At Maulds Meaburn Village Institute on April 2, Lee Schofield, Site Manager for the RSPB delivered a fast-paced talk on recent developments at Haweswater that was illustrated with fine images of birds and was densely informative, highly interesting and very encouraging. Haweswater Reservoir in Mardale is one of Cumbria’s iconic lakes, it supplies more than 2 million people with fresh water and is home to a rich and varied fauna and flora including England’s last Golden Eagle.
The Royal Society For The Protection of Birds (RSPB) is now responsible for the management of two farms, one at The Naddle and one at Swindale and working hard to improve the local area for wildlife as part of a larger project of improvement in which United Utilities are in the process of planting about 180,000 trees!
Lee explained in his talk that the changes at Haweswater are being driven primarily by two forces:
- by worrying declines in many species ranging from butterflies and liverworts to farmland birds as reported in The State of Nature Report (2013)
- United Utilities’ desire to improve the quality of the drinking water, particularly the colour which has become noticeably peatier in recent years. Unless the quality can be improved through innovative environmental management, they may have to construct a new water treatment facility at enormous cost.
In his presentation, Lee explained RSPB’s new work at Haweswater, “a long-term project to deliver multiple objectives”, farming Haweswater to the benefit of wildlife biodiversity, water quality and other ecosystem services. He grounded this plan in the context of RSPB’s history of monitoring the breeding Golden Eagles and limited management of Naddle forest and tree nursery in a proto-SCaMP phase.
Since 2012 the RSPB have embarked on a 45 year tenancy from UU over the 500 Ha Naddle Farm and the 250 Ha Swindale Farm. They have also acquired Commons rights on Mardale Common, Bampton Common and Ralfland Common. Currently they manage 1150 breeding Swaledale and Cheviot Ewes. Their plan is to reduce livestock by about 30% to allow recovery of vegetation such as heather, they’ll graze cattle just on the rough bog vegetation due to a restriction for the sake of water quality. They’ll fence off rivers to keep them pristine.
These changes are expected to help biodiversity and improve water quality and carbon sequestration. An expected consequence will be an increase in the Golden Eagle’s natural prey species.
He briefly introduced some of the species and habitats of the area with some high quality images of the Ring Ouzel, Red deer of Martindale, Red Grouse, Merlin, Red squirrel and Golden Eagle. He gave us a lot of interesting information about the Golden Eagle.
He explained the SCaMP and ecosystem services such as water retention and filtration, and carbon sequestration, then described their staff roles and talked a little about the challenges of the task.
Lee listed some of the very impressive achievements made so far, see the slide below:
Then followed a Q&A session in which the Eagles featured most prominently. Who was persecuting them and why? Apparently some farmers and game keepers continue to persecute them, sometimes with poison.
Why didn’t the RSPB just reintroduce a new female for the lonely male? The rules are strict, it was felt that she might not necessarily stay, their natural food species would need to be more abundant – they can’t raise chicks on carrion.
Where did the Eagles’ off-spring go? It’s likely they flew north to Scotland, but as they weren’t ringed, we don’t know where they are.
Lee welcomed new RSPB volunteers to help with the work. There is an advert on the RSPB website for a long-term volunteer http://www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering/277-residential-volunteer-long-term-placement-haweswater but other volunteers are needed on a regular basis for a variety of tasks every first Thursday of the month.
If you are interested in helping, please contact the RSPB via their Haweswater microsite.
The viewpoint is open from April and August from 11 am-4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, plus bank holidays. When questioned about volunteering at The Viewpoint, Lee said it was possible with specialist training, so perhaps extra days could be added.
Prospective visitors might be interested to know that refreshment is available at The Haweswater Hotel.