Tamar Lakes straddle the Devon/Cornwall border seven miles from Holsworthy and six miles from the A39 – the Lower Lake is entirely in Devon and is predominantly managed as a nature reserve. The Higher Lake is mainly managed as a Water Sports Centre although some birds do use it.
Lower Tamar is surrounded by farmland, well-grown deciduous trees and bushes. It was completed in July 1823 so has had many years to mature into a haven for wildlife. It covers 70 acres and was the Bude area water supply until 1978 when the Upper Lake took over this function.
A bird hide is situated on the west bank, in front of which a wetland area has recently been created with an expanse of mud and scrapes. A feeding station providing nuts, seeds and fat has been established near the hide and regularly attracts Willow Tits as well as a wide range of other species. A pathway – often very muddy after rain – encircles most of the lake, but attempting to walk the east bank is not recommended due to deep mud and very thick undergrowth.
The much larger Upper Lake was completed in May 1975 and filled by 27 November 1975 when it first spilled over. A firm pathway provides level access for the three miles around the lake and is sometimes used as a cycleway. A hide is situated at the far end of the lake and was planned and organised by Devon Birds and generously paid for by SWLT in 2009.
The lakes are an ideal birding venue with a changing variety of migrants throughout the year as well as an interesting range of resident birds. During the winter the Lower Lake is excellent for wildfowl and is one of the best water bodies in Devon for Goosander with more than 40 present in some winters. When the water levels are allowed to drop during spring or autumn, the exposed mud attracts a good range of waders including some American species.
The bird list for the lakes currently stands at 205 species including Whooper Swan, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern, Long-billed Dowitcher, Iceland Gull etc.
See also Birds of Tamar Lake by Ian Kendall published in Devon Birds, October 1988.