On Saturday 8th June, staff from RSPB Geltsdale hosted a stall on what must be one of the the dryest and hotest Cumberland shows for a good many years.
T-shirts, sunglasses and ice cream were the order of the day, sharply contrasting with the knee deep mud and constant rain of previous years. In fact it was so hot we struggled to give away free tots of the excellent Black Grouse whisky, usually a firm favourite at previous shows and markets.
The show was absolutely great for actively engaging with families and young people about our work at the reserve, plus a great opportunity for them to learn more about birds and wildlife. Lots of games, free prizes and give aways were on offer and nobody under 12 went away without a Hen Harrier sticker.
A young osprey has been around the last couple of days and has been seen fishing on Tindale Tarn. As it flew over the hide screen today it set a water rail alarm calling, presumably on its nest.
Lapwings have had a poor season until now with no chicks seen so far. Following the torrential downpour on 18th May many lapwings are displaying again and trying for another nesting attempt. Redshank numbers also seem to have picked up this last week. Both ring ouzels and whinchats have been found nesting at lower altitudes this year, suggesting food is scarce higher on the fell. 11 adult male whinchats have been ringed so far with two being re-traps, one from 2012 and the other originally ringed from 2011. It’s great to see this wonderful bird surviving their African migration and doing so well on the reserve.
The Geltsdale Visitor Centre at Stagsike Cottages has successfully maintained its Green Tourism Gold Award status.
So how green is Geltsdale?
Fairly impressive, but we are still want to improve our performance by taking part in the RSPB's waste monitoring pilot scheme and implementing further improvements to our insulation.
Great weather over the last week has brought with it displaying lapwing, lekking black grouse, calling curlew, chipping snipe and singing skylarks. A young peregrine falcon this morning swooped past the visitor centre, sending all the waders skyward in a frenzy of alarm calling and mobbing. Along the trails, common lizard, dipper, roe deer and stoat have been seen and an otter was spotted on Tindale Tarn.
Despite some brief spells of snow over the past week or so, and some incredibly blustery and biting winds, it’s actually beginning to feel much more spring-like in any sunshine that filters through to Geltsdale. Some of the birds seem to agree too, with a reed bunting singing with abandon today, and the odd meadow pipit and skylark starting to venture up onto the hills. Flocks of over 50 lapwing have been very visible and audible around the meadows, and some golden plover are starting to investigate the higher fells. Ravens are busy nest-building.
Black grouse continue to be highly prominent around the trails, and are often to be seen sat high up in trees feeding on new buds. This must certainly be one of the best times of year to see one of our star species. Some males have again been seen ‘lekking’ on the fellside above the Visitor Centre. Short-eared owl and barn owl can now be seen hunting from mid afternoon, and woodcock are sometimes flushed whilst feeding or roosting in rushy flushes on the open fell.
In terms of rarer avian visitors, ‘our’ drake smew has been present on-and-off on Tindale Tarn since I posted the last blog (though he does seem to commute back-and-forth between here and nearby Talkin Tarn). The recent highlight, however, has to be two snow buntings. These were seen by our residential volunteer Lenny (and his Swiss birding buddy, Gavino) on the fells above his des-res accommodation at Howgill Cottages, in the north-west of the Reserve. Not quite on the ‘garden list’ though!