catches the attention of a passerby and leaves

 

Grey squirrels were originally introduced from North America, in the late 1800s, to Britain and other parts of Europe. Since their introduction into the UK, grey squirrels have been extremely successful and have out-competed our native red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), restricting most of them to Ireland, Scotland and the northern parts of England. Grey squirrels are not only larger and better adapted to our urban landscapes, but are also carriers of the ‘Squirrel pox virus.’ The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has estimated that red squirrel numbers have declined from 3.5 million to 140,000 in around 150 years. Although the plight of red squirrel survival seems bleak, they are now among the protected species list in the UK. Conservation efforts from organisations such as the RSPB, Wildlife trust and the National trust are being made to protect and ensure red squirrels have a stable home, so that future generations have the opportunity to see them in the wild, as we can today.

 

Red squiz
Red Squirrel eating an acorn (Source:  The Wildlife trusts/saving-species/red-squirrels)  

 

So what will your new year’s resolution be?
Travelling? Learning to play the piano? Or simply going for more walks? There are countless things to try this January, so why not start off with a stroll outdoors? It will be a walk in the park (bad pun intended).

 

You can find out more about Whitworth Park by joining us for Walking for Wellbeing, every Tuesday at 12pm.

 

 

 

 

 

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