Special Species and Habitats
This incredible, man-made landscape is constantly being cared for and improved by volunteers and the organisations in Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust. Since its creation during the 20th century. it has matured and developed. and careful management is helping species that were once absent to return, including osprey and water voles. Thousands of fascinating plants and animals continue to live and thrive alongside the people who live, work and play here..
What might you see while you’re here? The green boxes below indicate the month you are most likely to see each species.
The sheer variety of habitats in Kielder Water & Forest Park, from woodland to marshy grasslands and bogs, create homes for a whole host of wildlife and is impressive and unique in the UK. Explorers can expect to encounter badgers, roe deer, otters, red squirrels, shrews, seven species of bat, many woodland birds and, especially in spring, birds of prey including ospreys
Ospreys - After over 200 years of absence from Northumberland it is a delight to see ospreys thriving at Kielder. In 2017, we saw our 50th chick fledge, with all four breeding pairs producing chicks. In 2018, the 10th year of breeding, a natural nest - Nest 5 - was built by a pair of Scottish ospreys. At least one chick hatched, but, sadly, it died aged about 3 weeks. Since 2009, when re-colonisation in Northumberland began, Kielder Forest has made an impressive contribution to the northern osprey population. Between late March and early September visitors using the Lakeside Way may see ospreys hunting over the water.
The birds use all parts of the reservoir, but some favourite areas are either side of the water at the dam, the area between Bull Crag and Leaplish Bay, and Leaplish Bay itself. The ospreys regularly hunt soon after first light and again in the early evening, around 17.30-18.00, but can be active at any time of the day. As the breeding season goes on, more fish will be required by ever-hungry growing chicks. So June-August are the peak months, giving the best chance of seeing this magnificent bird plunge into the water and emerge with a fish, You can enjoy unique views of the birds at Kielder Castle Cafe and Kielder Waterside thanks to special cameras we have on nests.
Over winter, check the blog for the most up to date news of our satellite-tagged ospreys overseas.
Red squirrels - Around 50% of England’s native red squirrel population live here, the largest remaining stronghold in the country. You can find out more about red squirrels in the exhibition at Kielder Castle, where there is also a squirrel hide overlooking native woodland. Another great place to catch a glimpse of one is at the red squirrel hide at Kielder Waterside. Find out more through the Red Squirrels Northern England project.
Salmon – The largest conservation hatchery in England, raising over 900,000 fish every year, Kielder Salmon Centre and Visitor Centre feature state of the art facilities for rearing both salmon and other rare species such as freshwater pearl mussel. These are raised, and then returned to the River Tyne to migrate out to sea.
Water voles – The charming Ratty from Wind in the Willows, is actually a water vole. These iconic creatures are back in Kielder Water & Forest Park following an initial reintroduction in June 2017. Good burn-side habitat and absence of mink mean that they should thrive! Find out more about the Restoring Ratty project.
Pine Martins - Pine martens are the latest mammal species to colonise Kielder Water and Forest Park, first sighted in 2018. These highly agile members of the weasel family are at home in the maturing forest areas and are omnivores, eating everything from small rodents to fruits and nuts. Their young are called kits and although mating only produces 2-3 kits each year, these small but powerful animals live longer than other weasel family members. Pine martens are thought to help red squirrels by reducing the occurrence of the invasive grey squirrel, a benefit of one of the rarest mammals in England making its home in Kielder Water and Forest Park. Small numbers are present at the moment, but this is expected to change as more pine martens colonise from the recovering population in South Scotland and start to breed in the park.
Woodlands – Before Kielder Forest was planted, there were native trees growing here, and in the forest edges around Kielder village veteran trees and native woodlands still persist. The Forestry Commission are increasing the biodiversity of Kielder Forest and softening the plantation boundaries by planting native tree species and conserving the remnants of ancient semi-natural woodlands. Pollen analysis of the peat on Kielderhead moor shows that once these hills were covered with pine, alder, birch, elm and willow. Ambitious plans for replanting this ancient woodland are in development through the Wildwood project.
Grasslands – The north shore of Bakethin Nature Reserve has grasslands grazed by Exmoor Ponies as part of the Flexigraze scheme which uses rare breed animals in traditional land management schemes. The ponies used here are a hardy breed used to poor food and weather, and they help keep the variety of habitats along the lake shore, by eating any scrub or young trees trying to take over from the grasses and flowers.
Open water – By keeping the water at a constant level at Bakethin Nature Reserve we have created a nature reserve, including three islands, which provide an important sanctuary for local plants, birds and other wildlife including otters. In 2016 a new osprey nesting pole was installed on one of the islands, which can easily be seen from the new wildlife hide. This was rebuilt in early 2017 by Architecture students from Newcastle University, with a green roof and charred timber cladding to blend into its environment.
Bogs – The raised mires and blanket bogs around Kielder Water & Forest Park are astonishing habitats. They trap carbon from the atmosphere, regulate river flows by holding water back in the headlands, and preserve organic matter in their depths creating a record of past environments. They are home to curious plants and delicate insects, and are acclaimed as the most tranquil place in England. Conservation of these wetlands on a landscape scale is ongoing, to increase the rate at which the peat develops and to provide safe access for visitors.
Kielder is one of Northumberland Wildlife Trust's Living Landscapes.