Eight weeks since the National Trust closed its properties to restrict the spread of coronavirus, wildlife seems to be enjoying its unusually empty gardens and estates.
Rare sightings and uncharacteristic behaviours have been noted by staff at the Trust, who say the absence of visitors appears to have emboldened wildlife, with birds and mammals spotted venturing out of their usual territories.
Reports from rangers and gardeners include peregrine falcons nesting in the ancient ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset, English partridges wandering in an empty car park near Cambridge, and a cuckoo calling at Osterley in west London, having not been heard there for 20 years.
David Brown, National Trust ecologist at Corfe Castle, said: “This is the first time peregrines have nested here since the 1980s. With the site the quietest it has ever been, the great curtain walls are an ideal spot for these powerful birds, which look for isolated and inaccessible places to build a nest. Amongst all the uncertainty, it has been heartening to see nature colonising the landscape in our absence.”
At Plas yn Rhiw, on the Llyn Peninsula, stoats, weasels and hares have come in from the woodland to explore the gardens, usually filled with visitors, while in the Peak District, rangers report being able to hear the otherworldly call of the curlew in areas that are normally much busier.
Meanwhile in Norfolk, a buzzard was spotted tucking into its lunch in the orangery at Felbrigg Hall, and at Ashridge Forest in Hertfordshire, the rare sound of a grasshopper warbler was recorded in a typically busy dog-walking area.
Little owls have also been making their presence felt, with gardeners at Ham House in London noticing the birds venturing further into the garden from the adjacent river meadows.