at Quabbs Cabin
There is an abundance of wildlife in the countryside around Knighton, but the town itself has a few specialities too.
If you are in Knighton on a fine summer’s evening look and listen for the flocks of sleek black swifts which race screaming around the rooftops – they usually arrive late April / early May. They nest in a variety of old buildings in the town, as do their close relations the swallows and house martins. Jackdaws will also make their presence felt as flocks of them clatter about around the St Edward’s church and the solitary balsam poplar tree off Castle Bank. If you hear a high-pitched mewing sound overhead look up and you are very likely to see one or more buzzards soaring out from the skies.
Less frequent, but no longer rare is the red kite, which over the last few decades has gradually extended its range from its old heartland in remote Mid-Wales. We have a breeding pair in Quabbs, right here in the Meadow – they can mostly commonly be found in the large Ash tree
There are so many birds to spot at Quabbs and in the surrounding areas. I have tried to list those that you may not be so familiar with. There is always a bird-spotting book and binoculars for you to use in the cabin. Please let us know if you have any exciting sightings by leaving a comment in the book.
A small, brown, streaky bird, the meadow pipit is the most common songbird in upland areas. Its high, piping call is a familiar sound. In flight it shows white outer tail feathers and in the breeding season it has a fluttering ‘parachute’ display flight. In winter, they are quite gregarious and gather in small flocks, often invisible among the vegetation, suddenly flying up with typical jerky flight.
Meadow pipit numbers in the UK have been declining since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern.
Stonechats are robin sized birds. Males have striking black heads with white around the side of their neck, orange-red breasts and a mottled brown back. Females lack the male’s black head, but have brown backs and an orange tinge to their chests. Birds are frequently seen flicking their wings while perched, often doing so on the tops of low bushes. As its name suggests, birds utter a sharp loud call that sound like two stones being tapped together. They breed in western and southern parts of the UK, but disperse more widely in winter.
A small, slim finch, widely distributed and once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song. Males are attractively marked with crimson foreheads and breasts, females much browner. It has an undulating flight, usually twittering as it flies and may be seen in large flocks during the winter.
Linnet numbers have dropped substantially over the past few decades, with the UK population estimated to have declined by 57 per cent between 1970 and 2014. The latest Breeding Bird Survey results show a decrease in all countries.
Red Kites are a common site in mid-Wales, despite reaching the endangered list previously. Many reintegration programmes across the area have been successful. You will very often see our ‘local’ pair of kites swooping in the skies about the cabin and the meadow. This magnificently graceful bird of prey is unmistakable with its reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail. It was saved from national extinction by one of the world’s longest-running protection programmes. It has now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland. Red kites are listed under Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act.
We are lucky to have a barn owl here at Quabbs. Mostly, he / she lives in the corrugated barn you will have seen on your way up the drive – we only occasionally see him/her at dusk – quite a sight! We hope you are lucky too. Please do let us know if see him/her.
Did you know that the too – wit and the too-woo are actually the males and females calling to each other? The too-wit is the male and the too-woo is the female.
With heart-shaped face, buff back and wings and pure white underparts, the barn owl is a distinctive and much-loved countryside bird. Widely distributed across the UK, and indeed the world, this bird has suffered declines through the 20th century and is thought to have been adversely affected by organochlorine pesticides such as DDT in the 1950s and ’60s.
Nocturnal birds like the barn owl are poorly monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey and, subject to this caveat, numbers may have increased between 1995-2008.