Nature lovers are being offered a rare chance to pay a house call on the next generation of owls in Kielder Water & Forest Park.
The Forestry Commission is staging three spectacular owl nights in the 62,000-hectare (155,000-acre) wilderness on 13, 18 and 20 May when experts involved in a 30 year conservation project will take people to see newly born chicks.
The event is being staged as part of Wild about Kielder, a major campaign by the Kielder Partnership to celebrate the North Tyne’s astonishing wildlife.
Last year was a bumper year for tawny owls because voles – a favourite food - were about in huge numbers.
Veteran birdman Martin Davison, who has been monitoring Kielder’s birds for the Forestry Commission for nearly three decades, explained:
“Voles are critical to other wildlife in Kielder and when they do well so do birds like owls. This year numbers are not as high, so it seems that fewer chicks are being born. Many boxes are also being occupied by new mums rather than their usual resident female suggesting the harash winter took its toll. It’s a natural cycle of ups and downs, but there are still plenty of young birds which need weighing and ringing.”
Tawny owls are a big Kielder success story thanks to the erection of 230 boxes and sensitive habitat management. Each box is visited three times, first to count and weigh eggs, then to capture the adult owl to record its vital statistics and finally to ring chicks. The project has been running since 1980 and has helped overturn previous theories that the bird would not thrive in large upland forests.
To join the owl nights you will need to book in advance by calling Kielder Castle Visitor Centre on 01434 250209. The cost is £10 per person. All the events start at 7pm and meet at:
Warksburn Picnic Site near Stonehaugh – 13 May
Kielder Castle – 18 May
Greenhuagh School, Greenhaugh, near Bellingham – 20 May
For more information on Wild at Kielder visit www.visitkielder.com
Kielder Water & Forest Park is home to the largest forest in England and the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe. It was recently voted the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Media calls to: Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.