During the week of 15th June, the RSPB received one of those calls you don’t often forget! Employees at the Hanson Aggregates Quarry at Lower Gelt, near Brampton in Cumbria, had been puzzled by the appearance of several exotic-looking birds that had suddenly appeared in the quarry. Contact was made with RSPB via the Nature After Minerals project and two local RSPB staff were dispatched on a fact-finding mission!

This is what they found!

One of six bee-eaters in the quarry (Mark Thomas RSPB)

Amazingly, a total of six bee-eaters were seen, hawking over the small sand quarry and courtship-feeding on the perimeter fence. Despite the fact that bee-eaters have bred in the UK on three occasions from 2002, this is still a very rare breeding bird and one needing full protection from the actions of egg collectors and unnecessary disturbance. The phone lines between the RSPB regional office in Newcastle and The Lodge were red-hot and plans were drawn up and rapidly actioned. The RSPB is proud to be have been involved in the previous breeding attempts and to be assisting this species with its colonisation of the UK. Talks with Hanson and the landowner, assisted by Cumbria Police, were very productive and protection wardening began almost immediately. Observations showed that two pairs of birds were nest-building and that the extra individuals were non-breeding ‘helpers’! Members of the local birding community were contacted and informed of the presence of the birds and brought on-board as very willing volunteers! Beyond the welfare of the birds always coming first, the RSPB’s aim in these situations is to attempt to provide a public viewing scheme, so spectacular birds can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. You can listen to a recent podcast featuring the work of the RSPB in protecting rare breeding birds, prepared by Charlie Moores as part of the Talking Naturally series. It was clear that Hanson and the landowner shared that belief and the location was absolutely perfect, with ample parking and good observation points.

The viewpoint gives great views of the birds (Mark Thomas RSPB)

We are pleased to announce that the viewing scheme is now operational and the location can be found on the map below. Please follow all on-site instructions and under no circumstances enter the active quarry. The site is open from 8 am until 8 pm daily, with a number of RSPB staff and quality telescopes on hand to assist you with your visit. There is a £5 parking fee at the land owners request. 

We hope you enjoy your visit!

For general enquiries, contact Mark Thomas on 01767 680551 For media enquiries, contact Chris Collett on 0191 233 4300