Migrating birds returning to Kielder Water & Forest Park this spring are in for a big surprise.
As part of the National Heritage Lottery Funded “Living Wild at Kielder” project and Kielder Art & Architecture, Plashetts Rising, a dramatic new sculptural commission, is now in place, emerging eerily from the depths of Kielder Water.
Plashetts Rising, designed by FleaFolly Architects, draws inspiration from the nearby and now-flooded Plashetts Quarry, from which rock was quarried during the construction of the dam, as well as Plashetts Station, a halt on the Border Counties Railway that once ran through the North Tyne Valley but now lies deep beneath Kielder Water’s surface.
As well as being a spectacular art installation, Plashetts Rising also serves as a giant perch and “fishing watchtower” for Kielder’s many bird species.
With the Kielder ospreys due to return from their winter migration destinations very soon, it is hoped they and other birds will make a beeline for the new structure. The top of the Plashetts Rising has been sculpted to incorporate lengths of timber, creating a comfortable perching place for many species of bird.
Tom Dearnley from the Forestry Commission says: “Plashetts Rising should be particularly popular with ospreys who feed on live fish and look for their food by flying over the water. They dive into the water with wings swept back, pushing their talons forward at the last minute to grab the fish from below the surface. Perching here would provide a great place to eat their catch!”
Families visiting Kielder from late spring should have a great view of ospreys and other birds silhouetted against the sky on Plashetts Rising, either from land with binoculars, or from the Kielder Osprey Ferry which transports visitors across the water during the summer. The closest views of Plashetts Rising can be enjoyed whilst walking or cycling along the north shore of the Lakeside Way.
Away from the water and in Kielder’s forest, birdwatchers may see goshawks in spring doing astonishing aerial displays above the trees. The best way of seeing this is to find a quiet spot with good views of the skies and keep your eyes peeled.
The goshawk is a large hawk, almost as large as a buzzard. Both species are often seen at Kielder. Up close the goshawk has a fierce expression with bright red eyes and a distinctive white eyebrow. Its broad wings enable it to hunt at high speed, weaving in and out of trees, and its long legs and talons can catch its prey in flight.
Another fascinating bird which can be spotted in the woods at Kielder is the crossbill. It is a chunky finch with a large head and a beak which is crossed over at the tips. This crossed beak is used to extract seeds from conifer cones – and so naturally, Kielder Forest provides this bird with an abundance of food. The male crossbill is a brick red colour and the females are a greenish-brown. Crossbills are most often encountered in noisy family groups or larger flocks, usually flying close to treetop height. They feed acrobatically, fluttering from cone to cone.
There are many more species of woodland birds to look out for at Kielder including goldcrests, song thrushes, nuthatches and woodpeckers amongst the trees. Overlooking the water at Kielder’s Bakethin Nature Reserve you can also see many varieties of water bird such as mandarin ducks, little grebe, teal, goosander and tufted duck. Visit Bakethin Hide for an excellent viewing area.
At dusk you will hear the sound of Kielder’s owls calling to each other across the trees. Kielder Forest is home to a large population of owls, who come out to hunt at night, so look around in the trees during the early evening too.
And as the evening falls, don’t forget to take a last look at Plashetts Rising too, to see who’s settling down for the night on this wonderful, towering perch.
Lynn Turner, Director of the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “Plashetts Rising links nature, creative art and the history of Kielder with a contemporary visitor experience. We love it and we hope all our 2019 visitors - particularly ospreys and other birds - will too.
“I would like to thank National Lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting ‘Living Wild at Kielder’; a project that helps people experience and learn about the area’s special animals, birds and plants.
Plashetts Rising is part of the Kielder Art & Architecture programme, which is supported by Arts Council England.
For more information on Kielder Water & Forest Park and its wildlife, visit www.visitkielder.com