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Wildlife in the Lake District

22 March 2017

You needn’t travel outside of British borders to discover an amazing nature safari – the Lake District is a home to a wonderfully diverse array of wildlife. Wherever you go across the National Park on a Lake District holiday, you’re sure to hear birds singing and find some interesting animals. If you’re really looking for a wildlife treat, there are many excellent spots to head to where you can discover a whole host of animals enjoying the beautiful surrounding landscapes.

Wescoe and Burns Wood, Threlkeld

Located next to a disused railway line, Burns Wood is the perfect place to spot the red squirrel, one of the Lake District’s best-known residents. They can be shy creatures, and it is estimated that there are only 5000 remaining in Britain, so patience is key to seeing a red squirrel. The woodlands are also home to rabbits, roe deer, coal tits and nuthatches, while the River Greta which also flows through the area offers sightings of grey wagtails and dippers.

Haweswater RSPB Reserve

While red deer can be seen roaming the reserve all year round, this reserve is also a haven for birds. In summer the oak woods are home to pied flycatchers and redstarts, while you may even spot some rare mountain birds in the form of the ring ouzel and maybe even a golden eagle. The best time of year to spot ring ouzels is between April and July, when they are in breeding season, and they can also be seen in gorges and streams.


Located in the heart of the region, Grizedale is cared for by the Forestry Commission and is home to the only population of red kites in Cumbria. The forest is also a fantastic place to spot red deer. Measuring over a metre in height, the red deer is one of Britain’s largest indigenous mammals, though outside of the summer season, their coat actually changes to a grey colour. Close to the visitor centre you will also find the Brant Wetlands, where a variety of wildlife can be seen including barn owls, butterflies, buzzards and dragonflies.

Derwent Water

Derwent Water is one of the District’s best-loved lakes, offering a diversity of wildlife both on and around the water. On the water itself you may see barnacle geese, goosanders and red-breasted mergansers, while the surrounding Borrowdale woodlands have been important to the livelihood of red squirrels, liverworts and mosses. Be sure not to miss a visit to Falcon Crag, where you may be lucky enough to spot peregrines nesting.


If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the osprey during your visit to the Lake District, Whinlatter has to be one of the best places to see one. From a distance, the osprey may resemble a gull, but close up you will see their white underparts, sharp beak and long wings, which make is a highly impressive species. Fortunately, if you’re unable to spot on in the wild, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust have an osprey nest cam you can tune into. Whinlatter is also a Red Squirrel Reserve where red squirrels are actively protected.


If you’re looking to spot some colourful butterflies during your visit, you will find several different kinds fluttering around across the Ennerdale Valley, where significant efforts to reintroduce butterfly species have been made. Orange tips, ringlets, meadow browns and marsh fritillaries are some of the varieties you can find, amongst the red deer, roe deer and red squirrels that also call Ennerdale their home.

Foulshaw Moss

This peatbog is an unusual habitat meaning that it attracts wildlife seen hardly anywhere else in the Lake District, which include bog bush-crickets, large heath butterflies and white-faced darters. Many migrating birds such as ospreys, willow warblers and cuckoos also flock to this reserve during the summer.

Cumbria Coastline

The Lake District also stretches out as far as Cumbria’s coastline, where there is the opportunity to see a whole new diversity of wildlife. More than 10,000 pairs of seabirds nest here, including England’s only breeding colony of back guillemots, while beneath the water lie honeycomb worm reefs and even jellyfish.

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