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Conservation at Gosforth Nature Reserve

Find out about our conservation work at Gosforth Nature Reserve.

Gosforth  Nature Reserve provides a focus for the Society’s conservation and research activities. The southern half of the reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the whole site is designated as a Local Wildlife Site and Wildlife Corridor in recognition of its ecological importance.

The reserve is managed mainly by Society members working as volunteers. For the past 80 years they have been improving the habitat on the reserve to increase biodiversity and the numbers of uncommon species.

It takes a significant amount of work every year to maintain high-quality habitats for wildlife in the reserve. This is because some of the habitats such as open water, reedbeds, meadow and hedges will be lost unless we actively manage them. We have to tackle invasive non-native species which find their way into the reserve. We also give additional help for wildlife by providing artificial nesting sites and bird (and Badger) food during the cold winter months.

On top of that we also have a programme of work to improve habitats on the reserve which include woodland regeneration and pond creation. Finally, we have to maintain a system of trails and wildlife watching hides and discourage poaching, trespass and disturbance.

Most of this work is carried out by volunteers and through funding that we receive from DEFRA as part of a Higher Level Stewardship grant. However, we also rely on donations from Society members and the public to support this work.

Our work on the reserve is guided by a 10-year Management Plan which is approved by Natural England. This Plan also includes detailed information about the nature reserve and its history.

Examples of the conservation work in the reserve in recent years include:

  • De-silting of ponds to improve habitat for open-water species such as wildfowl, Kingfisher, Common Terns and Otters.
  • Cutting of reeds on a rotational basis to ensure healthy reedbeds and increase the populations of reedbed species such as Reed Warbler, Water Rail and Bittern.
  • Restoration of lowland meadow to allow plant species such as marsh orchids to flourish and provide habitats for butterflies.
  • Woodland management to provide a diverse range of habitats and wide range of species, eg young, medium and old woodland stands; deciduous and coniferous. This includes planting new trees. The woodland is managed to encourage native species to thrive and to provide abundant dead wood for the population of uncommon invertebrates found on the reserve.
  • We dig new ponds to create additional habitat for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.
  • Creating artificial habitats to help boost some species, such as a breeding platform for Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls. Nest boxes are built, installed, cleaned and repaired to increase the breeding populations of hole nesting birds. Bat boxes are installed to provide roosting habitat and carry out bat research.
  • Removing invasive non-native species which have a harmful impact on our native wildlife. This includes Rhododendron, Himalayan Balsam, Sycamore, Turkey Oak, American Mink and Grey Squirrel (we have the last remaining population of Red Squirrels in Newcastle).
  • During the winter we supplement natural food at a feeding station so that the reserve can support more woodland birds.

We are always looking for NHSN members to help us manage and protect the nature reserve. To volunteer please click here.

Bird Ringing at Gosforth Nature Reserve

The Society Bird Ringing Group carries out a programme of constant-effort ringing in the nature reserve. This involves using mist nets set in standard sites at intervals to catch and ring birds. The data collected contributes to a national database and helps to monitor changes in the abundance and productivity of British birds.

Reed Warblers are a specialty of Gosforth Nature Reserve which holds the biggest breeding population this far north in the UK. Ringing is the only way this species can be monitored effectively, and current trends suggest that the population is increasing as the area of reedbed is expanded.

Other Research at the Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is also the focus of research by local naturalists who have made attempts to record the botanical, invertebrate and vertebrate species present on the reserve and in doing so improve our knowledge of the distribution and habitat requirements of species in the North East.

We keep a log book at the reserve for members to record their sightings and these records also prove valuable in building up a picture of population changes. These records are passed to the Environmental Records Information Centre (ERIC) North East to form part of our regional knowledge of the natural world and to help with conservation efforts.

We welcome research and student projects on the reserve. If you would like to carry out a research project in the reserve please contact the Society office.