Friday, 12 February 2010

Wednesday with the Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior

On Wednesday I met up with Ewan Miles, the Geltsdale Wildlife Warrior, I had brilliant day out, the best day of my Cumbrian adventure so far.

Planned to meet Ewan at 10 at the pub in Castle Carrock, drove up the back road from Penrith, it was a sunny blue sky, beautiful winters day. We headed off from Ewan's at about half 10, towards Tindale Tarn. The most numerous bird we seen on the moors was Red Grouse, at one point showing quite close, providing brilliant views of this dapper bird. We reached the Forest Head road, a flash of Red could seen in in the hedgerow, we stopped and scanned further along to find a flock of at least 12 Bullfinch. In the village of Forest Head a flock of mixed finches was present, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, and a single female Brambling. At Tindale Tarn, the pair of Smew were present, this was the first time I'd seen a drake bird, well worth the wait. Also about were 2 Wigeon, Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Coot, a Grey Heron and a strange sight of a Black Swan. The wind was bitterly cold across the Tarn towards the hide so we moved on, heading back to Ewan's, via different route, for lunch.

Reaching the Birch woodland we picked up a mixed flock of Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest. Back at Ewan's, he showed me his impressive hide, looking over the valley in a room in his house, with a very comfortable bar stool :P Over lunch we had Roe Deer and Common Buzzard from his window, with tales of Black Grouse, Pied Flycatcher, Short Eared Owl, Barn Owl and Hen Harriers being a regular sighting from this amazing vantage point. Over the entire day I was in awe of the amount of species, the beauty, and remoteness of Ewan's patch and home, only a dream which every wildlife loving city lad has, well my dream anyway :)

After lunch Ewan took me to a site, which he told me, should produce sightings of Long-Eared Owl. Once we reached the area we sat against a dry stone wall, 300 metres further down a couple of Roe Deer fed keeping to themselves, not giving us a glancing look. 5 Common Buzzards moved into the area above us, still hunting as the sky became a deep orange and pink, we discussed if it was possible there was a communal roost in the area, as they seemed to come in as a group. Woodpigeon, a lone Raven and a lone Jay moved into the tree's as the sun set. We moved further along, sitting against the drystone wall again, watching a gap in the tree's a single LEO was spotted, it saw us and quickly moved back into cover, we crouched further down for a while, 4 Snipe and 3 Woodcock flew low overhead. As in became darker the LEO reappeared sitting on the edge for 10-15 minutes before moving back into cover. We took this as a chance to leave and headed back in the darkening skies to Ewan's.

A really good day out, I can't wait to go back again, to have another day with another passionate wildlife enthusiast.


  1. Ewan is a Legend. I was lucky enough to enjoy a good 1 and a half years up there. We should sort out a trip somewhere, sometime!

  2. Sounds like you had a good day. LEO's have to be my favourite owls. :)

  3. Hi Cain,
    Sounds like stonking day out. I visited Geltsdale last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Black Swan you mentioned sounds like a permanent resident at the tarn and although i didn't see it i remember seeing it reported in the log they have there. I am planning a trip soon hoping to see the Black Grouse leck. The day i visited there were strange goings on in the villages around the area as there were numerous scarecrows sitting outside pubs, leaning against peoples gates, sitting on benches taking in the sun and there was even one standing at the car park at Howgill complete with binoculars. Very amusing if peculiar.

  4. Great stuff! I'm more than a bit envious of your drake Smew, not to mention the LEO!

  5. Gary, lucky you, we will definitely need to sort a trip out, drop me an email at

    Andrew, was brilliant, LEO are a wonderfully mysterious bird, caught my creative side and drew one when I came back, was quite good for a change as well.

    Johnny, will have to give me a shout when your over that end, it isn't far from uni, and they do sound like some strange goings on.

    Brian, the Smew was brilliant, one of the best birds I've seen, and the LEO just made the day.

  6. Fantastic blog you have here Cain. I like the way you write; it reminds me of how I write but probably at a higher standard! Like you I really enjoy just escaping the hardships of everyday life and getting out into the wonderful natural world. You're very lucky to see Long-eared Owl. They're great birds, and I'm still yet to see one.

    Just to let you know, I am now following your blog and have also added it to my blog list on my blog.