Siddick Ponds is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and one of Cumbria’s most important bird sites.
The combination of extensive reedbed and two large ponds – one freshwater, the other brackish (a mix of fresh and saltwater) – contributes to the variety of species using the site and is unique in Cumbria, attracting a distinctive community of birds throughout the year.
History of the ponds
The ponds are a product of both natural and human influences. Approximately ten thousand years ago, at the end of the last ice-age, the ponds would have been part of the delta of the river Derwent. The big change came in the 19th century with the development of the coal industry, changing the landscape forever. The Cleator Moor to Maryport railway was constructed for the transportation of coal, passing through what is now the nature reserve, and the construction of the railway embankment resulted in the creation of the two ponds that we see today. Coal continued to be extracted up until the 1970’s at nearby St Helen’s pit in Siddick.
Wings and Seasons
WINTER (December-February) is the time to see some of Siddick Pond’s most iconic species. The reed-bed provides perfect habitat for the Bittern, one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds, and is undoubtedly the best location in Cumbria to see this secretive species. Perhaps the most spectacular sight in winter is the Starling roost – up to 10,000 (?) have been recorded coming to roost in the reed-bed and spectacular murmurations occur. Winter is also the best season to see (or more likely hear) Water Rail. Their pig-like squeals can often be heard from the depth of the reeds and they can occasionally be glimpsed foraging on the water’s edge, particularly during icy conditions. Winter is a good time to observe wildfowl on the ponds and Teal, Goldeneye, Goosander, Tufted Duck and Whooper Swan, the latter usually in family groups, are among the regular species.
SPRING (March-May) sees an influx of migratory birds, reaching a peak in late-April and early-May. Warblers arrive en masse and many remain to breed, notably Reed, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats. For resident species such as Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Moorhen, Coot and Reed Bunting, the breeding season is in full swing, bird song reaches a peak and the pond is full of life. Large numbers of Swallows, House and Sand Martins and Swifts can often be seen hawking for insects and other regular passage migrants include Shoveler, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, and White Wagtail. Rarities have included Garganey, Great Egret, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier and Caspian Tern.
SUMMER (June-July) is a quiet time, although some species are busy raising second and third broods. Mute Swan, Greylag Gose, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen are very visible with their young in tow. Although bird activity diminishes, surprises can occur. In June 2017, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler made a brief visit and was the first record for Cumbria. Little Egret has become a regular summer visitor and can occur in any month and visiting Ospreys seem to be on the increase. The end of July sees the first signs of autumn wader migration, usually a Common Sandpiper or Dunlin.
AUTUMN (August-November) is an exciting time and the coastal location makes the pond an attractive stop-over for waders during August and September when water levels are low and the muddy edges of the pond are exposed. A wide variety of species has occurred, although often only for brief periods and in small numbers. Regular visitors include Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, and Ringed Plover, along with the occasional Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper. This is also the best time to see Mediterranean Gulls, which often gather on the brackish pond. Later in the autumn, wildfowl numbers increase. Teal and Mallard are the dominant species, accompanied by smaller numbers of Wigeon and occasional Pintail, Gadwall and Shoveler. Redwing and Fieldfare arrive from the north and rarities such as Bearded Tit, Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest have occurred.
Other wildlife is less well-recorded but butterflies are well represented and include common blue, speckled wood, gatekeeper, ringlet and grayling in addition to more common species. The small blue can be seen in late-May and early-June on the nearby post-industrial coastal land at Oldside, its Cumbrian stronghold. It used to breed at Siddick Pond and may return to breed if suitable habitat can be re-created. Dragonflies are also visible on warm summer days and species such as Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter and Blue-tailed Damselfly can be seen, depending on the time of year. Moths are under-recorded but recent night-time trapping has resulted in sightings of Elephant hawk moth, Cinnabar moth, Silver-Y and Brown China-mark.
The ponds are one of the best places to see Otters in Cumbria and other mammals regularly seen include Red Fox, Stoat and Weasel. Bats recorded to date include Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule and Daubenton’s.
Siddick Ponds is owned by Allerdale Borough Council. However, successful management is a product of a strong local partnership between the borough council and Workington Town Council, which has created the Workington Nature Partnership.
If you are interested in volunteering, please email Raegan Blacker, the Workington Nature Partnership Officer, or call her on either 01900 702826 or 07834128609.
The Friends of Siddick Ponds have been integral to the successful management of the reserve in recent years and continue to provide invaluable input. The group, consisting of local residents, meets regularly, and has raised funds and promoted the reserve to a much wider audience.