Con­ser­va­tion he­roes

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover -

Whin­lat­ter For­est is a haven for two of Eng­land’s en­dan­gered species, the red squir­rel and the os­prey. The bushy-tailed red is fa­mil­iar to many from Beatrix Pot­ter’s Tales of Squir­rel Nutkin, but they’ve be­come a rare sight­ing since the in­tro­duc­tion of the larger grey into Bri­tain. Greys carry a virus that is of­ten fa­tal to reds, and they’re a ma­jor com­peti­tor for food sources like acorns in de­cid­u­ous woods. The reds pros­per best in conifer forests like Whin­lat­ter, which was des­ig­nated a Red Squir­rel Re­serve in 2005, and Forestry Com­mis­sion Eng­land and Red Squir­rels North­ern Eng­land are work­ing to­gether to en­sure its pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to thrive.

Whin­lat­ter is also home to the Lake Dis­trict Os­prey Project. Long per­se­cuted by hu­mans, there were no breed­ing pairs left in Bri­tain by 1916. Two re­turned to Strath­spey in 1954, and in 2001 a pair nested at Bassen­th­waite Lake on the north­ern edge of Whin­lat­ter For­est – the first in the Lake Dis­trict for 150 years. Forestry Com­mis­sion Eng­land, the Lake Dis­trict Na­tional Park Author­ity and the RSPB worked to­gether to build them a nest to en­cour­age them to stay, and war­dens kept a roundthe-clock watch on the eggs. The birds now re­turn every sum­mer from Africa to breed. Ospreys are fish-eat­ing rap­tors and wit­ness­ing a catch is an in­cred­i­ble piece of theatre, as they plunge their talons into the wa­ter. We­b­cams trans­mit live im­ages of the nest to the vis­i­tor cen­tre at Whin­lat­ter, or you can walk to an out­door view­point at nearby Dodd Wood.

Spot Bri­tain’s na­tive squir­rel in the Whin­lat­ter For­est.

An op­srey feasts on fish: a rare sight in Bri­tain.

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