While lockdown is taking its toll on humans at the moment, animals seem to be taking full advantage of the drop in human activity. The National Trust, which closed its sites to the public eight weeks ago, says the lack of visitors has ‘emboldened wildlife’ with staff spotting rare animal sightings and uncharacteristic activity.
In London, staff at Osterley Park have heard cuckoos calling there for the first time in 20 years. While at Ham House in Richmond, the gardeners have seen Little Owls venturing further into the gardens than before from the nearby river meadows.
As well as cuckoos, Osterley also has more new guests with cattle grazing in front of the 18th-century Osterley House for the first time in 100 years. The heard of Charolais cattle, owned by tenant farmer Julian Sutton, have been moved from the fields to the front lawn of the Georgian palace to ‘mow’ the grass as livestock becomes more important than ever for keeping the Trust‘s parkland in check due to limited staff.
Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: ‘It has only been eight weeks but wildlife seems to be enjoying the breathing space. With less traffic and fewer people, we’ve heard deafening levels of birdsong and seen famous monuments and formal gardens colonised by wildlife. Nature’s recovery is still a long way off, but the fact that people are noticing what’s around them is something to be celebrated.’
The National Trust’s properties are still temporarily closed, however, it announced last week it is ‘working on plans to re-open’ its sites by introducing a ‘pre-booking system’ to help maintain social distancing. If you’re aching to get your fix of the Trust’s picturesque parklands and spacious greenery, it's asked people to be especially mindful of wildlife around them when they visit again. McCarthy added: ‘As the lockdown begins to be eased, we all need to play our part to ensure that this wildlife remains undisturbed.’ Here’s to another 20 years of cuckoo calls in west London.
After more good animal news? Here are the animals taking back human spaces while we’re in lockdown.
Or, hop on a Zoom call with one of Stepney City Farm’s lambs.