It’s December, which means it is officially acceptable to mention Christmas!
This is definitely a favourite time of year for us. The Bird of Prey Centre is dressed with festive lights and decorated trees. Our resident giant wicker Owl – Wanda, sports her favourite Christmas scarf and hat!
The weather has changed dramatically over the last few days. It actually feels like winter now with the brisk cold air and foggy breath. Although a quieter season for many, this is actually a busy time for us. We’re right in the middle of our change over which is when our winter birds come out and our summer birds go into their rest period. This means lots of training and cleaning! We’re also in the process of getting our Zoo Licence. This is a new stipulation from DEFRA which we’re quite pleased about. It means that all animal places across the country are being inspected and regulated. It is a huge win for animal welfare and legislation.
Our Harris Hawk team are getting ready for next season’s displays. We can’t wait to bring our amazing demonstrations to you next year. We’ve got Gallo’s mum, Texas is back out and in the flying team so watch this space!
We’re currently almost finished training Hendricks our Ural Owl. This is a beautiful bird even if he is the most hyperactive one we have. All this, as well as dealing with the current mandatory housing regulations due to Bird Flu. We refer to this as Bird House Arrest! If you’ve visited recently you’ll have seen the netting on the aviaries and the empty weathering lawn. Unfortunately, this is something we’re having to do until the bird flu declines.
On a wildlife note, up until recently, we’ve been seeing some incredible views of the Daubenton’s bat hunting across the water on the moat. We’ve mentioned previously our love for bats and circumstances like this show you just how awesome they really are! The agility and accuracy of the hunt are so impressive. Although, most bat species are now hibernating so we’ll have to wait until next year!
Speaking of hibernation
It’s a quiet month for most mammal species too. The majority of them are settled down now for the winter to replenish energy and basically regenerate ready for spring. It might be a minimal month for mammals but some bird species are out in big numbers!
Robins are in huge force at the moment, generally mistaken as ‘winter birds’, they’re actually found all year round in the UK just a little more prominent in the winter. You’ll often see them singing which is a means of establishing territories. It’s a beautiful song very easily recognisable. They are, by far, one of the cutest residents in your garden. But they are also incredibly aggressive and hugely territorial towards each other and other birds. Believe it or not, around 10% of Robin’s deaths are caused by other Robins!
It’s a great time of year for spotting Tawny Owls
They’re always very easily heard but not always that easy to spot. Winter always helps as there are fewer leaves on the trees. They’re normally seen perched up and calling. Keep an eye out for these lovely birds!
One of my favourites and quite possibly one of the most fascinating occurrences during the winter is a murmuration. Huge flocks of Starlings group together this time of year to dance in the sky, there can be thousands of birds flying together in unison. They are thought to do this for many reasons, one including evading predators – safety in numbers as they say! They could also be swapping information about feeding sites as well. It really is a spectacular thing to see, we’ve had them here over the Castle quite a bit in the last few weeks.
As the colder weather comes in, we lose the likes of butterflies, bees and most beetles but, on the positive side, some of the sunsets we’ve been having here are absolutely stunning.
As always, thank you for reading
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us here in the Falconry & Wildlife Department!