Geltsdale RSPB Reserve 22nd April 2014
In spite of a gloomy weather forecast a full minibus of 15 members plus Colin Slator as leader set off for the upland RSPB reserve of Geltsdale in Cumbria. The route took us via Upper Teesdale to look for Black Grouse, and although persistent drizzle had set in we were fortunate to see around 20 males feeding on the grazed grassy areas at Langdon Beck, plus a brief sighting of a single female. Other upland species were also present, including Curlew, Redshank, and displaying Snipe and Lapwing.
We continued on to Geltsdale RSPB Reserve, and while we ate our picnic lunch in the Visitors’ Centre Steve, the RSPB warden, gave us information about the reserve and issues affecting its management. We were also entertained by live CCTV footage of a pair of Barn Owls that were nesting in the loft above our heads in the Centre.
The reserve covers over 5000 hectares, and consists of blanket bog (which is being restored by blocking of artificial drains and reducing sheep grazing and heather burning), heath, upland farmland, and woodland (which is being extended by natural regeneration and extensive planting of over 100,000 native trees), making it an important site for breeding upland birds such as Golden Plover, Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat, and Black Grouse. After lunch Steve accompanied us for a walk along one of the trails to look for these species, but unfortunately the weather had deteriorated to alternating drizzle and heavy rain, so birds were conspicuous by their absence! However we did see Skylark, 2 more male Black Grouse, and some of the group had good views of a Ring Ouzel.
With the weather showing no sign of improvement it was decided to leave further exploration of the reserve for a better day, and head back home via Saltholme RSPB Reserve! We arrived there an hour before it closed, in very murky conditions but at least the rain had stopped. From the first hide a drake Scaup and drake Garganey were quickly spotted, and near the next hide we had close views of a fox with 3 cubs. On leaving the reserve, a female Long-tailed Duck was seen from the main road on Saltholme Pool, along with excellent views of a Black Tern feeding over the Pool. Stopping off at Dormans Pool a Sedge Warbler and Water Rail were heard, giving a total of 67 species seen or heard on the day, which was a good total considering the weather conditions.
We arrived back in Harrogate shortly before 8 pm, a long but interesting day with some excellent sightings, and our thanks go to Colin for leading the trip, and also to Will for a long day’s drive of 300 miles.
Robert and Cynthia Chandler