There is a large variety of wildlife in the area and around the cottage, but some of the animals and birds can be hard to find. There are lots of small field mice and voles in the garden in the summer, which like to keep out of sight. Cats have sharp eyes and ears – and patience – and several mice have been caught by our cat over the years as the photo opposite shows!
The Whinlatter Forest is designated as a flagship red squirrel reserve among 17 other reserves in the North of England and there are several squirrels which regularly use the garden at The Larches. They like the nut and grain feeder we have installed and if there is food there, especially hazel nuts, they are likely to appear – particularly in the early morning. In the guest book several visitors have reported seeing them. See blog post (28 June 2009) for photo of a squirrel leaping and a chance to add your own comments.
They also like the runways that the steps up the fellside offer and bound along the paths either into the forest or down to Clarry’s House opposite the cottage. There are also many places where the squirrels can eat undisturbed and you will often see several steps littered with discarded nut shells. We hope visitors to The Larches will put nuts and feed out in the feeding box. Some supplies should be found in the downstairs toilet area under the stairs. If these have run out, more are available in Keswick market (Thursdays and Saturdays) or from the pet shop near Booths supermarket.
Click on the images below to see some more pictures of the red squirrels at The Larches – where they feed and hide in the trees, where they leave their nut husks and one of their scurries down from the woods!
The author Beatrix Potter was interested in the red squirrels near Catbells in the 1900s and based her Tale of Squirrel Nutkin on the ones she saw when staying at Lingholm – see blog post for more details.
There are roe deer in the forest and these will occasionally come down to the road. You are most likely to see them if you are deeper into the forest and in less frequented areas and in the evenings when they are feeding. We last saw one at dusk beside the ponds at the top of Comb Beck.
Rabbits have been seen in the road outside the cottage, but they are not frequent visitors to Seldom Seen. However we have had a visit recently in the cottage garden – see blog post and photos (16 March 2010). There have also been sightings of badgers.
The Larches is an excellent spot for seeing a large variety of birds. The feeding points can be filled by visitors with food from the jar in the downstairs toilet. As well as tits, chaffinches, sparrows, robins, blackbirds there are jays and woodpeckers in the forest.
There are also buzzards and peregrines which can be seen well from the Belvedere vantage point where there is a large sky zone to track their movement with binoculars, as they fly over the forest and the Derwent marshes.
Most well known are the ospreys, which arrive here in April every year from their wintering on the west coast of Africa. Bassenthwaite provides the major source of fish for the birds; in 2007 two thirds of their fishing was done in the afternoon and evening and 240 fish were brought back to the nest. In 2008 the ospreys changed their nesting site from the west side of Bassenthwaite – in the Wythop Woods north of Barf – to the east side of the lake in Dodd Wood; and in 2009 three chicks were hatched on this new nest in late April. For a collection of photos of ospreys and their very different nests in Wyoming’s Grand Teton Park in the USA see blog post Lakeland ospreys fly to the Pole.
There are excellent opportunities at The Larches for seeing the ospreys above Bassenthwaite.
- You can take the Osprey bus service (No 74) which runs from the Thrnthwaite bus stop every two hours (11.06, 13.06, 15.06, 17.06.) The bus operates weekends only from 4 April to 31 August, with the exception of school holidays (6-17 April, 25-29 May and 18 July – 31 August ) when it runs daily. This is a 20 minute clockwise journey from Thornthwaite round Bassenthwaite, which takes you to the Mirehouse stop. From here it is a short walk up to the viewing platform, run by the RSPB and Osprey Watch. This can be coupled with a 2-3 mile walk back over footpaths across the Derwent marshes (see OS map at The Larches). Check the times for the return bus if this is preferred
- You can see the ospreys on Ospreywatch http://www.ospreywatch.co.uk/ . This website has a lot of useful background information (including the feeding information above) and can be viewed at The Larches via the Netgear router in the kitchen, if you bring a laptop computer with you.
- The nesting site in Dodd Wood is 1½ miles from The Larches and is visible from the Belvedere. With good binoculars you may be able to see the ospreys at different times during the day. Bassenthwaite is not directly visible from the Belvedere although you can see it from just outside the cottage. The photograph below Where ospreys dare, is of Dodd Wood and was taken from the Belvedere with the evening sun throwing the shadow of Dodd onto the base of Ullock Pike with Skiddaw behind. The nest is at the bottom below the track and to the left of centre.