The reserve, on an old open cast coal mining site, consists of a number of lakes surrounded by reed beds and bounded by meadows. It is a large varied area, far more than can be comfortably covered in one day’s visit. Nine members enjoyed walking on the many paths. These, as well as being used by bird watchers, and despite the brisk breeze, were also busy with walkers, runners, cyclists and pushchairs, all enjoying the sunshine.

As well as birds the whole site has a wealth of colourful plants which attract butterflies though we saw only a few Meadow Browns.

The first bird of interest was a Little Owl which had been nesting on the massive drag line adjacent to the car park. Along the paths we heard and then saw many Reed Buntings. Constant noise was of the large colony of Black-headed Gulls with their young. Anyone interested in improving their knowledge of juvenile and immature gull plumage has plenty of scope here.

Common Tern

Common Tern

Juvenile Black Headed Gull by Marg Smith

Black Headed Gull by Marg Smith

One of the “star” breeds is the Black-necked Grebe which we were pleased to spot with their young. In 2023, only 55 pairs bred in the UK and St Aidan’s was privileged to have 18 of them. These are exceptionally striking little water birds with a bright red eye and ear tufts of gold plumes. Other highlights were a female Marsh Harrier and Common Tern. Also noted were Reed Warbler, and Cetti’s Warbler.

In all 31 species were recorded on a very pleasant day out rounded off with ice-creams in the visitor centre on a veranda overlooking the whole area, and a sky full of swifts.

One member’s list (in no particular order): Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Moorhen, Magpie, Reed Bunting, Black-headed Gull, Swift, Tufted Duck, Greylag and Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Goldfinch, Gadwall, Shoveler, Oystercatcher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Starling, Cormorant, Black-necked grebe, Marsh harrier, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Little Owl, Common tern, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Coot, Mallard. Also heard – Cettis Warbler, Reed Warbler and Water Rail.

Win Clements

Chris Alder (external links accessed July 2024)