Newsletter No 2 / May 2020
Welcome to this unusual newsletter – unusual because there’s little by way of news to pass on to you, though we do have a treat in store by way of a peep behind closed doors from Carsington Water site manager, John Matkin, who has put together a great summary of the last several weeks at the reservoir and the wildlife he and the other Severn Trent staff have seen and noted. This means we won’t go without any records at all in April – and their observations also serve to give us an elusive flavour for what spring has brought to the area. You can read this insightful article below.
Another important piece of information we need to ensure members are aware of is that the two events we had got planned for the month of May – a warbler walk on the 17th and a club trip to the Humber estuary on the 31st – will both have to be cancelled … for obvious reasons! We do still hope to hold a club trip later in the year, when we would also hope to be able to resume our programme of indoor meetings at the Visitor Centre, scheduled to begin in September.
We’re certainly living in a very different world from the one we were inhabiting when the last newsletter appeared in February. Just around the corner then was the Covid-19 pandemic which, even up to the third week of March (the last record from our happy band of club recorders was on 22 March), we did not realise was destined to have quite the devastating effect that it has had globally. Quite what the final outcome will be – on all manner of aspects of life – is yet to be determined, but it is fair to say that the natural world has carried on regardless of the human plight. And for those of us shackled to our homes, our gardens or, at least, our local area, the dry and warm April gave us the chance to get outside to witness spring and see resident birds and our summer visitors arrive, establish territories, build nests and raise broods as usual – and a whole range of flora and fauna blossom and burst into life.
I’ve been walking more miles than usual (or certainly that’s what my knees tell me!) courtesy of my daily dose of exercise, discovering footpaths close to home that I’d not walked for years and almost forgotten, and taking my camera with me to record this vital time of year far more fully than I’ve ever done before. Such simple pleasures have provided succour during the difficult times – and maybe in future we’ll take them less for granted.
We’d like to think the reservoir will be able to open its gates (and car parks) fairly soon, but until then, enjoy whatever birding you’re able to do and we would be delighted if you could help put a little extra pleasure into others’ days by sharing your precious wildlife moments. With that in mind, we’d like members to send in their sightings, experiences – and photos – to one or other of the committee team (our e-mail addresses are listed at the end of the newsletter) and we’ll post a regular summary on the website so we can share collectively members’ highlights.
WILDLIFE THRIVES DURING HUMAN ABSENCE AT THE RESERVOIR
I’ll begin by sending our warm wishes to members of Carsington Bird Club at this challenging time. As a team we miss hearing what’s been seen on site and also miss the conversation and chance to catch up with both those we see almost every day and those who pop in now and again.
The rangers and I have been mindful of how tough it is for many of you to remain at home, especially at such an exciting time in the birding calendar. That said, I’ve seen some of the brilliant sightings you’re recording in your gardens and your local areas. It seems your time is not being wasted or idled away!
We’ve also been aware that the current hiatus could potentially leave a hole in the Carsington Bird Club’s sightings so after the lockdown began we started to compile a list of the birds and other wildlife we spotted around the site as we went about our work – closing the site, patrolling the paths, carrying out maintenance work, and generally catching up after a slightly chaotic few months. Despite our efforts it’s fair to say that April’s Bird Notes won’t be as packed as a usual spring edition but we’ve done our best!
We’ve been lucky enough to get occasional views of the Great Northern Diver, hear Water Rail, and to see Red Kite, Red-crested Pochard, Little Ringed Plovers and a fantastic Spoonbill.
We’ve ticked off the migrant species as they have arrived; the early warblers, the hirundines, then Yellow Wagtails, Whitethroat, Common Sandpipers and Redstarts, plus a very early record of Reed Warbler (though we’ve yet to catch up with a few that we’ve missed so far). My personal highlight was arriving on an unusually drizzly morning in mid-April to be greeted by the sight of hundreds of swallows and martins skimming the water’s surface: An incredible sight at any time but very welcome after they had passed through in just dribs and drabs before this.
During April alone – that transitional month when we said farewell to winter visitors such as Redwings, but hello to a raft of summer migrants – almost 100 species were noted during our day-to-day work.
Perhaps the most interesting observation for many is how quickly the wildlife seems to have reclaimed the site without the throngs of human visitors out enjoying the sunshine. We’ve seen Stoats and Yellow Wagtails in the main car park, Roe Deer in the fields, and grebes, Coots and geese nesting close to the shoreline in good numbers – partly helped by the high water level (which, at the same time, has also made the wader migration a bit tricky).
While we continue to follow the Government’s advice, we are preparing for when and how we can reopen our site while also doing all we can to keep our visitors and our staff safe. It’s sensible to assume reopening will be a phased process with tracks and car parks opening before play areas and indoor dining. It’s therefore likely that bird watching from the paths, and potentially the hides too, will be one of the earlier activities available, and we look forward to sharing that news with you, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
In the meantime thank you once again for continuing to keep yourselves, our staff and our communities safe by following governmental advice. It must be hoped that with such a quiet site the resident species have every chance of a successful breeding season – meaning more birds around for us all to enjoy when you re-join us on site.
As everything above has indicated, future activities are decidedly uncertain. The regular Severn Trent and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust events at Carsington are currently on hold, and the Bird Club has had to cancel its springtime offerings, but we are hopeful that by the autumn we might be able to resume our programme of indoor talks, so a few dates for your largely inactive diaries and calendars, are as follows:
15 September – Talk on ‘Lesvos’ by Ian Newton – Henmore Room, VC (7.30pm)
20 October – Joint meeting with DOS (talk topic TBA) – Henmore Room (7.30pm)
17 November – Talk on ‘The Scillies’ by Nigel Slater – Henmore Room (7.30pm)