These babes in the wood have delighted wildlife experts – with a boom in the number of tawny owls.

A rise in the number of voles – the birds’ most important prey – has led 90 tawny pairs to have chicks in a section of Kielder Forest in Northumberland compared with 25 last year.

The 155,000-acre forest is home to the UK’s longest-running tawny owl project, now nearly 45 years old.

Forestry England staff have set up 240 owl nesting boxes to let specialists monitor the birds’ welfare.

Thousands of chicks have been ringed over the years, revealing some live more than two decades.

Martin Davison, Forestry England ornithologist, said: “Numbers are linked to the vole population. When they are abundant owls have more chicks. Upland forests can support a thriving and stable tawny population when sensitively managed.”

The project confirmed tawnies sometimes live all their lives within a quarter of a mile of their birthplace.

The chicks also have their wings measured.

Mr Davison said: “It’s a painless experience for them. Looking like bundles of fluff, they always bring a smile to my face.”

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