An award-winning Mid Wales visitor attraction, which educates people about the conservation of birds of prey, has also had success attracting another protected bird species.
Luce Green and Barry Macdonald, who run Falconry Experience Wales at Forge, near Machynlleth, have been delighted that their bird feeding regime has attracted three pairs of Yellowhammers this year.
Once a common sight in the countryside, the Yellowhammer is now so rare that it warrants red classification in the UK under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021).
The Yellowhammer is protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and is a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
“We were thrilled to have three pairs raise young here this year,” said Luce. “The Yellowhammer is now a rare farmland bird and our visitors have loved seeing them. We have worked hard to attract them but had only ever seen three here over the previous 18 years.
“One couple took their son to the RSPB Ynys-hir Reserve in the morning to look for Yellowhammers but did not see any, as he was desperate to see his first one.
They could not believe that we had them here and viewed them during their experience.
“We attracted the Yellowhammers through feeding a seed mixture that they particularly like and also having enhanced hedge margins with wild flowers and grasses which provide good areas for insects as chick food. We have also found that the birch trees we have planted made excellent song posts.”
Barry added: “We find the nesting birds in our garden are not discouraged to breed here due to the various raptors housed at our location. In fact, when the birds such as eagles and falcons are perched in the garden, this deters small sprinting raptors such as the Sparrowhawk from entering the territory of the gardens, so the population of resident birds feels safe to nest.”
Barry and Luce are now in the process moving Falconry Experience Wales to a new home in Mid Wales, as their lease at their current rented property is running out.
They have worked with raptors for more than 30 years and both have a background in conservation work in the UK and abroad. Their work continues with a focus on raptor persecution globally, ranging from Hen Harriers in the UK to vultures in Africa.
They are determined to highlight the plight of raptors and to raise public awareness of the ongoing issues, as well as encouraging endangered farmland bird species.
Falconry Experience Wales was recently named the Wildlife Experience of the Year at the Wales Prestige Awards 2022-23, having twice previously been named the Outdoor Venue of the Year at the Welsh Hospitality Awards. Luce also won the Small Business of the Year at the Welsh Women’s Awards.
The attraction offers visitors a range of educational experiences designed to promote conservation. It has 27 birds of prey in its collection, including falcons, hawks, red kites, a white tailed sea eagle a bald eagle and many owl species.
Barry and Luce also work with popular TV wildlife presenter Iolo Williams to organise guided Raptor Educational days for small groups.
Falconry Experience Wales is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses
across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
A Yellowhammer feeding a chick in the garden at Falconry Experience Wales.