Cumbria

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus ©Chris Hind Website

The recording area of Cumbria comprises the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. Cumbria remains as a ceremonial county covering Watsonian areas numbers 69 and 70.  It also encompasses the Furness area of northern Lancashire and a small area of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the United Kingdom, with 73.4 people per km2. It is the third largest county in England by area, and is bounded to the north by the Scottish council areas of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the southeast by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. It is, perhaps, best known for being the home of the Lake District National Park. It has a mainly rurally based economy, with few large population centres.

Birding Cumbria

The landscape owes its character to glaciation, with the Lake District displaying a radiating system of valleys and ridges, lakes and rivers. Much of Cumbria is high ground of over 400metres, with the area around Carlisle and the Eden valley at lower elevation. The Lancaster Canal runs from Preston into South Cumbria and is partly in use. The Ulverston Canal which once reached to Morecambe Bay is maintained although it was closed in 1945. The Solway Coast and Arnside and Silverdale Areas of Outstanding Natural beauty lie in the lowland areas of the county, to the north and south respectively.

A typical topographical view enhanced by a Linnet – ©Sue Sayers

In addition to the National Park it has national nature reserves, RSPB reserves and many local nature reserves. But, so far as birdwatching is concerned, Cumbria is probably under observed. The county has an extensive coastline, with the south Cumbrian coast being the northern containment of Morecambe Bay, an area of international importance for migrating and wintering waders. The northern coast is the south shore of the Solway Firth, again an important area for wintering wildfowl. The west coast boasts a small range of sandstone cliffs at St. Bees, which provide nesting sites for auks, kittiwakes and fulmars.

Top Sites
  • Campfield Marsh

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    is an RSPB reserve on the south shore if the Solway, offering large roosts of waders. The area is important for geese in winter. Further east, Herdhill Scar provides a useful point to watch the Solway Skua passage. The whole coast from Anthorn to Drumburgh is worth visiting.
  • Foulney Island

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    Foulney Island, accessible on foot from the causeway between Roa Island and Rampside, is also managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. In the summer, this island hosts ringed plover and oystercatcher nests. Cut off for around an hour either side of high tide, bleak in the winter, check weather and tides before you set out.
  • Foulshaw Moss

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    Just off the A590 at Witherslack, Foulshaw Moss is a raised bog of international importance. A series of boardwalks and viewing platforms allow excellent views of a nesting pair of Ospreys in the spring and early summer.
  • Geltsdale RSPB Reserve

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    Geltsdale is a remote and ruggedly beautiful nature reserve where two hill farms – Geltsdale and Tarnhouse – meet. Here, you'll find upland birds like Black Grouse, breeding waders including Curlews, and birds of prey like the Hen Harrier.
  • Haweswater

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    The RSPB administered watch-point in Riggindale was England's only breeding site for Golden Eagle - although, sadly, there has been no sucesful breeding for the last decade. The watch-point, and the walk from the car park at the south end of Haweswater offer the chance of other mountain specialities such as Raven and Ring Ousel, as well as Wheatear, Peregrine and Buzzard. The small copses along the road along Haweswater contain Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warblers.
  • Hodbarrow

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    This is a derelict industrial site whose main feature is a large area of fresh water, apparently the result of old mine workings. This area is now shared by water skiers and breeding Common, Sandwich and Little terns, but interest at Hodbarrow is not restricted to terns. Divers, Grebes, and Ducks on the water, waders on the scrape and beach, and passerines in the surrounding bushes and grassland provide lots of other interest. Physically challenged birders beware, both roads out to the hides are not in a great state.
  • NNR North Walney

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    North Walney NNR is a Natural England nature reserve, a beautiful sand dune system with heaths, dune slacks and home to rare natterjack toads. The ponds near the southern end of the reserve often throw up some birds of interest, particularly great egrets and spoonbills.
  • South Walney

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    Walney Island is one of Cumbria’s hidden birding gems, with two large nature reserves at either end. The island is covered by Walney Bird Observatory, which is based at South Walney but reports on sightings across the island.
  • St. Bees

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    The only sea cliffs in Cumbria support nesting Kittiwakes and Fulmars. Auks also nest, with plenty of Guillemots and Razorbills, a few Puffins and even fewer Black Guillemots. The coastal path along the cliffs from St. Bee's village is good for Chats and Pipits, and Peregrine is regular. Moreover, there are some useful viewing points from the path.
  • Walney Island - South Walney Nature Reserve

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    South Walney Nature Reserve is run by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, noted for a large colony of herring, lesser-black back and great black back gull in the summer as well as breeding eider ducks and about two dozen other nesting species. Thousands of waders spend winter here, and several hides around the reserve provide the only sheltered sea-watching on the island.
Contributors
  • Andy Senior

    Burneside | andrewjsenior@yahoo.co.uk

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 357

    (As at April 2021)
Checklist

  • Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre List of Bird Species

    PDF Checklist
    : This report presents a list of the birds known to have occurred in Cumbria between 1 January 1800 and October 2023
  • Cumbria Bird List

    Checklist
    This page contains a complete bird species list for Cumbria in Octobewr 2023
Useful Reading

  • Birds and Wildlife in Cumbria 2022

    | Edited by Chris M Hind | Cumbria Bird Club | 2023 | Paperback | 298 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour & b/w tables | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birdwatching Walks in Cumbria

    | By Tim Dean & Jeremy Roberts | Carnegie Publishing | 2002 | Paperback | 120 pages, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9781859361238 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Breeding Birds of Cumbria - A Tetrad Atlas 1997-2001

    | By Malcolm Stott | Cumbria Bird Club | 2002 | Hardback | 391 pages, B/w illustrations, tabs, maps | ISBN: 9780954324902 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Northwest England & Isle of Man

    | By Allan Conlin, Dr J P Cullen, Pete Marsh, Tristan Reid, Chris Sharpe, Judith Smith & Stephen Williams | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 287 pages, 30 line illustrations, 50 maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713664218 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Observatories
  • Walney Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Founded in 1964, the work of Walney Bird Observatory is funded entirely by membership subscription. Since 1965 it has been an accredited member of the British Trust for Ornithology’s bird observatories network which operates across Britain and Ireland. Bird Observatories are at the forefront of conservation, monitoring bird populations through the medium of census work, daily recording of migrants and ringing.
Organisations
  • Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre

    Website
    CBDC staff worked with members of the Cumbria Bird Club to create over 1500 maps illustrating the distribution of species, breeding birds and wintering birds in Cumbria.
  • Cumbria Bird Club

    Website
    Cumbria is a big county, with birdwatching sites ranging from estuaries and sea-cliffs, through lakes and reedbeds to oak woodland and open felltops. Our club brings together people from all over the county to share their experiences and love of birding. We try to help newcomers learn more about birding, we contribute to the research needed to preserve both local and national birdlife, and above all we try to have fun in the process! We hope these pages help you get a little more out of your birdwatching in the county
  • Cumbria Wildlife Trust

    Website
    Cumbria Wildlife Trust is a charity which was established in 1962. Today it has about 4000 members and manages around 40 nature reserves. These reserves vary in size from one to 2800 acres and cover a wide variety of habitats. Cumbria Wildlife Trust works in partnership with landowners, local authorities, other conservation organisations and businesses to conserve wildlife everywhere in Cumbria…
  • Lancaster & District Birdwatching Society

    Website
    Covers part of South Cumbria
  • RSPB North Cumbria Local Group

    Webpage
  • Wildlife Crime

    Website
    There is a trade in illegally caught wild birds, both in the UK and internationally. With few exceptions it is an offence to be in possession of a British wild bird unless it has been bred in captivity, in which case it will wear a special ring
  • World Owl Trust

    Website
    The Trust's Owl Centre is based in the beautiful wooded grounds of historic Muncaster Castle and every year we welcome over 70,000 visitors to see one of the most comprehensive owl collections in existence. Here you will see over 100 owls from over 50 different species and sub-species (some not commonly found in other collections) ranging from the biggest owl in the world - the European Eagle Owl - to the tiny Pygmy and Scops Owls
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • *Cumbria Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves

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    A list with visitor details…
  • LNR Brown Robin

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    Watch elusive hawfinches using their powerful beaks to open cherry and hornbeam seeds
  • LNR Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve

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    Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is a lowland raised peatbog of international importance, where a pair of ospreys breed during the summer months. Although work to install boardwalk is ongoing, visitors can still see these majestic birds of prey from a viewpoint. Visitors can now explore even more of this important wildlife site, following the opening of a boardwalk extension and the installation of new visitor information.
  • LNR South Walney Nature Reserve

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    The south end of Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, was established as a nature reserve in 1963. It contains the largest mixed ground-nesting of herring and lesser black-back gulls in Europe (about 17,000 pairs altogether) and the most southerly eider duck-breeding colony in Britain (700 breeding pairs). Other breeding species of birds in­clude greater black-back gull, common tern, little tern, oyster-catcher, ringed plover, shelduck, mallard and moorhen. All the eggs of wild birds on Walney Island are protected by a special Home Office Order…
  • LNR Watchtree

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    Welcome to Watchtree Nature Reserve. Here you can have unforgettable wildlife encounters, from Brown Hares, to Roe Deer, to swooping Skylark. For more information on the mammals, birds, plants and other species you can spot at the reserve, take a look on the individual habitat pages
  • NNR Bassenthwaite Lake

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    Bassenthwaite Lake is a very important place for wildlife. Hundreds of birds including the osprey migrate to the lake and fish such as Atlantic salmon come to Bassenthwaite Lake to spawn. The Lake District's first ever wetland nature reserve is situated at the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake. Visitors to the Dubwath Wetland Nature Reserve can expect to spot grasshopper warbler, curlew, greylag, geese, reed bunting and meadow pipit. The 10 hectare site incorporates a 650m gravel path linking to 900m of recycled plastic boardwalk. The routes are designed to provide access to viewing points and bird hides.
  • NNR Drumburgh Moss

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    You might be treated to breeding displays of curlew, skylark and reed buntings. Red grouse, redshank, snipe and grasshopper warbler also breed here.
  • NNR Duddon Mosses

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    On three sides the mosses are surrounded by a belt of broadleaved trees including Birch and beech. Wildlife to be seen includes deer, adders, lizards, frogs and barn owls. See the NNR website for access details.
  • NNR Hallsenna Moor

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    Watch for buzzard hunting over the moor, curlew hiding amongst the peatland flora and warblers flitting amongst the scrub and tree cover on the reserve edges.
  • NNR Roudsea Wood and Mosses

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    Animals found at the site include hazel dormouse, otter and brown hare and the area supports over 50 species of breeding birds such as nightjar, hawfinch, sparrowhawk, woodcock and marsh tit.
  • NNR Sandscale Haws

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    A beach with wild, grass-covered dunes and Lakeland mountain views. The perfect habitat for rare wildlife, including the natterjack toad.
  • NP Lake District National Park

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    Coastal habitats are also to be found in a small section of the Lake District National Park. For example, the sand dunes at Ravenglass estuary are a breeding ground for natterjack toads and the sand dunes at Drigg Nature Reserve support one of the country's largest breeding colonies of black-headed gulls.
  • PLNR Crossbank Nature Reserve

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    Crossbank Nature Reserve is situated to the rear of the Fat Lamb Hotel and is open to the general public. There is an area of land with open access and a purpose built hide giving a good overall view of the site, plus footpaths leading down to viewing points within the reserve itself. All are welcome to come and enjoy a glimpse of nature in this beautiful setting…
  • RSPB Campfield Marsh

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    RSPB info…
  • RSPB Geltsdale

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    Hidden away in the north-west corner of the North Pennines, Geltsdale is a remote and ruggedly beautiful nature reserve where two hill farms – Geltsdale and Tarnhouse – meet. Here, you'll find upland birds like Black Grouse, breeding waders including Curlews, and birds of prey like the Hen Harrier.
  • RSPB Haweswater

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    RSPB Info…
  • RSPB Hodbarrow

    WebsiteSatellite View
    RSPB Info…
  • RSPB St Bees Head

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    The seabird colony here is a muddle of species, including Fulmars, which have a trademark stiff-winged flight as they soar around the cliffs. Guillemots look clumsy on land, but they're agile and elegant underwater. Herring Gulls also nest around the cliffs, spending their time looking for other seabirds to rob food from. Visit in spring and early summer to hear the Kittiwakes calling to each other, making a real racket.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Cumbria Birding Group

    Forum & Sightings
    Membership of this group is open to anyone with an interest in birds and birding in and around Cumbria.
  • Latest Sightings - Cumbria Bird Club

    Sightings
    To report a latest sighting, please contact us selecting category latest sighting. This won't be an official record, so please note it in BirdTrack or to us.
  • cumbriabirds - Sightings of birds in Cumbria

    Sightings
    @cumbriabirds
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris

    Tour Operator
    Hi all and welcome to Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris - Thanks for looking in on us
  • North West Birds

    Tour Operator
    The famous RSPB Reserve of Leighton Moss is only 2 miles away and holds 4 of the UK`s total of 16 male Bitterns - a rare and endangered species, plus Bearded Tits, Water Rails and Otters. Morecambe Bay is the second most important estuary in the UK for wading birds, with totals of nearly 200,000. Short or longer breaks are on a full board basis, including meals and transport,excluding only out of pocket expenses and Reserve entry fees. Mike Robinson, Barn Close, Beetham, Cumbria, LA7 7AL, UK Tel: 015395 63191 e-mail: mike@nwbirds.co.uk
Trip Reports


Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2021 [06 June] - Fraser Simpson

    Report
    This was my eighteenth trip on an undergraduate university field course at a Field Studies Council's centre. After the course was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid, it was great to get away again for the first time in 18 months. The centre has a small patch of mixed woodland which is surrounded by sheep-grazed meadows and a bracken-covered hillside with Meadow Pipit and Skylark, and Wheatear and Ring Ouzel on the higher hill ground. Slightly further afield are some nice patches of Sessile Oak woodland with Redstart and Tree Pipit, and upland streams with Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Goosander. Below is a list of bird species noted and some sound recordings.
  • 2022 [06 June] - Fraser Simpson

    Report
    This was my nineteenth trip on an undergraduate university field course at a Field Studies Council's centre, and the third to Blencathra in the Lake District.
  • 2023 [11 November] - Fraser Simpson

    Report
    This was a family break to Center Parcs Whinfell Forest in Cumbria. The focus was on relaxation, fresh air and some early Christmas activities for our son. The site is composed mainly of mature, managed Scots Pine woodland (and a small area of mature Beech) with a rich understorey of heather, birch, oak, bracken, holly, blaeberry, bramble, rowan and dog rose with a few lime, sycamore, raspberry, foxglove and larch. The lake area is much less productive than the lakes at Elveden Forest though.
Places to Stay


Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Apartment in Kendal

    Accommodation
    Luxurious holiday apartment on the banks of the River Kent in Kendal, Cumbria. The property enjoys a riverside balcony where you can sit and observe everything from cormorants to kingfishers. It is also perfectly situated between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, within a short drive of the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, as well as the RSPB golden eagle observation point at Haweswater
  • Appleby Manor Country House Hotel

    Accommodation
    Appleby Manor has an unrivalled position amid the rolling Pennine Hills, in the Eden Valley on the edge of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. Perfectly located for exploring some of the most spectacular scenery and a perfect location for avid bird watchers. Relax amid the friendly peaceful atmosphere in the garden or the lounge. Enjoy excellent food. Children welcome and pets accepted by arrangement.
  • Cedar Manor Hotel & Restaurant

    Accommodation
    Cedar Manor Hotel and Restaurant, Windermere, in the heart of the Lake District. Built in 1854 as a private country house retreat
  • Dale Head Hall Lakeside Hotel

    Website
    This 16th Century Lake District Hotel sits alone on the tranquil shores of Thirlmere; the peak of Helvellyn majestically rising in the distance behind. Comprising of mature gardens and woodland, Dale Head Hall is a tranquil treasure with an abundance of wildlife - providing the ideal starting point for your exploration of the beautiful North Lakes.
  • Damson Dene Hotel

    Accommodation
    Situated in one of the prettiest and most tranquil settings in the Lake District with spectacular views to the Lakeland fells and only a short drive from Windermere. Offers good value accommodation with leisure facilities. ideally situated for exploring the Lake District
  • Eltermere Country House Hotel

    Accommodation
    Welcome to Eltermere Country House Hotel in the heart of the English Lake District. This website contains information on the hotel together with information on the surrounding area. If you have any queries please feel free to call us on (015394) 37207 fax us on (015394) 37540.
  • Hidden River Cabins

    Accommodation
    Here at our luxury log cabins we have many birds that visit the area and the river Lyne. Most of the birds can be seen going about their day from your cabin. Common residents on the river are the several varieties of ducks, the main one being the popular Mallard made easy to identify with their bright purple feather under the wing. Goosander's are also frequently seen on the river. A frequent visitor to the river are the small black/brown and white Dippers. Often seen walking along the rocks and under water in search of food. They mainly feed on insect larvae and freshwater shrimps so they are not a threat to fishing on the river Lyne.
  • Hollow Creek Cottage

    Accommodation
    A Grade II listed farmworkers cottage, built in 1760, set in the beautiful landscape of Hadrian's Wall Country and the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, yet within easy reach of the Lakes, the Scottish Borders and the bustling, historic city of Carlisle. The village is close to the Solway Firth, with numerous nature reserves and birdlife sanctuaries in the area and 7 acres of land to roam adjoining the property
  • Lakeland Hideaways

    Accommodation
    We have a wide range of Self catering holiday cottages, all situated in the Lake District around the village of Hawkshead and Esthwaite Water
  • Lakelovers - Lake District Cottages

    Website
    As the Lake District’s oldest and most prestigious holiday letting agency with a fine selection of Lake District cottages. We have over 460 self catering properties in our portfolio, Lakelovers are experts in our field with properties spread through the North, Central and South Lakes, in all the most popular areas; such as Ambleside, Windermere, Grasmere and Ullswater to name just a few; we offer a wide selection of unique, hand-picked properties, with something to suit everyone.
  • Mirefoot Cottages

    Accommodation
    Cottages 5 Star Self Catering in The Lake District
  • Muncaster Castle

    Accommodation
    Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria. CA18 1RQ. Tel 01229 717614 We have in the grounds of the castle 8 twin/double en-suite rooms We are situated in a stunning part of the country, close to the gull sanctuary at Drigg and the gardens of the castle extend to 70 acres with many marvelous walks and teeming with wild life. The whole set up is very peaceful and beautiful with the most stunning views and countryside around us. Muncaster is also home to the World Owl Trust which is a major organisation in conservation and the enviroment.
  • Newby Bridge Hotel

    Accommodation
    Perfectly located overlooking the southern tip of Lake Windermere, the hotel is perfectly situated for exploring the Lake District. Offering good value accommodation and good food using locally grown produce
  • Riverside Hotel

    Accommodation
    Situated on the banks of the River Kent in Kendal with lovely views to Kendal Castle. Only a short walk to the famous market town centre of Kendal. Conveniently situated for all the Lake District attractions and only a short drive from Lake Windermere
  • Royal Oak

    Accommodation
    Once an 18th Century farmhouse, our hotel has been accommodating visitors and walkers for over one hundred years, and is still the perfect base from which to explore the beauty of the northern Lake District.
  • Sally's Lake District Cottages

    Website
    Sally's Lake District Cottages is a local family run holiday cottage letting agency with over 300 self-catering holiday cottages in the Lake District and Cumbria - call us for advice on 017687 80571 - our bookings office in Keswick is open seven days a week from 8.30am until 9pm.
  • The Fat Lamb

    Accommodation
    The Fat Lamb Hotel, Ravenstonedale, between the towns of Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen, offers bed and breakfast accommodation midway between the Lakes and Dales. Situated between the National Parks of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales
  • The Lakeland Cottage Company

    Accommodation
    A choice of 90 luxury Lake District cottages including many with 4 and 5 star Gold Awards
  • The Roundhouse Kelkerwell

    Accommodation
    With stunning views, your own private space and a wood-fired hot tub, we aim to give guests a unique and sustainable roundhouse glamping experience that rests, relaxes and inspires.
Other Links
  • Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre

    Website
    Not my sort of thing but some people do use such facilities to learn more about behaviour and ID. In the demonstration you will see different birds doing what comes naturally. There is a commentary on their ecology and wild behaviour, so you can learn about the habitat, conservation, lifestyle and traits of each bird.
  • Cumbrian Osprey live webcam

    Website
    This webcam has no sound and is available to UK users only
Blogs
  • Chris Hind - Borderlands Birding

    BLOG
    Lifelong birder and County Recorder for Cumbria living at Hallbankgate in North Cumbria. Close involvement with nearby Geltsdale Reserve and Hen Harrier monitoring through the year. Particular interest in gulls. Editor of Birds and Wildlife in Cumbria since 2019
  • Cumbria Wildlife Trust

    BLOG
    Get closer to the field and a little more behind the scenes by reading about the wild experiences, wildlife insights and recollections of staff and volunteers – writers from all over the organisation, from our Reserve Officers to our student placements.
  • Jan Wiltshire - Cumbria Naturally

    BLOG
    Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience
  • Pete Woodruff - Birds2Blog

    BLOG

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