April: Nature sightings

Group of friends walking along the west shore of Windermere

After a cold Easter, the usual signs of spring have just started to show themselves.

This weekend I saw swallows sweeping over the Viewing Station and drinking from the lake, as well as the first butterflies braving the cold. At this time of year I become acutely aware of the presence of some species, such as the returning ospreys nesting nearby, but also of the decline and near disappearance of others. In the past I used to see swathes of swallows, swifts and house martins returning to places like Tarn Hows and Claife Viewing Station, and hearing the dulcet tones of the cuckoo. Today it’s impossible to dismiss the fact that fewer and fewer of these species are returning each year.

Swallows on a tree branch
Two swallows on a tree branch
Swallows on a tree branch


A decline in species

This is something that hit the headlines this week, with “The State of the World’s Birds” study revealing that one in eight bird species are threatened with global extinction. The reasons for this are complex and far reaching, but the effects are noticed by many. This was highlighted in a conversation I had recently with a couple at Tarn Hows. They have been walking the same footpaths for almost 60 years, and have seen the decline and increase of many: grey squirrels where there were once red, ospreys nesting for the first time, and the decline of the cuckoo. Our places are managed for the benefit of nature, and creating bigger, better and more connected habitats for wildlife is at the heart of what the National Trust does outdoors.

Connect with nature

Whether it’s having a picnic, going for a bike ride or a leisurely stroll, outdoor places in the South Lakes are great places to connect with nature. If you go on a walk along the Windermere west shore, there will be ample opportunities to see nesting oystercatchers, tufted duck and even osprey fishing in the lake. Take a closer look at the hedgerows, and you might spot long tailed tits building their nests with moss and spider webs. In the woodland look out for red and roe deer. I often see them peering out from behind the trees on the slope.

A tufted duck on Windermere
Tufted duck out on the water
A tufted duck on Windermere

Or go and take a look at the brand new ‘bug B&B’ which was built by the rangers at Ash Landing Nature Reserve, a short walk from Claife Viewing Station. If you feel inspired, why not build a mini version in your garden? At the end of your walk, at the Café in the Courtyard at Claife Viewing Station, you can have a slice of cake and coffee and watch the birds around the courtyard.

Check out the new bug B&B at Ash Landing Nature Reserve
The bug B&B at Ash Landing Nature Reserve
Check out the new bug B&B at Ash Landing Nature Reserve

Let us know what you see!

We have been asking visitors at Tarn Hows to tell us what they’ve spotted on their walk, and we’ve had some fantastic sightings: otters, broad bodied chasers, goldcrests and our very own belted Galloway cows to name but a few! Add your sightings to our list when you visit, we’d love to know what you’ve seen. Or you can tweet us pictures at @NTSouthlakes or email tarnhows@nationaltrust.org.uk