Since 1972 Britain’s World Owl Trust (WOT) – situated in the grounds of a charming 13th century ancestral home near Ravenglass in England’s Lake District – has made an impressive contribution to the preservation and protection of the world’s endangered owl population. Supported by high profile British conservationists like David Bellamy, Bill Oddie and Terry Nutkins, the WOT’s stated goal to “advance wildlife conservation through the promotion of habitat management and restoration, research, captive breeding programmes, and education,” is clearly in evidence at its headquarters in the gardens of Muncaster Castle where its sizeable aviaries house over 50 species and sub-species; ranging from the mighty European Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo bubo) and African Southern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis granti) to the diminutive Eurasian (Glaucidium passerinum) and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum).
There are currently over 200 owls in residence at Muncaster – one of the finest collections to be found anywhere in the world – and this number continues to expand. In 2011, 17 pairs of owls at the World Owl Centre were bred successfully, producing a total of 44 owlets. Whilst the captive breeding programme at the Owl Centre is carefully managed – to ensure the production of genetically and physically healthy youngsters – there are inevitably occasions when breeding is not successful. Examples might include the incompatibility of breeding partners, stress, unsuccessful incubation or vector infections – like flat fly infections – which can kill owlets in infancy. On those occasions when breeding is successful, some of the non-native species will be returned for release in their country of origin or transferred to other public and private captive breeding programs in the UK and abroad.
An impressive highlight of a visit to the Muncaster home of the WOT is the “Meet the Birds” display which is held daily at 2.30pm on the front lawn of Muncaster Castle. Here you can learn about owl conservation and watch flying displays by both owls and other diurnal birds of prey – like Mortimer the Buzzard and Kevin the Kestrel – and the photographers amongst you will no doubt relish the opportunity to get some shots of these magnificent birds in flight.
In addition to the breeding programme, the World Owl Trust also provides continuous monitoring of Barn Owl nest sites and nest box schemes in Great Britain as well as offering conservation planning advice, owl population research, and outreach programmes and training for farmers and landowners in both the United Kingdom and in numerous overseas locations – including the Philippines, Kenya, Brazil, India, Israel, and Nepal.
The World Owl Trust – a registered charity – is financed via a number of avenues including; sponsors, donations, endowments, fund raising and charitable activities, and income from investments plus a proportion of the gate money derived from the admission fee to Muncaster Castle. The WOT – which made a deficit of £15,419 during 2009 – relies heavily on charitable contributions for its survival. British wildlife artist Linda Wain, another World Owl Trust Patron, said of the trust’s work, “I believe that most people would love to do something to help wildlife. To see an owl flying freely is such a thrill, and to possess the personal knowledge that your contribution has helped them must surely bring joy to your heart”.
If you would like to help support the work of the World Owl Trust then you could opt to adopt an owl or, if you’re planning a visit to the Lake District, you could consider an annual or lifetime membership of the WOT. If you’d like to make an online donation you should check out the new WOT e-commerce website at: http://www.worldowltrust.org/.
Where to Stay – Hotels and Inns:
- The Coachman’s Quarters, Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18 1RQ Tel: +44 (0)1229 717 614 – a 4 star B&B located in the grounds of Muncaster Castle – provides ten rooms (which can accommodate up to 29 guests). Well appointed rooms, some of which overlook the owl aviaries. A delightful place to stay especially at night when you can listen to the owls.
- The Santon Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge, Holmrook, Cumbria, CA19 1UX Tel : +44 (0)19467 26221- A pretty former coaching inn located next to the River Irt that provides 18 rooms and an excellent dinner menu. Ideally situated for visits to Ravenglass, Muncaster and Wastwater or for hiking Scafell, Scafell Pike, Great Gable or the Wastwater screes.
Where to Stay – Camping & Caravanning:
- Ravenglass Camping & Caravanning Club Site, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18 1SR Telephone: +44 (0)1229 717250 – A 6 acre campground with 56 hard standing pitches and 10 tent pitches located adjacent to Ravenglass village.
- The Old Post Office Campsite, Santon Bridge, Holmrock, Cumbria CA19 1UY Tel: +44 (0)19467 26286 / 26125 – A small family-run campground adjacent to the River Irt in Santon Bridge. 5 hard standing pitches with electric hook-ups with plenty of additional grass pitches for tents and RV’s.
Additional Information: The World Owl Trust, The Owl Centre, Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria. CA18 1RQ, United Kingdom Telephone: (+44) (0)1229 717393 Opening Times: 10.30am-6pm (during the season) and 10.30am-dusk in winter.