6 February 2023
Senior Grounds Ranger, Steve Norris, tells us about the top 5 species of wildlife to look out for during your winter break at Center Parcs Longleat Forest.
Longleat Forest is a carefully managed habitat which is home to a huge variety of wildlife.
The forest is home to over 80 different species of trees, over 40 species of breeding birds, and over 30 wildlife ponds which are home to countless frogs, toads and all three British species of newts. The Wildflower Meadow is home to grass snakes, common lizards, glow worms and over 20 species of butterflies. Our Grounds team maintain our separate Nature Reserve, Nockatt Coppice, which contains a locally important piece of heathland.
During your stay, you’re sure to enjoy encountering some of our wild residents, some of which you may be able to see from your lodge windows!
Here are five wildlife species you might be lucky enough to see if you stay at Longleat Forest over the winter. Why not see how many you can spot?
Until recently, otters only visited Center Parcs at night. The only clues to their presence were footprints and trail camera images, but they are now being seen more and more frequently during the day.
Otters have been observed fishing on our main lake, and on several of the smaller lakes and ponds around the village.
Top tip – Otters are often active at first light, so if you’re out and about early, look for tell-tale ripples on the water.
This is our only resident species of owl. Tawny owls hide away high in the trees during the day and emerge at night to hunt mice, voles, and a variety of other prey. They make various nocturnal calls comprising of various hoots and screeches.
Top tip – Step outside your lodge after dark and listen. Two or more owls often call to each other. On moonlit nights you might even be lucky enough to glimpse a ghostly silhouette flying silently through the sky.
Fourteen towering giants stand on Redwood Hill above our Target Centre. The adjacent road was historically one of the main driveways to Longleat House, and these trees were planted over 180 years ago as a status symbol to impress Victorian visitors as they passed by on their horses and carriages.
Did you know that one of our Redwood trees is now the tallest in the United Kingdom?
Top tip – The cones are surprisingly small, about the size of a golf ball. If you find one, tap it on a hard surface and you might dislodge one of the tiny seeds from which these giant Redwoods grow.
There are two species of deer roaming free in Longleat Forest, the tiny muntjac and the larger roe deer. Roe deer can be seen all around the village, often standing just a few metres from the paths watching unsuspecting guests walk past. Their grey/brown winter coats make them surprisingly difficult to spot in the forest shadows.
Top tip – Look for their distinctive hoof prints, known as slots, in soft mud or snow. Roe deer follow regular trails, and these prints will show you where to look.
Crossbills are present all year but their numbers often increase in winter with the arrival of migrant birds from Eastern Europe. They use their crossed bills to prise open pine cones, and extract seeds to eat. Their habit of feeding high in the treetops makes them difficult to see, and they are often overlooked. Listen for their “chip, chip” calls as they move around the forest in small family groups.
Top tip – Be observant around ponds and puddles as their dry diet means they must often descend to drink.
On your next visit to Center Parcs Longleat Forest, make sure you keep a look our for our unique wildlife. We love to see your photographs, so don’t forget to share them with us on social media using #myCP.