Although 2013 Kielder Osprey Watch is but a distant memory, there are still plenty of volunteering tasks to do around Kielder. Monday is a regular maintenance day for a team of Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers and the days are quite varied. Last week waders were on to clear some typha, the family which includes bulrushes and reedmace, from a small pond in the Bakethin conservation area. After destruction, albeit with the health of the pond in mind, next week is a chance to be artistic. The group are willow weaving the year’s growth on a living willow hedge at Leaplish Water Park.
Thursday this week was a lovely day, although the brisk wind meant Kielder Water looked a bit like an inland sea with choppy wavelets! A visit to the Nature Reserve Falstone Moss was a great way to enjoy the clear air and stunning views as well as to inspect the Reserve. Falstone Moss is one of the Border Mires, areas of peat bog around the Kielder area in Northumberland. The mires are a ‘good thing’ because the peat stores carbon so reduces the impact of global warming. A key word to remember is ‘bog’ and wellies are usually in order for a saunter up to Falstone Moss, as only about half of the footpath has boardwalk! There is a small pond at the top which is a good place to spot hawkers, damselflies and dragonflies in the summer. But on Thursday the view over Kielder Water was the big attraction.
After that, it was off to check the rare breed sheep that have grazed since spring on some previously overgrown land near Bakethin. The sheep arrived courtesy of Flexigraze, a social enterprise that specialises in grazing nature reserves and important grassland in the North East. At Kielder there are eleven sheep; Hebridean, Shetland and Manx Loaghtan. They have done an excellent job of keeping the grass down thereby enabling other plants to thrive. Thursday was the first attempt to attract the sheep into the corral near the gate so that they become used to being in there. Soon they will be taken nearer the coast where the winter weather will be less harsh than at Kielder. As normal, the rattle of sheep nuts in a bucket aroused interest and all eleven sped up to the corral from where they were grazing. Eight entered the corral without trouble, but three stayed by the gate. Trying to get them coaxed in only resulted in one of the Shetlands inside deciding to leave, so I shut the gate to allow the seven co-operative sheep to graze on the nice long grass in the corral. After about ten minutes of happy munching I opened the gate, but although six were content to be shooed out, a Manx Loaghtan concluded the grass was definitely greener in there, and wouldn’t budge despite a few pushes! It has a very long upright horn – there should be two but one was broken off before arrival at Kielder – and it is quite a weapon. However, eventually I manhandled it back to the others without being gored!
Finally there was the task of topping up the bird and squirrel feeders at Leaplish Water Park. The red squirrels are a major attraction for visitors; Kielder is a stronghold for this threatened native species. Once the feeders were filled, there isn’t much of a wait in the bird hide before at least one red squirrel comes along. And lots of birds, including a great spotted woodpecker who was going at the peanuts as if she hadn’t eaten for a while.
So a fairly varied and very enjoyable few hours, even though there wasn’t an osprey in sight! Oops, I tell a fib – the Osprey ferry was visible on the north shore of the reservoir, hauled out for winter. But not quite the same thing.