PARK rangers who carried out a survey of a spooky 18th-Century castle were astonished to find colonies of unexpected guests.
Scores of bats have taken up lodgings in the nooks and crannies of Kielder Castle in Northumberland.
The former hunting lodge of the Dukes of Northumberland, built in 1776, is a well-known haunt of paranormal investigators as well as a popular visitor centre.
But it was also found to be home to thriving colonies of the nocturnal mammal. Forestry Commission rangers used low light cameras and ultra-sound detectors to carry out regular internal inspections of the building as part of a year-long study of bats in Kielder Water & Forest Park.
They were surprised to find two maternity roosts – which are rare – for two different species.
The roosts were being used by 70 brown long eared bats and over 100 soprano pipistrelles. Other bats found in the castle grounds included Daubenton’s and noctules, the largest bat in the UK.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said: “The castle is reputedly haunted so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to find it was choc full of bats.
“But even so it proves that the local habitat is very good for the creatures. The discovery of maternity roosts, which are rarer than normal roosts, is excellent news given that across the UK bats have been on the decline, often due to habitat loss.”
Nature lovers can celebrate the survey’s findings by joining a public bat night at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre on May 23 from 9pm.
The event is being staged as part of the Wild About Kielder season, organised by the Kielder Partnership to showcase the area’s stunning wildlife.
Booking is required on 01434 250209 and the cost is £5 adults, £3 concessions and £12 family ticket. For further details visit www.visitkielder.org.uk