Wildlife at Glyndebourne

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Although Glyndebourne is an indoor theatre there is plenty happening on its outdoor stage – the garden. The sheep that graze beyond the Ha-Ha and Gus and Danni’s infamous dogs (Norma, Caesar and the latest addition to the family, Mabel) are not the only animals you will spy at Glyndebourne. Find out what other creatures call our gardens their home in this ‘fauna of Glyndebourne’ guide.

Butterflies and moths

Common blue butterfly, Kevin Martin

During the spring and summer months you can spot a wide variety of butterfly species in the gardens including peacock, gatekeeper and small tortoiseshell. Wildlife continues to thrive into the autumn, in September 2016 the gardens were visited by the rare Oleander Hawk Moth, a migrant species recorded only two dozen times in Sussex since records began. Whilst the wildflower borders and oleander plants provide plenty of food for moths and butterflies it is the less manicured parts of the garden that help them to flourish the most.

‘The flowering plants are important as a source of food, but it is more often the wilder areas that provide a home. The long grass in the meadows is where the Meadow Brown butterfly likes to lay her eggs, Willow Herb is preferred by the Elephant Head Hawk moth and ivy provides food for the Holly Blue butterfly.’
Dawn Aldridge, Senior Gardener

Glyndebourne is situated in ideal location for counting butterflies, Southerham Farm Nature Reserve located just a short walk away on the hills behind the opera house has a large area of flower rich grassland that attracts chalk-loving butterflies as well as farmland birds and bees.

Our Stage Manager, Ben Sedgwick captured this video of a Hummingbird Hawk Moth enjoying the gardens:

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The vibrant borders around the Ha-Ha lawn and the exotic Bourne garden are a haven for bumble-bees and foraging insects. A mix of native and exotic plant species allows for a longer foraging season, lasting from early spring into late autumn. The garden also hosts several beehives tended to by a local beekeeper, these beehives help encourage pollination of the surrounding flora and support honey bee colonies.

‘Poppies, foxgloves and lavender are all excellent for insects, and in late summer, plants like Lobelia tupa provide an exotic flavour. It would be more common to see hummingbirds on the Lobelia, but the bees have learnt to chew a hole at the base of the flower to access the sugary nectar.’
Dawn Aldridge, Senior Gardener


A thrush making itself at home on the Rose Garden fountain

In the spring, buzzards can be heard whistling and later in the summer you can hear woodpeckers. In winter, although the gardens and grounds are usually empty, the trees and bushes are full of visitors of the bird kind. The grounds are a natural haven for wild birds; cuckoos and little owls are often heard but not seen, birds of prey such as sparrowhawks and kestrels command the skies whilst at ground level, game and waterfowl patrol the fields and lake.

‘To help some of the smaller birds through the colder months, every day we replenish over twenty bird feeding stations with peanuts and wild bird seed. The stations are hung in trees and bushes around the theatre, and throughout the garden, and attract all varieties of finches, tits, wagtails and the more common species of birds such as blackbirds, sparrows and robins.’
Kevin Martin, Head Gardener

A family of geese on the lake, Kevin Martin

The lake itself is a paradise for waterbirds and is home to families of ducks and moorhens. Visitors during the summer Festival have a chance of seeing moorhen chicks amongst the lilypads of the lake. If you stand on the boathouse at the top of the lake you can see carp breaking the surface of the water and if you are lucky, you might spot the elusive kingfisher whose distinctive high-pitched song is heard first before it is seen.

Ducks on the lawn, Sam Stephenson

The lake isn’t the only place to see water-loving wildlife, there are several water fountains in the gardens perfect for catching a glimpse of bathing birds and the reflecting pool complete with animal access ramps is a good place to look for frogs and toads in the spring.

Visitors to Glyndebourne might also catch a glimpse of the resident peafowl roaming around the grounds in the evenings, sometimes they can be seen on the roofs of buildings around the site and if you are very lucky you might spot peachicks in late summer.

Peahen and newly hatched peachicks