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General13 April 2023

Falconry & Wildlife April Blog

Hello April!

It’s time for our long-awaited spring/summer season! Expect daily Bird of Prey displays, meet the bird experiences, and explore the Leeds Castle wildlife. We literally can’t wait, it seems to have been a very long winter so this new season is very welcome.

We’ve got some new plans for our displays that we hope will be successful. I won’t say too much just yet, but my fingers are crossed for some fun things this season.

We’ll be opening our information shed, located at the entrance to the Bird of Prey Centre. It’s full of facts, hotspots, and all things wildlife across the Estate. There are ways that you can help the wildlife in your garden, and information on how to make your own bird feeders.

Breeding season at the centre is well underway

Our Burrowing Owls are due to hatch this week. Jill is sitting on four eggs and we have two others from her clutch in the incubator. This year we had to intervene (something we don’t normally do) as she was struggling to incubate all six eggs. We removed two so we can incubate them for her and that leaves four eggs for her to focus on.

We also have our Mottled Owls on eggs too. Again, we’ve had to get involved as Two laid an egg and then decided to nest and lay another one in a while different area of her box. The first egg was basically abandoned so it has been put in the incubator alongside our other eggs in the hope we can hatch this one too. Safe to say there’s soon to be a bit of a baby boom at the centre!

Staying on the subject of babies, we have our first new arrival joined the team on the 6th April. Atlas, the Raven. He or she (we’re not sure what the gender is yet!) made their brief debut over Easter weekend. It will only be a short appearance for now as Atlas will only be about three weeks old when he/she arrives.

We’re really excited about this for a few reasons, firstly, it’s a Raven! These are such intelligent, incredible birds, and we’re lucky to have one joining us. Secondly, Atlas will be the brother or sister to Lucifer, who was a much-loved member of the team. He sadly died after an accident at only six months old back in 2019. It’ll definitely be an emotional time when Atlas arrives, but also a nice way to continue the memory of Lucifer.

Over to Wildlife News now

Have you noticed the huge increase in mole hills lately? Even more than normal? That’s because they’re very active this month. Moles may be the nightmare people dread in their gardens but they are actually quite cute. If you have mole hills in your garden watch one for a bit. You never know, you may actually get to see what the elusive little creature looks like.

Stoats have been numerous lately. A very quick mammal and very often missed by many, also mistaken for a weasel on occasions too. The easiest way to tell them apart is the tail. A stoat’s tail is almost half the length of its body with a black fluffy tip on the end. Whereas a weasel actually has a stumpy tail. Stoats are also slightly larger than a weasel but that doesn’t always help if you’ve got nothing to compare it too.

Butterflies are increasing this month. We’ve had some wonderful sightings of the peacock butterfly (one of my favourites!) in our Wildlife Garden, so look out for them next time you’re visiting!

Lastly, something I’m sure you’ve all noticed is bird song. It’s a sure sign that spring is in the air when you wake up to the musical notes of the local bird population. On our rounds, we’ve seen song thrush, blackbirds, chiffchaffs and chaffinches all signing at the top of their lungs.

We’re also just starting to get the first views of swallows, swifts and martins arriving. Very low numbers at the moment, but by the end April they’ll be easily spotted flying over the tops of the waterways and above the Castle!

I’m going to finish the blog by mentioning two of my favourite mammals that are currently starting to reappear after what seems like forever… bats and badgers!

Bats are slowly venturing out of hibernation. We’ve had common pipistrelles seen being active during the day. This means fat reserves are low and they’ll need to start replenishing this. We’ll have our bat detectors ready so we can start checking what’s around on the estate.

Badgers are now more active, although they technically haven’t hibernated. It’s a period of reduced activity, which changes during the breeding season. Our wildlife camera (kept at a safe distance) has picked up some activity across the estate which is exciting news.

We have a great team of staff and volunteers passionate about what we do, so if anyone did want to chat about the wildlife please do get in contact!

The Falconry & Wildlife Team!