Birding in the Lake District

By Katie Wilkinson

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For our birdwatching adventure in the Lake District, we spent two days in the Ambleside, Hawkshead and Coniston areas, and then two days in Keswick. My friend Stephanie and I completed walks which were fairly easy, and our birdwatching was at a beginner’s level. But with so much bird and other wildlife on offer, combined with breathtaking scenery and other activities, it’s a great base for a short break or longer holiday for birdwatchers of all abilities and also their families.

Tarn Hows

In and around Ambleside, we walked up to Stock Gyhll waterfalls and Skelgyll Woods, where we saw all kinds of woodland birds. Coniston Lake was also good for wading birds, but our best birding day was on a lovely, mostly level walk around Tarn Hows, a picturesque tarn just two miles from Coniston. The shore length is just shy of two miles and it’s surrounded by trees and birds such as Tree Pipit, plus the expected Mallard, Chaffinch and Jackdaw among many other lovely bird species.

Dodd Wood

This is fantastic place to see rarer wildlife and you can follow waymarked trails if your navigation skills aren’t quite up to scratch! Expect to see Sparrowhawk, Great Crested Grebe, Kestrel, Redstart, Blackcap, Barnacle Geese, Roe Deer, Red Squirrel and Ospreys.

The RSPB, in conjunction with the Forestry Commission, have set up the Lake District Osprey Project. Ospreys are currently breeding in the trees over Bassenthwaite Lake, the first pair to breed there for more 150 years. The RSPB have a viewing station set up with scopes pointing at the nests and volunteers are on hand to answer your questions. We were lucky enough to see the chicks and the mother perched in the tree. There are two Osprey viewing platforms at different heights, enabling you to see them once they have moved.

Walla Crag

This was our favourite day! We set off early on our walk, catching all the birds out in the morning. Walla Crag is beautiful. The varied scenery on our walk meant we had the most successful birdwatching day. Our route took us through forests, alongside waterfalls, around lakes and along fell tops and we saw Song Thrush, Great Tits, Jays, Carrion Crow, Magpies, Robin, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Mute Swan, Grey Wagtails and Meadow Pipit. Approaching Keswick centre, we watched Oystercatchers drinking from a stream and a couple of Pied Wagtails on the shore of Derwent Water which allowed us to approach fairly closely and take some photographs!

We spent four days birdwatching in the Lake District and thoroughly enjoyed it. We’d visited the Lakes previously to climb bigger mountains, but the walks on this occasion meant we saw a whole new side to the area and came away feeling like we had discovered so much more. We ran out of time to do everything we wanted to, so have a long list of things to do the next time we visit this lovely area.

More information:

For more ideas on places to walk and where to see birds visit the tourist information centre in Moot Hall. The staff were very helpful and maps are available for the many different walking routes offered. Parking is available in Tarn Hows, at the National Trust (postcode LA21 8AG). Follow the signpost toTarn Hows. Dodd Wood has a car park and café at CA12 4QE.

(First published in the Autumn 2016 issue of Bird Watching magazine)