Castle Lake forms the centrepiece of a complex of excellent sites surrounding the village of Bishop Middleham. Nearly 200 species have been recorded in the area. Undoubtedly, the breeding Bee-eaters of 2002 are the highlight, but an impressive list of rarities such as Lesser Scaup, White Stork, Wilson’s Phalarope and Black Stork have been recorded, along with scarcities including Black-necked Grebe, Common Crane, White-winged Black Tern, Honey Buzzard, Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Firecrest and Red-rumped Swallow.
Rare birds are always a bonus, but it is for the diversity of species and sheer numbers, that makes Bishop Middleham an area worth visiting at any time: 30 species of wader and 29 of wildfowl recorded. In spring and summer look out for breeding waders including Little Ringed Plover and Redshank, and wildfowl such as Garganey and Shelduck. The fields and hedgerows hold good numbers of farmland birds, including Yellow Wagtail, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting, the latter present in its last
Wilson's Phalarope (John Malloy)
stronghold in the County. Raptors may include Osprey and Hobby, which is a site regular. Autumn then brings passage number waders in good numbers: Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper, with counts of some species in excess of those on the North Tees Marshes. The winter months provide large concentrations of wildfowl, with thousands of Wigeon, Teal, Golden Plover and Lapwing present along with up to six species of geese, including Bean Goose and White-fronted Goose. Such numbers attract raptors; Peregrine, Short Eared Owl and Hen Harrier are regular.
In 2009, the Club installed a hide overlooking Castle Lake. Keys (£5 each) are available from John Olley (07393913695). If you are using the hide, please ensure that it is securely locked on exit; that you record sightings in the log and submit them to the Club. Significant habitat improvement works have been carried out by the Club, including the installation of tern breeding rafts and the creation of scrapes, islands, and reedbeds.
View from the hide (Fred Milton)
Sites around Castle Lake
Several ‘micro’ sites immediately surround Castle Lake. These include the mini ‘Ouse-washes’ of the A1 Flashes, Fishburn Pond, the small wetland of Allan’s Pools and the River Skerne, where Kingfisher is regular. A mosaic of farmland, scrub woodland, disused railway lines and wet woodland links these sites; significant habitat for a wide range of birds and other wildlife. Alongside the minor road, leading to Bishop Middleham from the A177, is Stoney Beck Lake, where Corn Bunting is a regular, and Smew, Bean Geese and Hobby have recently been recorded. To the north of the village is the Permian magnesian limestone grassland of Bishop Middleham Quarry, home to the 2002 Bee-eaters, and an outstanding SSSI, nationally recognised for its significant butterfly and botanical interests. Slightly further afield, Hardwick Park in Sedgefield offers wildfowl and a bird feeding station that regularly draws Brambling, and Hurworth Burn, near Trimdon, for large numbers of wildfowl, farmland species and regular rarities, such as the Black-winged Pratincole in 2014
Access & Parking
The Bishop Middleham area is well served by a network of well-marked public footpaths and bridleways (see OS Land Ranger Map 93 and OS Explorer 305). Access boards at regular intervals show the way to Castle Lake and some of the other sites. The hide should be accessed from the ‘Bird Hide’ metal kissing gate off Fourmart’s Lane. Parking is recommended at Bishop Middleham Church.
Castle Lake Conservation Group
Castle Lake Conservation Group gained Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status on 08 Feb 2017 Charity No: 1177070
1. To promote for the benefit of the public, the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment by promoting biological diversity of the area in Bishop Middleham, County Durham, know as Castle Lake.
2. To advance the education of the public in the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment.
To find out more about Castle Lake Conservation Group please visit their Facebook page.