Guide in the Hide

Our Guide in the Hide events are a great way to develop your birding skills. Our guides are on hand to help our visitors, of all ages and abilities, identify the birds at our reserves. They can also get you closer to the action, with the help of our binoculars and telescopes.

From our feathered visitors, to those that have made our reserves their home, our friendly guides are happy to point out who is who and answer any questions. With the rich variety of habitats across our reserves, our hides are the perfect place to relax and enjoy learning about the abundance of wildlife our region has to offer.

It’s not only birds that can be seen from our hides. From dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies to brown hares, foxes, stoats and roe deer, there is wildlife in all shapes and sizes to discover.

Weasel at Rainton Meadows, Vivien Kent

Our guides are all volunteers who have kindly given their time to share their enthusiasm and knowledge, to help visitors get the most from their visit. They also come equipped with our literature for you to take away, so you can also learn more about our work and reserves once you leave.

Peter Bell has been a guide for over a year. He is a keen birder and a Trustee for Durham Wildlife Trust. Peter took up the volunteering opportunity as he was interested in sharing his interest with others and using his expertise at the same time. He explained it was also a great opportunity for him to do ‘hands on’ work as well as governance.

Peter has been a guide at both Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve and Shibdon Pond.  The wetlands and grasslands at Rainton Meadows support a wide range of birds, over 200 species have been recorded. Shibdon Pond is one of the few large open water bodies left in the southern part of Tyne and Wear, and one of the best wetlands in the region for wintering wildfowl.

Peter explained on a good day both reserves will produce plenty of birds. He added: “There’s a chance of harder to see species from both hides – Water Rail and Kingfisher are regular. There’s also a good chance of scarcer passage waders at migration times – Green Sandpiper, Ruff and Spotted Redshank, plus many others. One local birder saw a Great White Egret fly over the reserve at Rainton Meadows just the other day, so anything is possible at any time of the year!”

Little Egret at Rainton Meadows, Michael Coates

Peter’s highlight as a guide was seeing an impressive selection of wildfowl at Rainton Meadows including Gadwall and Pochard, in beautiful morning light, and a big flock of 75 Curlew right in front of the hide.

Peter explained how he developed his interest in birding: “As a young boy in February 1972, I found and identified Waxwings in our back garden at Middle Herrington. I wrote to the Sunderland Echo and had my letter published under the heading ‘ten year old spots rare winter visitors to Wearside’.  I was hooked from then on, and this went on to shape my whole life and career.”

Our guides are hoping to pass on their enthusiasm to others, including the next generation of young birders.

With spring, one of the most exciting times for birdwatching, just around the corner we are expecting our summer migrant visitors to arrive soon. We hope that we spot you in our hide waiting to greet them.

Geese at Rainton Meadows, Susan Hepworth

Our next Guide in the Hide event takes place on 17 February at Low Barns Nature Reserve, one of our region’s most important wildlife sites. For more information please visit: Keep an eye on our events page for future dates too:

Please get in touch if you’re a keen birder who would like to share your knowledge too. We are currently looking for new guides, so we can increase the number of these events.