When I first came to Cumbria in 1970, the iron ore mine and works at Hodbarrow, near Millom, had only been closed about 18 months and the site was a derelict wasteland composed mostly of basic slag. Sea walls and pumps had kept the site dry but once the pumps were switched off a large lagoon formed, and wild plants began to occupy the surrounding areas. Soon afterwards, RSPB purchased a large part of the lagoon and the neighbouring area. Now, half a century later the lagoon remains much as it was and the rest of the reserve is a mosaic of open grassland, wet woodland, and scrub with sheltered glades. Nature has reclaimed its own and the variety of plants, insects and birds is huge and well worth a visit at any time of year. Some species are quite rare and the whole area is designated as a site of special scientific interest.


sandwich terns and 55 of common terns. Little terns here were down in number but more are breeding on nearby Foulney Island. Overall, the number of breeding little terns in the area is good. There were also record numbers of breeding eider ducks; one 50 strong creche of these had been seen leaving the lagoon to head out to sea. Other species including lapwing, ringed plover, tufted duck and oystercatcher have also bred. Other parts of the reserve hold many species of smaller birds especially warblers and in autumn and winter, there are many different ducks and waders.

Common Tern

In spring and summer, the island in the lagoon is of interest; it had often attracted nesting gulls and some terns, but predation and disturbance were problems. Three years ago, a fox-proof fence was constructed in the water around the island which did its job very well. However, the large gulls continued to be a significant problem but last year ways of deterring them were used and apart from one persistent pair that took some chicks and eggs, proved reasonably successful. Last year proved to be a record breeding year with 550 pairs of sandwich terns, 40 pairs of common terns, 33

Nature reclaiming its own

pairs of little terns and each of these species raised chicks; approximately 500 sandwich terns fledged. We have visited Hodbarrow twice in the past month and were amazed by the strength the colony; the protection measures really have succeeded. As we approached the hide overlooking the island, the calls of the terns and black-headed gulls was considerable and there was a continuous stream of terns flying in off the sea with small fish which they were feeding to their young. We were informed by the wardens that there were now 1900 pairs of

Oh! Just before we left the hide on our most recent visit, two Mediterranean gulls were spotted. I wonder if they might decide to breed there in the future.

My thanks to RSPB staff for the information about tern numbers.

Neil Hutchin

RSPB West Cumbria Group’s next indoor meeting will be on 4th September; the programme will be announced nearer the time. Meanwhile the Group will have a stall at the Cockermouth Show on 4th August. If you are there come and say hello. More details from or from Group Leader Dave Smith on 01900 85347, or Marjorie and Neil on 01900 825231.

All you’ll ever need for your home and garden!

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ISSUE 427 | 19 JULY 2018 | 56

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