Kielder: Wild and alive and well worth a visit

Thanks to National Lottery players, through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the project began in October 2016 with the main aim of promoting the wildlife of Kielder Water & Forest Park. It’s great to be working back at Kielder and talk about going full circle – my first job as an 18 year old was cleaning the holiday lodges over the summer holidays!

Roughly 50% of England's red squirrel population can be found within Kielder Forest

Roughly 50% of England’s red squirrel population can be found within Kielder Forest

Hi! I’m Katy Cook, Project Coordinator for the Living Wild at Kielder project.

Kielder Water & Forest Park is home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and, at over 250 square miles, the largest working forest in England. For many people, commercial forests can seem dark, forbidding places, with a much lower diversity of wildlife than your typical English broadleaf woodland… but look closer and there are some fantastic species that make their home here.

In March, I took part in a Forestry Commission guided walk to look for goshawks displaying over the forest canopy. Goshawks are resident all year round in Kielder Forest, but usually are quite secretive birds that hunt amongst the trees.

If you haven’t seen one before, they’re an arresting sight – like a sparrowhawk on steroids! Your best chance of spotting them is during the spring when males and females are looking for a mate and, although we were watching at quite a distance, I still felt dizzy observing the rollercoaster flight of its sky dance, a display I won’t ever forget.

An added bonus of the walk was seeing countless crossbills, perched like little parrots with neon plumage on the tops of the trees. Crossbills are conifer specialists, and a quick look at their unique beak shows their adaptations for extracting the seeds out of cones – nature is so very clever.

One of my personal favourite species is the red squirrel, having been fortunate enough to have spent four years working for the Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) project which is dedicated to protecting this iconic native mammal – who doesn’t remember Squirrel Nutkin from their childhood?

Kielder Forest is famously our largest red squirrel reserve and contains an estimated 50% of all the red squirrels that can be found in England. The more I
worked on squirrel conservation, the more I learned: did you know for example that squirrels only have four fingers and no thumbs? One of my favourite activities to do with family groups was to get everyone to try and build a drey wearing modified gloves with the thumbs sewn closed – it soon gives you an appreciation for their dexterity and appreciate just how amazing they are. Now imagine doing that high up in the canopy whilst keeping watch for predators!

Kielder’s most famous residents are arguably the ospreys that returned to breed at Kielder in 2009 for the first time in over 200 years.

Kielder's most famous resident the osprey

Kielder’s most famous resident the osprey

Ospreys used to be widely distributed through Europe, but persecution by
egg and skin collectors led to their extinction in England in 1840 and Scotland by 1916. Natural recolonization took place in 1954 with a pair of Scandinavian
birds nesting at Loch Garten in Scotland. Since then, the osprey has spread through the UK, although Scotland remains the main stronghold.

As I write this towards the end of April, there are four pairs nesting at Kielder, with the first bird arriving back on 26th March. Two of the nests have eggs and it won’t be long until hopefully all four pairs are incubating. But don’t just take my word for it, go and see them for yourselves… you will not be disappointed.

I suggest you visit Osprey Watch at Kielder Waterside, where Northumberland Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers are available to show you the nest through scopes and you can also see footage streamed directly to our Osprey Cabin live from two of the nests.Osprey Watch is now running every Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10.30am – 4.30pm until the birds begin to migrate in mid- August.

You can also view the live nest cam footage at Kielder Castle café and, for the most up to date information on the Kielder ospreys, visit the blog at https:// – a great way to ensure your Kielder experience continues long after you have returned home.

If you want to explore more of the wonderful wildlife that can be found in Kielder Water, take part in the Wild at Kielder festival over the weekend of
Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th May at various locations across the Park. A huge range of activities will be available, including wildlife safaris, alpaca walks, wildlife and osprey boat cruises, wild food foraging and much, much more. For more details and to book your tickets, visit

I hope to see you there!

Katy Cook
Project Coordinator
Northumberland Wildlife Trust

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