Siddick Ponds is one of two Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) in the Workington area. A Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is an area of land protected for its contribution towards wildlife, geology, education and public enjoyment. There are over 1400 LNRs across England for both people and wildlife to enjoy. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) primarily due to the diversity of birdlife it supports. SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites and there are over 4,100 in England, covering around 7% of the country's land area.
History of the ponds
The ponds are a product of both natural and human influences. Approximately ten thousand years ago the ponds were part of a huge delta in what is now the River Derwent. The depression in which the water is held is only twelve feet above sea level. The name 'Siddick' is believed to have originated from 'Siggit' or 'Seagate' an old racecourse located close to where the ponds are today.
The coal industry and associated railways used to transport coal, made a lasting impression on the ponds. In the mid-19th century, the Cleator Moor to Maryport railway was constructed, part of which passed through what is now the nature reserve. Coal continued to be extracted up until the 1970's at nearby St Helen's pit in Siddick. Following its closure and demolition much of the land was reclaimed and many hundreds of trees and shrubs were planted, creating much new habitat for small birds such as Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet.
Wildlife of the ponds
Siddick Ponds is one of Cumbria's most important bird sites, despite its close proximity to heavy industry, commerce, housing and a busy main road. The large reedbeds and extensive open water habitat is unique in Cumbria and attracts a distinctive community of birds throughout the year. The combination of two ponds - one freshwater, the other brackish - contributes to the variety of species using the site.
Winter is the best time to observe wildfowl on the ponds. Over-wintering birds include Teal, Goldeneye, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and occasional parties of Whooper Swan, usually in family groups. Many of these birds will have spent the summer months on breeding grounds in Iceland, Scandinavia, continental Europe and even Russia.The Bittern, one of the rarest breeding birds in Britain, is probably the reserve's "flagship" species. The reserve is undoubtedly the best location in Cumbria to see this secretive species. The birds visiting Siddick are continental birds which have escaped the harsh winters of the European mainland and to 'winter' in the relative warmth of West Cumbria thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream.
During the winter of 2004-2005, five Bitterns wintered at Siddick Ponds making this the largest number ever seen at Siddick Ponds. Winter is also the best season to see (or more likely hear) Water Rail. Their pig-like squeals can sometimes be heard from the depth of the reedbed and there is always a chance of catching a glimpse of one foraging on the edge of the reedbed, particularly during icy conditions.
Spring sees an influx of migratory birds travelling north from Africa, reaching a peak in late-April and early-May. Warblers arrive en masse and Swifts, Swallows, Sand and House Martins make the most of aquatic invertebrates emerging from the ponds. Many of these remain to breed, notably Reed, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, all of which find a perfect home in the mosaic of habitats around the ponds. Other breeding species, which can usually be seen throughout the year, include Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Reed Bunting and there is always a good chance of seeing Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl, Cormorant, Greylag Goose and Kingfisher.
The pond's coastal location makes it an attractive stopover for a wide variety of passage migrants in spring and autumn, although often only for brief periods. Scarcities include occasional Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Mediterranean Gull and Little Egret while rarities have included Caspian Tern, Leach's Petrel, Firecrest, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Osprey.
Other wildlife is less well-recorded but butterflies well represented and include interesting species such as small blue, common blue, speckled wood, gatekeeper, ringlet and grayling in addition to more common species. 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.
Access to the well-equipped bird hide can be gained by parking at Iggesund Paperboard, checking in at the security gate and asking for the keys. The hide offers excellent views of the western end of the pond and is well worth a visit.