Some of the many creature highlights in Northumberland.
The waters along the stunning coastline are home to seals, dolphins and a wide array of sea creatures, while vast areas of unspoilt countryside are home to ospreys, red squirrels and much more. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual is what you’re looking for, lemurs, meerkats and other exotic animals and birds can be found in the county’s zoos. Here is a flavour of what Northumberland has to offer…
The Farne Islands are home to thousands of grey seals (also known as Atlantic seals), and each autumn hundreds of pups are born here. Take a boat trip from Seahouses to see the seals on the Farnes.
The puffin is one of the country's favourite birds and there are few better places to see them up close than on the Farne Islands. This rare bird offers endless photo opportunities in the height of the breeding season. With its beautiful markings, strikingly coloured bill and almost comic gait it is a bird that has endeared itself to millions. Puffins head off in August, so make sure you see them before they leave. Take one of the boat trips from Seahouses.
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Snow leopards are the latest to be added to the family-run animal collection at Northumberland Country Zoo, which has 17 acres for visitors to explore with over 50 species of animals to see, including lynx, wallaby and ring-tailed lemurs. https://www.northumberlandzoo.co.uk/
You might be lucky enough to spot dolphins at any point along the Northumberland coast. They can often be seen up close from the trips to the Farne Islands out of Seahouses as they playfully swim alongside the boats. Berwick has become a real hotspot for seeing them in recent years as they gather around the mouth of the River Tweed. Seasonal boat trips operate from Berwick quayside to offer the opportunity of a close-up view.
2021 is the 13th successive year of ospreys breeding in Kielder Forest. Following the return of the ospreys to Kielder this spring, there are now 19 eggs in at least six nests. For the third season in a row, there are four eggs in Nest 1A, which is unusual. Visitors enjoying the grounds of Kielder Castle will be able to watch all the live action from Nest 7 from a screen at The Sea Diner catering unit. Pictured is an osprey pair with their three chicks at Kielder.
Chillingham's wild white cattle inhabit a very large park that has existed since the Middle Ages. The herd has remained remarkably genetically isolated for hundreds of years, surviving despite inbreeding depression due to the small population. Guided tours take you close, but not too close, to these extraordinary animals.
Without doubt the species with the most presence on the islands are the Arctic Terns. By the beginning of June, the majority of the terns are down on eggs and a few weeks later we will begin to find the newest generation of this truly remarkable species. By the end of the year, some of these birds will be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
Whitehouse Farm Centre is Northumberland’s largest family run farm attraction spread over 40 acres, located south of Morpeth and just a mile off the A1. Among its attractions are wallabies, meerkats and Marmoset monkeys. The attraction reopen on April 12, 2021, after being shut by the Covid pandemic. Pre-book tickets is now essential until 9am on the day of your visit via their website, https://www.whitehousefarmcentre.co.uk/
For same day visit enquiries (after 9am), call 01670 789998 in case there are any slots, subject to availability.
The feral goat herds in the Cheviots are regarded as a good example of a primitive goat that helped sustain people of the British Isles from the times of the earliest Neolithic farmers. They pre-date modern goat breeds and are hardy, living a totally wild existence. The College Valley and Hethpool are among the best places to see them.
Northumberland is one of the few areas in the country that is still populated by red squirrels. There are approximately 140,000 red squirrels in the UK and 2.5million greys. Red squirrels are our native species and have lived in the UK for around 10,000 years, grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from North America by the Victorians in the 1800s, the first record of them escaping and establishing a wild population is 1876, since when they have bullied the smaller reds out of all but a few pockets of the country.
Plan a fun filled day out at Kirkley Hall where there is so much to see and do. You'll meet all types of animals in the zoo including rainbow lorikeets, macaws and bearded dragons (pictured).
Wild otters are elusive but it is occasionally possible to spot them on the River Tweed in Berwick along New Road between the Old Bridge and Chateau Pedro.
The officially licensed Birds of Prey Centre is set in the heart of beautiful Kielder Water and Forest Park, the only place in Britain with dark sky status.
Coquet Island, off Amble, is the only site left in the UK where you can still find a breeding colony of roseate terns. A timid bird by nature, they are especially vulnerable to bad weather, predators and any variation in the availability of food.
Andy Howey’s Birds of Prey Centre offers an educational, interactive and hands-on experience with a range of birds of prey, reptiles and creepy crawlies! It's home in the grounds of Haggerston Castle. Falconer Andy Howey is pictured, left. For bookings, call 07882 084178.
There are three centres that specialise in alpacas in Northumberland: Barnacre Alpacas, at Heddon on the Wall, run by Debbie and Paul Rippon (https://barnacre-alpacas.co.uk/); Ferny Rigg Alpacas, near Bellingham (https://www.fernyriggalpacas.co.uk/); and Fallow Field Alpacas, near Hexham (tel 01434 681276).
Northumberland is famous for its country shows, commonly featuring judging of local farmers' sheep and other livestock. Sadly, many of this year's shows have been cancelled, including the biggest, Glendale Show, and Ingram Show, due to the Covid pandemic. But there is still a chance that some, including the last of the season, Alwinton Show, will be able to go ahead. Alwinton is known for its terrier racing, Cumberland & Westmorland wrestling and fell racing, as well as the usual crop of agricultural and horticultural awards. A decision on the 154th show on Saturday, October 9, 2021, will be made on July 19.
Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre reopened to the public in June 2017 following a two-year closure for the creation of a new visitor centre. The new eco-friendly, straw bale building has been largely constructed by a dedicated team of volunteers. It includes a 2km circular walk, wildlife watching hides, cafe, toilets, disabled access paths around almost half of the reserve and baby changing facilities. There is also a classroom that can be hired for private use for events, meetings and educational visits.