Watching wildlife is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and find spiritual and mental refreshment in these busy times that we live in. The Ennerdale valley is home to a wide range of wildlife, from over a hundred species of birds to deer, otter, butterflies and Red squirrels.
For more information about where to see some of the valleys wildlife and how we are caring for them please choose a category from the menu.
Surrounded by high mountains and with a lake at the western end the valley is a haven for Red squirrels and is home to between 100 and 150 Red Squirrels.
Red squirrels are an iconic native species but their future is increasingly uncertain as the introduced American grey squirrel expands its range across Cumbria. Red squirrels can be seen across Ennerdale's woodlands especially towards the western end of the valley. Look out for conifer cones which have been stripped of scales and seed which indicate that squirrels are using the area.
Each Spring and Autumn we monitor our Red Squirrel population and trap Grey Squirrels. We use trail cameras to monitor wide areas of the forest and only move to use trapping in response to a camera recording a grey squirrel.
We work closely with the Ennerdale Community Red Squirrel Group and Ennerdale and Kinnisde Parish Council who patrol the valleys western buffer zone keeping Grey Squirrels from reaching the valley.
With a wide range of habitats from sub alpine to lakeshore, from grassland to forest the valley provides a home to over 100 bird species.
In the conifer forest: siskin, goldcrest, coal tit, sparrowhawk, song thrush, willow warbler and wren.
In the native oak woodlands: pied flycatcher, wood warbler, tree pipit, green woodpecker and nuthatch.
On the mountains: ring ouzel, whinchat, wheatear, raven, stonechat, meadow pipit and skylark.
Open habitats: swallow, house sparrow, chaffinch, snipe, greenfinch, redpoll, goldfinch, barn owl, buzzard,
We are creating opportunities for birds by reducing the dominance of conifers and restoring native woodland, heath land and bog habitats. Allowing nature to blur the boundaries between habitats by introducing extensive cattle grazing should also help provide and create more diverse habitats.
We have carried out extensive base line monitoring of birds which can be found on our monitoring page
Butterflies can be seen across the valley. They are most active on warm calm days and can be seen between May and September.
Led by Butterfly Conservation and Natural England we have increased butterfly habitat and following reintroduction we now have an expanding population of Marsh Fritillary. From spring to late Summer you can see a range of butterflies including Red Admiral, Peacock, Mountain Ringlet, Meadow Brown. Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Marsh Fritillary.
We have three herds of extensive grazing cattle which wander around the valley east of the lake. We introduced them as a natural disturbance process, as they are heavier enough to be able to disturb the ground vegetation creating a patchwork of natural seedbeds. Compared to sheep, cattle are more selective graziers ripping with their tongues leaving behind plants that can go onto flower. Cattle are also terrain challenged so they don't graze the whole of the area they have access to equally.
Where our cattle have been grazing for more than 10 years we have seen a 65% increase in bird species and a doubling of the numbers of birds.
Our Galloway herds can be hard to find, you may find them in the forest, sheltering on hot or stormy days or grazing in the fields. In the summer some of the animals will be up on the high mountains. Our tenant farmer monitors the herds at least once a week and when snow cover stops them accessing grazing they are given hay.
Once a year all the cattle get a health check and often in winter they will get energy blocks which give them essential nutrients.
The Ennerdale valley is home to around 100 Roe deer with the occasional transient herd of Red deer moving to and from South Cumbria. Deer can be found in the valley all year round but they can often be difficult to spot, early morning and late evening are the best times of the day to see deer.
Look for the signs of deer presence such as hoof prints, droppings and flattened vegetation where they have laid down at night.
Deer no longer have any natural predators such as bears, lynx or wolves which are now extinct in Britain. Without management deer numbers increase to a point where they can have a detrimental impact on plant species diversity and lead to deer starving due to lack of food.
In Ennerdale the Forestry Commission employs a wildlife ranger to cull around 20 deer, mostly Roe, a year through shooting.By managing the deer population we ensure that important habitats such as Oak woodlands and wet meadows develop free from over grazing.
Fish are important indicators of water quality and part of the natural wildlife in Ennerdale. Ennerdale is home to a number of species of fish including salmon, trout, brook lamprey, eel, stickle back and Arctic charr.
Ennerdale Water is home to England’s only migratory population of Arctic charr.
In 2009 we removed a concrete pipe bridge crossing Woundell beck and replaced it with a single span foot bridge. This restored both fish access to 5km of spawning river and gravel deposition downstream onto historic Arctic char spawning grounds. Within 3 years the numbers of spawning Arctic char increased from a handful to over 500.
Good places to look for fish are from bridges that cross over rivers and streams. In autumn you may see a Redd , a raised mound of gravel, where a salmon or trout has laid its eggs and covered them with gravel.
The pine marten is a medium sized native animal that was thought to have been widespread throughout the UK in historic times. Over the last few hundred years its numbers have declined due to persecution and the loss of woodland cover.
Ennerdale does not currently have Pine Marten however Pine Martens are expanding from Scotland into Northern England and a project is developing to reintroduce Pine Marten to South Cumbria.
Pine Martens and Red Squirrels have historically shared the same habitats. Aberdeen University is leading on Pine Marten research and their evidence shows that Pine Martens can reduce Grey Squirrel populations sufficiently for Red squirrels to recover and thrive. Pine Marten seem to do this by creating a landscape of fear which reduces Grey Squirrel reproductive rates.
Our hope is that in the not too distant future Pine Marten will again return to Ennerdale.