Spotting Berkshire wildlife at Donnington Grove
As well as a charming country house hotel, Donnington Grove encompasses a 500-acre estate. This mix of gardens, parkland, woods, river and lake offers endless opportunities to relax, reset and recharge.
The estate is alive with wildlife – looking out for it turns a walk into a richly-rewarding adventure. So here are our top tips for spotting Berkshire wildlife at Donnington Grove.
The bewitching River Lambourne chalk stream flows through Donnington Grove. With a bright gravel bottom and gin-clear water, it’s the perfect place to spot brown trout. Measuring 45–80cm, their speckled scales resemble a leopard’s spots. Brown trout eat insects and insect larvae as well as small fish and mammals. Look out for swirls and sudden disturbances in the water as trout feed – occasionally the fish jump out to catch insects.
When to spot: Year round. Summer evenings are a good time to see them feeding near the surface
Likelihood: How likely are you to spot one? 5/10 – but better if you keep your eyes peeled
As the name suggests, Canada geese are not amongst the native species of Berkshire wildlife. They were introduced in the early 1700s and are now common resident breeding birds. They’re also pretty big – about 50-95cm, with a wingspan of 1.5m. They’re fairly easy to identify, with a white tummy, grey-brown back, and a black neck and head, with white cheeks on either side.
When to spot: Year round Look out for their nests beside Donnington’s lake or see them in flocks flying overhead
Mute swans are among the most recognisable of the Berkshire wildlife at Donnington Estate. These graceful white birds glide the waterways, their curved necks stretching from bodies with fan-like wings, their slight heads featuring orange-red bills. They’re even bigger than Canada geese, measuring up to 150cm, their wingspan can be as big as 2m.
When to spot: Year round
Your tour of Berkshire wildlife wouldn’t be complete without the red fox. These russet-coloured mammals resemble small dogs (they’re a member of the same family), and have black-tipped ears and white-tipped tails. Foxes are increasingly common in towns and cities where they scavenge around bins, but Donnington is a much more natural environment.
When to spot: Year round. During the day foxes tend to hide out in their ‘earths’ or dens. Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot these cunning creatures as they head out to hunt
Sweet, fluffy, hopping rabbits are amongst the cutest of the Berkshire wildlife species. Although we think of them as being as British as roast beef, rabbits were actually only introduced to this country in the middle ages, as a fast-breeding source of fur and food. These days in busier parts of Donnington Estate you’re most likely to see them grazing first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
When to spot: Year round
The most recent arrival among Berkshire wildlife, muntjac deer were only introduced to this country in the early 1900s. It’s amazing to think the whole population in southern England are descended from muntjac that escaped from Woburn Park in Bedfordshire. They’re small for deer – about the size of a medium-to-large dog, and have dark stripes on their faces and short backward-facing, unbranched antlers.
When to spot: Year round. Dawn and dusk are your best times to see muntjac. Listen out too for their “bark” if they’re alarmed
The notoriously shy otter is among our hardest-to-spot species, despite being more plentiful than they were in the 1950s, when they were on the brink of extinction in the UK. These expert swimmers can dive under the water for several minutes, helped by the fact that they can close their ears and nose when submerged. Their tick fur and webbed feet are handy too.
When to spot: Year round
Likelihood: 1/10. You’ll have to be really lucky (and very quiet) to see an otter. But you could well find their “spraints” (droppings) on the river bank. It’ll contain bits of fish bones – apparently it smells of jasmine tea!
Graceful, long-necked, long-legged grey herons are among the most elegant residents at Donnington Estate. They have a yellow bill, creamy neck and head (with a black stripe) and blue-grey wings. They’re a great sight in flight: flapping slowly, with their neck tucked in and legs trailing behind.
When to spot: Year round. Look out for them standing motionless in the shallows, watching out for fish
Arguably the most impressive predator among the species of Berkshire wildlife, the red kite is a large bird of prey, with a wingspan of 170-190cm. It’s only here in the UK today after a long-running protection programme saved it from extinction. Look out for its long, angled wings, yellow feet, black bill, reddish chest and forked tail.
When to spot: Year round. The best tip is to look up – it’s easiest to spot red kites wheeling high in the sky
Berkshire wildlife at Donnington Grove
We hope you’ve enjoyed our exploration of the Berkshire wildlife you can see at Donnington Estate. We’d love to hear how you get on.
With so much to see, why not book a stay today?