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Deer rutting and birdwatching at Dunham Massey

The National Trust estate of Dunham Massey is a treat for wildlife lovers in so many ways, whether its birdwatching or deer rutting that you’re interested in.

Located in the borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester near Altrincham, the Dunham Massey gardens and parkland is an excellent place to explore, whether on your own, with friends or with kids.

Due to lockdown restrictions and tiers, it is essential to book ahead at certain times so always check before you visit. Dunham Massey is free to National Trust members.

Fallow deer in front of house, Dunham Massey

A big draw at any time of year is the wonderful fallow deer population that roam the estate. They really come into their own in autumn when the rutting season starts, something I was privileged to see this year.

When does the deer rut take place?

The deer rut takes place in October to November and it is essentially their dating season. The stags (males) round up the hinds (females) in order to stake their claim on them for mating purposes.

During this season, stags will charge around to ward off rivals as well as running parallel to each other to size up the competition. The more dramatic displays are made by bellowing and locking antlers together in a physical challenge.

Fallow deer stags rutting at Dunham Massey

l saw this display between two stags midway through October, down by the deer barn. Always keep your distance from rutting stags and stick to the paths. Sometimes people do get injured by deer if they get too close so respect their space.

Fallow deer stag defending his mate at Dunham Massey

After they’ve fought, the stags guard their hinds by patrolling around and sniffing them like this male, after he won his battle.

Read more: 12 things you should know about the deer rutting season

Fawn at Dunham Massey

Look out for young fawns protected within the herds of deer, they are very cute!

Some parts of the park are closed off during rutting and breeding seasons but the animals can still be seen around the grounds.

Birdwatching at Dunham Massey

Jackdaw feeding off a fallow deer stag, Dunham Massey

The deer herd are a great place to start to look for birds, and jackdaws love to feed on the insects that live on them.

Green woodpecker, Dunham Massey

Green woodpeckers also love to feed on the ground churned up by the deer at the barn. Dunham Massey and Tatton Park are some of the best places around Manchester to see green woodpeckers because of this.

Ponds and pools at Dunham Massey

Tufted duck, Dunham Massey

There are various pools and ponds like the Old Man Pool, Island Pool and Smithy Pool that are great places to see waterfowl. Tufted ducks love to live in all of them.

Mute swan and mallards at Dunham Massey

Mute swans and mallards love the pools too.

Coot and black-headed gulls at Dunham Massey

Coots and black-headed gulls especially love the Smithy Pool.

Moorhen at Dunham Massey

Moorhens love to skulk about in the undergrowth around the pools.

Grey heron at Dunham Massey

Above the Smithy Pool I found this grey heron surveying the landscape.

Canada geese at Dunham Massey

Canada geese love both the Old Man Pool and the Smithy Pool.

Male shoveler at Dunham Massey

Migratory ducks visit too and there was a male shoveler feeding in the Old Man Pool.

Dunham Massey Hall

Pair of cormorants at Dunham Massey

In the lake next to the hall, cormorants feed and dry their wings.

Grey wagtail at Dunham Massey

On the walls around the lake, grey wagtails patrol looking for insects to snack on.

Raven at Dunham Massey

Carrion crows like to gather in the trees next to the hall, and sometimes a raven will also turn up!

Blue tit at Dunham Massey

The hall itself attracts birds and I found a blue tit perched on a pipe.

Pied wagtail on the roof at Dunham Massey

Pied wagtails love the roof and the make sure to check to see if they’re feeding there.

Dunham Massey gardens

Blackbird in Dunham Massey gardens

The Dunham Massey gardens that are attached to the house are a great place to find birds. It’s better to go when it isn’t too busy as you’ll see a lot more, like this beautiful blackbird. Song thrushes also feed in the bushes.

Robin in Dunham Massey gardens

Let’s face it, no garden is complete without a robin and they love foraging in the soil here.

Wren in Dunham Massey gardens

You’ll never be far from a wren either.

Goldcrest in Dunham Massey gardens

If you’re very lucky, you’ll even find the elusive goldfinch lurking in the bushes!

Dunham Massey trees and parkland

Long-tailed tit at Dunham Massey

There are plenty more birds in the parkland, like groups of chattering long-tailed tits.

Nuthatch at Dunham Massey

In the trees, you can see nuthatch and great spotted woodpeckers too.

Dunham Massey fields

Rook at Dunham Massey

Next to the parklands, in the fields that the stream runs through, look out for the rooks with their distinctive beaks that feed there.

White mandarin at Dunham Massey

On your way back out of the estate, look out for the white mandarin duck in the pond next to the stables. It sometimes travels to the Old Man Pool.

Mammals at Dunham Massey

Grey squirrel at Dunham Massey

Besides deer, there are grey squirrels galore that patrol the woodlands. Moles also dig up the ground so look out for them.

Molehill at Dunham Massey

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the secret wildlife of Dunham Massey and its park. Keep up-to-date with the sightings recorded at Dunham Massey on the Manchester Birding Forum depending on the time of the year.

Birds list for Dunham Massey:

  1. Blackbird
  2. Black-headed gull
  3. Blue tit
  4. Canada goose
  5. Carrion crow
  6. Coot
  7. Cormorant
  8. Goldcrest
  9. Great spotted woodpecker
  10. Great tit
  11. Green woodpecker
  12. Grey heron
  13. Grey wagtail
  14. House sparrow
  15. Jackdaw
  16. Jay
  17. Long-tailed tit
  18. Magpie
  19. Mallard
  20. Mandarin duck
  21. Moorhen
  22. Mute swan
  23. Nuthatch
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Raven
  26. Ring-necked parakeet
  27. Robin
  28. Rook
  29. Shoveler
  30. Song thrush
  31. Tufted duck
  32. Wood pigeon
  33. Wren

Woodcock, redpoll and green sandpiper have also been spotted here.

If you’re birdwatching with little ones then download my Birdy Bingo card game to see how many points you can score!

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What birds have you spotted in Dunham Massey? Share your sightings in the comments below!

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Deer rutting and birdwatching at Dunham Massey
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