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Wildlife

The Lake District's most famous Breed of sheep is the Herdwick, famed for its hardy nature and its ability to thrive on the Country's highest Fells during the harshest of winters. You will see Herdwicks in Eskdale throughout the year, During the winter they will be on the Fells, until April when they come down into the valley bottom fields for lambing time. April and May, when the daffodils and then the bluebells are at their finest and the lambs are Gamboling in the fields, is truly a wonderful time to visit Eskdale, or indeed any of the Lakeland Valleys. Despite its fame, far from every sheep that you see in Cumbria will be a Herdwick. The Swaledale is another breed that thrives on the Lakeland Fells, spot the difference...

Just like in the Wind in the Willows, if you go down to the river you have the chance to see all kinds of things. The insect life alone is incredible, mayflies and beautifully coloured dragonflies and butterflies and flies hither and thither, while waterboatmen skate crazily across the surface of the water.

If you look into the depths you can see trout and salmon lying lazily on the river bottom, if they are in shallow water they tend to be in the shady becalmed areas behind rocks or sheltered under the banking, they are easier to spot lying at the bottom of the deeper pools, so near and yet so far.

The riverbank is a great habitat for all kinds of birdlife, with the abundant supply of insects. There are kingfishers in Eskdale, although you will be extremely lucky to see one. They live where the river banks are steep and fringed with dense vegetation, which makes for good nesting sites.

There are also otters in the Valley, but again you will need to be very attentive and very lucky to see one. In the Tarns around the Valley you will see frog and toad spawn in the Spring, and later on you might see newts, as well as of course frogs and toads. Although they are extremely rare, there are adders in the Lake District, and it is a real joy to see one basking on a hot summer's day. You are more likely to spot a grass snake with its shiny blue or green underbelly. In summer you see common lizards sunning themselves in the dry rocky areas.

Roe deer are becoming ever more common in the Lake District, and you are quite likely to spot them in the Eskdale Woodland. The beautifully elegant red deer also live here, although they are far rarer. Of course you'll hope to see a red squirrel, and they are quite common, so if you're lucky you should spot them, it's not unknown for them to come and feed at bird tables, so keep your eyes peeled. Red deer are also now established in the valley.

On the road at night you might spot fox or badger, and you see their sets commonly in the Eskdale Valley. They have been known to dig under the road down Birkby and cause it to collapse. Voles live on the river banks, and mice live in the dry stone walls that form the field boundaries. Do you know the difference between a stoat and a weasel? Both live in the Valley. Don't forget that to tell the difference, a weasel is weaselly recognised, while a stoat is stoatally different. Or to put it a different way, the tip of a stoat's tail is always black. Rabbits are very commonly seen, hares slightly less so, although they are not uncommon, and they are very distinctively different.

The valley is full of bird life, and as well as a full selection of garden birds, you might see woodpeckers on feeders in the garden, you are certainly likely to hear them in the trees. Green woodpeckers are predominantly green with a red cap on their head, while the more common spotted woodpecker is black and white, with a red band on its head.

In May and June swifts, swallows and house martins build their nests and are constantly flying here and there. Look up at the eaves of the roof and see if you can spy their nests. Can you tell which is which?

There are birds of prey in the valley including massive buzzards, kestrels and peregrine falcons with their distinctive call. You might see an owl, out hunting at dusk, when the bats are also out catching insects.