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Wildlife conservation at Gibside

Three people in red coats hammer tree stakes into the ground.
Ranger volunteers putting in tree stakes at Gibside. | © National Trust Images/Tony Blackett

Our goal is to make Gibside a happy and healthy place for wildlife, plants and people. This wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our conservation teams and volunteers.

Around 220-acres of Gibside is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which means it is a protected area that supports rare species of plants, animals and fungi. The Gibside rangers and gardeners, with the support of volunteer groups, are working to maintain and improve habitats for nature, and monitor the species that call Gibside home. We have a variety of habitats and landscape at Gibside. The rangers manage each area differently to support the wildlife and plants that live there.

A red kite in a blue sky
A red kite soaring above Gibside | © National Trust Images/Tony Blackett

Some of our key species

Red kites

Red kites were reintroduced to northeast England in 2004 by the ‘Northern Kites’ project, after over 170 years of these birds being absent from our skies. Between 2004 and 2006, 94 red kites were released in the Derwent Valley area including several at National Trust Gibside. In 2006, three chicks were born, the first red kites to be born in the area in nearly 200 years. We work with Friends of Red Kites, an organisation dedicated to monitoring red kite populations in the North East, to understand how red kites are doing at Gibside. Although there have been successful red kite chicks born at Gibside in the past, they have failed to nest for the last few years. The ranger team are investigating ways that we might encourage them to continue to use the habitat at Gibside, including reducing disturbance around potential nesting sites. Despite red kites being a common sight above Gibside today, the battle is not over to ensure that these birds have a sustainable population.

We work with organisations to monitor other bird populations at Gibside, particularly through surveying nest boxes. A volunteer team do regular bird ringing at Gibside. Bird ringing creates data that allows the British Trust for Ornithology to monitor the movements and lifespan of the UK’s birds. The team recently found a tawny owl that had lived to be over 17 years old, originally ringed at Gibside. This is exceptionally old for a tawny owl in the wild, and tells us that we are providing a great habitat for them.

Newts

Gibside is lucky to be home to all three species of native newt: great crested newts, smooth newts, and palmate newts. Populations of newts are suffering severely from habitat loss, particularly the loss of ponds. Great crested newts prefer clean ponds, so their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem. However, land habitats are also important because newts spend the majority of their life on land, using ponds during spring and early summer only to mate and lay eggs.

The ranger team at Gibside carry out regular surveys to monitor the population. This can be through temporarily trapping the news in bottle traps, catching newts in nets, using torches to search the water at night, and searching for eggs. All survey work is supervised by a ranger with a special licence, as newts are protected under UK law.

Bats

The ruins at Gibside may not be home to people anymore, but they do support a significant population of bats. The Stables supports one of the largest maternity roosts of soprano pipistrelle bats in the North East, and Gibside Hall provides a shelter for brown long-eared bats. Six other species of bat have been recorded at Gibside: common pipistrelles, Daubenton's bats, noctules, Natterer's bats, Brandt's bats and whiskered bats.

In partnership with Northumberland Bat Group, Gibside Rangers regularly survey these bats, including checking the bat boxes we have all around the site. This can also involve using bat detectors, devices which can pick up on the ultrasound calls of bats and convert them into sounds that humans can hear.

Conservation in action

Two people in red coats and waders chest deep in a pond, carrying bottles.
Placing bottle traps in the Octagon Pond. | © National Trust Images/Nick Wilson-Smith

Newt surveys

The ranger team at Gibside carry out regular surveys to monitor the population. Here they are setting up 'bottle traps', to temporarily trap newts in the Octagon Pond.

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Wildlife-friendly gardening

The gardeners at Gibside are always considering nature and wildlife in the choices they make. They employ a number of techniques to try and support all the species that call Gibside home.

Picture meadows

The picture or ‘wildflower’ meadows sewn in the Walled Garden Gibside provide food for bees, butterflies and moths and shelter for birds, amphibians and small mammals.

Organic gardening

The garden team actively work with ecological garden techniques like cultural control methods of crop rotation and adding plenty of organic matter to the soil. They try to work with nature rather than against it, tolerating ‘pests’ so that the garden provides natural food sources for insects. These methods mean that the gardeners don’t have to rely on insecticides.

Sustainable gardening

We use a number of techniques to make our gardening practices less water intensive and promote soil health, including ‘no-dig’ gardening.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Close-up of a bee sitting on a vibrant red-orange flower in the garden at Goddards, North Yorkshire

Donate

Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

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