One Sunday afternoon in June we set off in search of ospreys at Kielder Water and Forest Park. We had been invited to go on the wildlife and osprey motorboat cruise around Kielder Water run by the Calvert Trust. The tours take place on Sunday evenings in June and Wednesday evenings in August. It is a great way of finding out more about Kielder Water and Forest Park. As well as offering you the chance to see the local wildlife and ospreys you get to see more of the lake. I love birds of prey and recently had a close encounter with a kestrel. I was looking forward to learning more about ospreys.
Kielder Water is the largest man made forest in Northern Europe. It has a rugged beauty and offers a unique chance to explore and get lost in the forest. It has become a haven for wildlife and the largest population of red squirrels in the UK survive in Kielder. I am always on the look out for one whenever I visit.
The osprey is bird of prey that is unique because it’s diet consist purely of fish. Ospreys became extinct in Britain in the 1840s, mainly due to Victorian egg collectors. In the 1950s the osprey came back to Britain. They originally recolonised Scotland but have gradually been moving south. Ospreys arrive in Britain in the summer. During the winter they undertake a long migration flying though France and Spain and into North Africa. The journey takes them across 4,200 miles and takes roughly forty days.
Currently Kielder Water and Forest Park is home to four breeding pairs of ospreys. They have been absent from Northumberland for over 200 years so it is a delight to see them coming back. Ospreys nest at the top of tall trees. The nests are called eyries and consist of large piles of sticks lined with moss. To help encourage ospreys to come and breed in Kielder the Forestry Commission added a large platform topped with sticks to the forest. This has attracted a breeding pair.
We arrived at Kielder Water a bit before our motorboat trip was due to start so we decided to go for a bite to eat at the Boat Inn in Leaplish Waterside Park. If you have a caravan you can stay at Leaplish and there are also lodges available for rent. Osprey Watch is situated just behind the Boat Inn. In the osprey hut you can watch the osprey cam showing the activity from the nest. Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the ospreys. From the shore you can see the osprey nest if you have binoculars. The Northumberland Wildlife Trust do provide telescopes but they had taken these inside as it was raining/ Detailed information about the osprey breeding season is available on the Kielder Water website.
We could see the mother osprey standing in front of her four chicks on the webcam. She really is an impressive looking bird but the nest does look a little precarious. Hopefully the chicks will not venture too close to the edge. I was really hoping we would see some ospreys on our motorboat tour later.
The wildlife and osprey cruise starts at the Calvert Trust. At the Calvert Trust you can take part in a wide range of activities like high ropes, a zip wire, climbing on a climbing wall and many more. We had a wander around and discovered the sky den. This is a glamping pod that is part tree house. The roof opens up to allow a view of the night sky. Kielder Water and Forest Park is a dark sky park, the view of the night sky is not interrupted by the street lights. I can imagine the view from here at night is amazing. Calvert Trust has a number of other lodges that are available for rent if you want to experience the dark skies.
Before we went on the motorboat cruise we needed to check in at the Calvert Trust reception. My son challenged me to a game of chess but it had started to rain so I declined the offer. Once everyone had arrived we left the Calvert Trust and drove down to the marina where the boat was moored. We were shown into the boathouse where we had to don life jackets before boarding the boat.
Kielder Water is an artificial lake and the reservoir which supplies water to the North East. It is hard to believe that there used to be a valley here. You can walk round the lake, it is twenty seven miles to go round. Walking down the jetty we boarded our motorboat. It held five people and two guides. The driver of the boat was from the Calvert Trust and the other was a volunteer from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust. The tour takes two hours in total and goes from one end of Kielder Water to the other.
As we went out on the boat we passed Kielder dam. We have been trying to locate Kielder dam on each of our visits to Kielder Water and have failed. It turns out we have always been entering the wrong side of the park. It was good to know it is really there. You can drive over the dam and next time we visit we will have to try this.
By this time the rain had really started to come down. The motorboat was covered but the rain still got in the sides. If you do go on the wildlife and osprey tour I would recommend taking waterproofs with you. Whilst we had waterproof coats we could have done with waterproof trousers. I would also recommend taking layers of clothing as it does get cold out on the lake. My son ended up shivering but was revived with some hot tea and the loan of a fleece. He said later he had never been so cold.
We went on the trip hoping to spot some ospreys and other wildlife. With the rain pouring down we suspected the wildlife might be hiding. We did manage to spot some. First we heard the lilting call of sandpipers from the shore. Sandpipers are small wading birds that can be seen running along the shores of lakes and reservoirs. Watching for a while we saw some on the shoreline. Some sandmartins and a heron were also spotted while on the trip. Sandmartins are small birds similar to house martins and swallows that build their nest on river banks.
We were there to see ospreys and the motorboat soon got close to where the platform containing the osprey nest was. The platform was not visible due to the clouds and rain but it is somewhere in the hills. Suddenly we saw a large bird on the horizon. Attempts were made to identify it, was it a crow, was it an osprey? The boat moved around following its path until we got close enough to see it was a majestic osprey in the sky. It did not stay long before it flew off on it’s quest for fish. Towards the end of the journey we spotted another osprey high in the sky. It was joined by another one and it was lovely to see the pair of them enjoying the freedom of the skies. Sadly it was not so easy to take photos of them.
Kielder Water and Forest Park has a number of art works around the forest. These contemporary pieces aim to offer an insight into how the artist has reacted to the environment at Kielder. We had not seen many of these before as they are on the side of the lake that is not accessible by car. Being on the boat gave us a good view of several of them.
The wave chamber looks a little like a beehive on the shore of the lake. When you enter the chamber it acts like a camera obscura. An image of the water is projected on the floor and the wave sounds echo in the chamber. It must be an amazing experience.
55/02 gets it’s name from the latitude and longitude of the site. It is a bright red steel structure that looks strange against the trees and is obvious from a distance. Inside there is seating which is situated to give visitors the best view of the lake.
The Belvedere was Kielder’s first artwork and from the boat looks like a large rectangular mirror on the shore. The stainless steel reflects the environment and it’s appearance changes depending on the weather. It also acts as a shelter and inside there are views over the lake.
Robin’s Hut is a small hut facing similar structure called Freya’s hut on the other side of the lake. The artwork is based on the story of Freya and Robin who lived on opposite sides of the lake. Freya could see Robin from the south side of the lake. She saw him looking across the lake towards here. To attract his attention she got to work building a lovely golden cabin. Robin could not see Freya as the sun was in his eyes looking across the lake. One day Robin decided to leave the lake. He rowed out on the water and got further away. At the last moment he noticed the glowing gold of Freya’s cabin and decided to investigate. The pair finally met and a love story began. The art work is a lovely way to celebrate the story.
Silvas Capitalis is a big giant wooden head in the middle of a clearing which keeps watch over the forest. It is just visible though a gap in the trees from the lake. If you look carefully though the gap you can just make out its mouth in my photo.
The wildlife and osprey tour is a great chance to see more of the art work on Kielder Water as well as the wildlife in the area. It is a shame it was raining when we went, after two hours we were getting a bit wet and uncomfortable. If we were to go again we would take a flask with a hot drink and waterproof trousers. We learnt a lot about Kielder on our tour, the guides were knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife in it. We also discovered a lot of things we did not know were there. It was a really interesting experience. If you want to learn more about Kielder Water and get a unique chance to see ospreys it is worth going on the tour.
If you have a four wheel drive vehicle you can explore the forest drive, a road though the forest that will give you a unique view of Kielder Forest. It is accessible to normal cars but a four wheel drive is preferred.
I am a forestry commission ambassador. We were provided with the trip but were not obliged to say anything nice and our opinions are our own.