Wildlife in the Heart of Northumberland

Secluded valleys, clean rivers and large tracts of woodland tend to mean few people and plenty of opportunity to explore for yourself. It also means lots of exciting wildlife in a very natural habitat.

The heart of Northumberland has some spectacular wildlife; from Red Grouse on high moorland to Ring Ouzel in the steep valleys that flow to the wider rivers and streams, to Dippers bobbing along the edges of our rivers and Green Woodpeckers in older woodlands, there’ll be something exciting wherever you look.

Explore around the extensive network of footpaths in the area, and keep your eyes, and ears, wide open, or treat yourself and hire a guide for the day.

…and slightly further afield
If you’re staying in the heart of Northumberland, you’re within easy travelling distance of two National Nature Reserves in the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Lindisfarne is an area steeped in cultural history and blessed with peace, tranquillity and some stunning landscapes and wildlife. The Farne Islands should be on your ‘to-do’ list. Don’t ask why, just go there…and remember to wear a hat!

The Heart of Northumberland’s ‘Big 6’

Red Squirrel

squirrelOne of our best loved mammals, although sadly in rapid decline, the Red Squirrel still has a strong healthy population In Northumberland, in fact two thirds of the UK population are in our County.  Numerous in Kielder and the Border Forests, it can also be found in the beautiful Cheviot and Coquet valleys.  Search around Coldgate Mill in the Happy Valley, and keep your eyes peeled whenever you’re in a wooded area.


With very few breeding pairs in England, the heart of Northumberland offers an excellent chance of encountering the ‘fish-eagle’ between April and August.  Our well publicised breeding pair is viewable from the Osprey Watchpoint just north of Leaplish at Kielder, but you could encounter birds anywhere as they travel in search of food.  The Bakethin reserve is an excellent spot to watch, but any substantial body of water could host a visit from this breathtaking bird of prey.

Red Grouse

grouseA specialist of heather moorland, of which we have plenty, the Red Grouse is a spectacular bird and present all year round.  Males with their vivid red ‘eyebrows’ cackle ‘go back, go back, go back’ as they battle for supremacy on the moors in the spring.  The cryptically patterned female birds are no less attractive and the chicks are jaw-droppingly cute as they pop in and out of sight between clumps of vegetation.

Ring Ouzel

ring-ouzelThe simple song of the ‘Mountain Blackbird’ carries over huge distances, echoing off steep sided valley walls as he proclaims his territory.  Search for this summer visitor in the far reaches of the Cheviot valleys and listen for its harsh ‘tac, tac’ call as it flies overhead.  Narrow, steep-sided valleys close to running water are its preferred habitat choice.  Search around the Hawsen Burn in the Harthope Valley.


A stunning little bird, with striking plumage and behaviour to match.  Bobbing up and down on a rock by a stream the ‘Water Ouzel’ is a dapper study in brown, chestnut and white.  That’s almost enough to make it iconic, but when it suddenly dives into the river, before surfacing and floating downstream then hopping back onto a rock you’re watching something really special – the only passerine (perching bird) that dives and swims underwater.  Search anywhere along the River Breamish, or any other stretch of shallow, fast flowing water with exposed rocks, and listen for the sharp ‘dzitt’ flight call throughout the year.


otterThis shy, sinuous, enigmatic predator is one our most impressive mammals.  Northumberland has a healthy population of Otters, testament to our clean rivers and lack of disturbance.  They roam over large distances, but sitting by a river, pool or lake at dusk will offer your best chance of glimpsing one, or you could hire a wildlife guide and improve your chances.

Our Northumberland Wildlife Specialists