Natural History

Herschel Park offers a haven to a vast array of plants trees and animals.  Within the park there are number of diverse habitats which range from woodland areas, a wild flower meadow, lakes, ponds and boggy areas.  Animals found in the park range from foxes, Muntjac Deer and rabbits to Meadow Brown Butterflies, grasshoppers and dragonflies.  A whole spectrum of birds can be found in the park ranging from mallard ducks, blue tits, woodpeckers to kestrels found in the nature reserve.

Photo of beams of sunlight coming through trees in Herschel Park

Habitats

The wildlife habitats of Hershel Park range from the formal parkland area s together with its lakes to more informal ponds and boggy area and from areas of meadowland to areas of woodland and thick scrub.  Each different habitat provides a home for a diverse range of flora and fauna.  In some cases however there is some overlap. 

Herschel Park has areas of dense woodland and vegetation especially on the margins between the formal park and the nature reserve area.  These trees provide homes for animals ranging from invertebrates such as beetles to mammals such are squirrels and small and large birds such as blue tits and woodpeckers. 

Adjacent to the historic park is the Herschel Park Nature Reserve.  This area has been allowed to grow naturally on top of a 1960’s rubbish dump.  This area consists of a patchwork of grassland and scrub which is dense in places which is intermixed with young trees including some planted in the last twenty years.     Large areas of the nature reserve are covered in brambles.  Its fruits are a good food source for birds, butterflies, insects and also humans. The nature reserve forms an important habitat and nesting site for animals such as birds, rabbits, foxes and deer.

Within the nature reserve there is a large wild flower meadow which is rich in wild animals, plants and flowers.  Flowers and plants found within the meadow include Ox Eye Daisy, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, thistles and Lesser Knapweed.  These plants provide food and shelter for a large number of animals ranging from kestrels and green woodpeckers to butterflies, grasshoppers and small mammals such as voles and shrews.

The historic park has two lakes which, over time, dried out and the recent restoration led to them being filled with water once more.  Shortly after the restoration two informal ponds were created together with a boggy area.  In the area of the lakes a number of water birds can be found such as Canada Geese, Mallard ducks,and Moorhens also occasionally Mandarin ducks , Egyptian geese and a Heron.   A great variety of plants can be found growing around the margins of these lakes and ponds including Water Mint, Ragged Robin and Marsh Marigold.   These watery and boggy areas are full of wildlife many of which cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Those which can be seen include Dragonflies, pond skaters, water beetles and snails.

Photo of trees and plants in Herschel Park

Trees and plants

The trees in the historic part of Herschel Park mostly date from the later Victorian and Edwardian periods.  A tree survey conducted as part of the restoration of the park documents the ages of the trees found in the park.  The survey showed that hardly any of the trees in the park from its original layout, however, there are some oak trees which date from this time.  These oak trees were indigenous to England and some date to over 1000 years.  The park also has specimen oaks which were introduced into England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such as the Holm, Turkey and Lucombe Oaks.  A yew and an ash tree were planted in the 1850s. 

There are a number of trees which planted before the park was created including a three hundred year old Horse Chestnut tree which predates the park by over 150 years having been planted in c.1700. There is also a Turkey Oak and in English Oak which date from c.1780

The 1880s onwards saw a number of specimen and ornamental trees being introduced into the park which seems to have been the vogue throughout the country with many new and interesting species being planted in the late Victorian period. 

Trees which date from this period include a triple stemmed Deodar Cedarand a Monkey Puzzle tree.  The Herschel Park Monkey Puzzle tree would have been exceptionally new when planted as they were only brought this country from the 1830s onwards.  A new Monkey Puzzle tree has been planted close to the edge of the lake in the park as part of the restoration.

On the edge of lake a fine example of a swamp cypress which was also an indigenous species in England but was wiped out in the ice age and brought back to England in the 1640s.

The Herschel Park Nature Reserve is very much more informal in comparison to the historic park. This area has a number of trees which were part of the natural regeneration of the area from the 1960’s onwards.  They are intermixed with areas of scrub and grassland and there are large areas which are covered with brambles and other dense vegetation.  There are a number of young trees which were only planted in the last ten years. 

To learn more about Herschel Park’s trees please pick up a leaflet at the park kiosk or download a copyThe Herschel Park Tree Trail via the link at the bottom of this page.

Photo of a kestrel a blue tit a pair of mallard ducts and a woodpecker

Birds

Herschel Park is a great place to see birds of differing sizes ranging from the common to the rare.  The Herschel Park lakes are the centre-piece of the park and are where you find ducks of both the Mandarin and the Mallard varieties.  .  As you walk through the park you will encounter many species of birds – this is a summary of some of the birds which you might see in the park and its environs. 

The Mandarin duck is very colourful and exotic looking species and was originally an escapee from a collection of rare waterfowl which has bred in the wild and can now be found all parts of southern England.   The Mallard Duck is probably the most common duck found in England and all domestic ducks originate from the mallard. 

Since the restoration a family of Canada Geese have made their home on the Herschel Park Lake.  They were introduced into Britain some three hundred years ago when they were first put on to a lake in St James’s Park in London as part of King James II’s waterfowl collection.  These birds are known to breed in large numbers and will have to be managed in the future. 

Around the park itself more common birds can be found such as the Blackbird – which is one of the most visible members of the thrush family.  Males can sometimes be heard in the park singing loudly in the hours of darkness.  Blue tits are also present in the park and are the most common member of the tit family and will use any suitable sized hole to nest in.  A number of nesting boxes have been placed in trees right across the park. High quality designer replica watches uk store offers top brand watches.

Robins can also be seen hopping and flying around the park they are very tame and may come very close up to you.  One rarity one might encounter in park are parakeets which originate from a pair released in Slough some twenty years ago. 

The Herschel Park Nature Reserve boasts a number of different birds to the ones found in the historic park.  A bird rare to inland areas of England called a Cetti’s Warbler has been spotted on the margin between the historic park and nature reserve.  These are normally only found in small numbers in SW England, along the SE coast and in Norfolk.

Within the nature reserve kestrels can be found hovering over this wild area as it hunts for prey such as small mammals, lizards or small insects.  Kestrels’ nests are often found in buildings and adjacent to motorways.  The Green Woodpecker can be seen and heard in both the historic park and the nature reserve.  They nest in trees and feed on ants as well as wood-boring insects, beetles, moths and flies. 

Photo of a fox a pippistelle bat a muntjac deer and a slow worm

Mammals

Herschel Park provides a home and feeding ground for mammals both small and large.  As you walk through the Historic Park you will see a few grey squirrels leaping up trees and scurrying across the lawns – sometimes they are seen eating nuts or even drinking water at the edge of the lakes.  On the nature reserve if you are quiet you may spot some rabbits or even some smaller mammals such as shrews or voles especially in the wild flower meadow,

At dusk midges around the ponds and lakes swarm in the summer and the occasional Pipistrelle Bat flits across the park, sometimes catching a midge or two.   As night falls other animals start to emerge such as foxes, though sometimes they can be seen in the daytime.  The fox can be seen both in the wildlife area and also in the historic park and sometimes will penetrate even further into Upton Park Estate.  They are especially fond of left over takeaways which have been left by humans.  In the wild foxes will eat fruit such as blackberries found on brambles, invertebrates, small mammals and birds.  There are also some Muntjac Deer in the park which live in the dense vegetation between.

In the nature reserve and especially in the wild flower meadow, makeshift meadow grass tunnels can be seen which were made by smaller mammals such as shrews and Field Voles.  Field Voles favour an overgrown grassy habitat and feed on insects, snails and other invertebrates.  Their nests can be found in both burrows and above ground.

 If you listen at night or some times during the day you may hear loud barking sounds as one deer communicates with another – this can last up to twenty minutes at one time.  They feed on leaves, buds, berries, acorns, chestnuts, seeds, bark and grasses all of which can be found in abundance in Herschel Park.

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Bugs and other insects

Although the whole of Herschel Park is absolutely teaming with insects, at first glance it is not really possible to spot these too easily.  It is only when you closely observe the actual floor of the park or watch those flying through the air that this class of animal comes into its own.  Like all other wildlife found in the park some prefer different habitats  which are found in the park  and some will be found in one or more of them .  Here are is an overview of insects which you may in the park.

The ponds, lakes and wetland areas of the park are busiest with insects during the spring and summer months.  These include the mayfly, damsel fly and midge nymphs, who live in the lakes and ponds.  Their life, however, is short lived as a flying insect – after mating it dies.  Similarly the lakes and ponds are home to dragonfly larvae and its nymphs.  These nymphs live in the water between one and three years.  When fully grown, in late spring or early summer the nymphs leave the water by climbing up emergent vegetation or partly-submerged twigs, dry their wings before taking their maiden flights. Other insects found in Herschel Park’s ponds include the water strider, water boatman and back swimmers, water beetles and snails. 

The wooded areas of Herschel Park are home to a whole range of insects ranging from beetles to butterflies and moths in all stages of growth. More moths however can be spotted at night time.  Beetles like woodland in particular and make their homes in dead wood

In the Wildflower Meadow area of the nature reserve a whole array of different species can be found.  During the spring and summer months both butterflies and moths are seen these range from the Meadow Brown butterfly to the very colourful Burnet Six Spot Moth.  You will also find insects such as leaf bugs and shield bugs which have very colourful wing cases. Also in summer months crickets and grasshoppers can both be seen and heard in the wildflower meadow.  Bees can be seen pollinating the flowers throughout the park. 

Also many ‘creepy crawlies’ can be found in all the habitats we have looked at , these include Earwigs, Centipedes and millipedes who hide in dark damp places and eat smaller insects for food.  Down in the earth are earthworms who eat dead plant materials and soil. There also several varieties of slugs and snails which inhabit the park both on land and in water. All in all the animals of Herschel Park are extremely diverse.

To learn more about Herschel Park’s animals and plants please pick up a leaflet at the park kiosk or download The Herschel Park Nature Trail via the link at the bottom of this page.