Welcome to the Carsington Bird Club website, containing information about the club, Carsington Water, latest bird sightings and much more!

May 092021

Welcome to our second newsletter of the year, at a point when we seem to be heralding in some slightly more optimistic hopes for the coming months following a year of Covid misery.  The reservoir has, of course, been open for visitors even during the second lockdown earlier in the year, but in line with the government’s ‘roadmap’, more is now possible with the take-away cafe opening and the 17 May milestone likely to mean other facilities, notably the restaurant and the Wildlife Centre (and, possibly, other hides) reopening their doors.

I hope you have been able to get out and about and enjoy the sunny, dry but rather chilly spring and, with it, the steady arrival of the migrants, most of which are now being observed in reasonable numbers.  Our website ‘sightings’ page, having been ‘frozen’ for a while, is now back in regular use, so keep your eye on those records reflecting what’s around.  And the article on the next page gives a summary of the birding highlights over the previous two or three months.

Club activities have limped along with our welcome chance to join several online illustrated talks over the winter courtesy of DOS and the local RSPB group, who kindly extended their Zoom licences to CBC members.  I hope a number of you were able to view some of these interesting presentations, one of which was given by our own members, John and Louise Sykes.

We very much hope that our 2021-22 season of indoor meetings at the Visitor Centre – the majority of which are booked and due to resume in September – will be possible, so we can finally meet up with fellow members and chat over tea, coffee and biscuits during the break!  This, together with the precise venue, will depend on the situation as we follow a hopefully successful and effective roadmap.

Meanwhile, we have a trip planned – on Sunday, 30 May, to RSPB Middleton Lakes in Warwickshire – though we will still be observing the ‘rule of six’.  See the separate note below for more details about visiting this excellent location. A further trip in the autumn will be another event we intend to target, so long as conditions remain positive.

You should all now have received a copy of the 2020 Annual Report; if not, please contact me at garysatkins@aol.com (or 01335 370773) and I’ll send one on.  We are hugely grateful this year to fellow member Pat Lawless who has kindly funded the production of the report. 

This 60-page document is one of the benefits particular to members, so make sure you’ve paid your subs for 2021 in order to get the next report together with future newsletters this year.  A small handful of members are yet to renew for the current year; if you intend to renew but have yet to do so, John Follett (johnlfollett@virginmedia.com or 01332 834778) will be delighted to hear from you!

Finally, I have to relate the sad news of the passing of one of our longest standing members, Nigel Unwin.  When hale and hearty, he was a very keen birder – a regular visitor to the reservoir and to our indoor meetings.  Nigel had been poorly for a while and latterly had been living in a care home near Rocester.

Gary Atkins



Middleton Lakes, our planned destination later this month, is an RSPB site and, for those who have not been before, the following link tells you where it is, the sort of site it is and the sort of species likely to be seen:  https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/middleton-lakes/

Note that parking can be tight in the RSPB car park, and we believe the car park adjacent to the courtyard with its cafe and retail units may be allocated to those visiting Middleton Hall, so we suggest an early arrival (9.30-9.45).  A toilet is available in the courtyard and take-away food from the cafe, but it may be advisable to take your own food.  With many Covid rules still applying, anyone intending to go will need to arrive by their own transport, but it would be useful if you let Chris Lamb know (call 01629 820890 or email cflamb@yahoo.co.uk ) if you’re intending to go, in order to gauge numbers. 



As Carsington remained largely open to visitors during the second lockdown, the site continued to produce its usual array of excellent records throughout what is an exciting time of year as winter visitors depart and a host of migrants arrive and establish their breeding territories around the reservoir.

As well as ‘our’ high-profile winter favourite the Great Northern Diver, another scarce water bird, a Red-necked Grebe decided the reservoir looked a nice place to spend some time, staying for almost two months before being seen for the last time on 11 April.

A Barn Owl was seen a few times earlier in the year and another single sighting of this impressive hunter was logged on 6 April.  A female Marsh Harrier was seen a week later, while a male of this species flew through on the 21st, and at the other end of the size spectrum only the site’s third ever Cetti’s Warbler was heard in late April, and a scarce Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling, and seen briefly, on Stones Island on 4 and 6 May.

Back onto the water, two Avocets were seen on the 7 March, then three more were noted on 28 April, a female Red-breasted Merganser was off the Wildlife Centre on the first day of May and a single White-fronted Goose was briefly seen on the final day of March.  During a busy time for tern passage in late April, the unusual sight of over 160 Arctic Terns impressed observers on the 28th.

As well as the Marsh Harriers, other raptors to enjoy Carsington this spring include the ever more common Red Kite which has been recorded on nine separate dates in March and April, Ospreys which were seen on 30 March and 14 April, single Hobbys viewed on consecutive days in late April, as many as 12 Buzzards aloft at any one time, plus the always impressive Peregrine recorded on 28 March then on five dates during April.

At the time of writing, we are still not sure if Fieldfares are still around as nine birds were seen at Hopton end as late as 6 May, though the final Redwing was recorded on 14 April, the last Goldeneye six days later, and a surprisingly late Brambling was noted in flight on 29 April.

Many more species were moving in the opposite direction with Sand Martins being among the first migrants to arrive: one seen on 17 March but numbers soon building to 300 on a single day in early May.  Two hundred or more Swallows were also being seen, the first having been noted in late March, and House Martins are now being seen in greater numbers after a sparse beginning.

Chiffchaffs over winter, so precise visiting numbers are difficult to assess, but during a count around the perimeter of the reservoir on the final day of April included 102 Chiffchaffs, along with 68 Blackcaps, 27 Willow Warblers, 10 Garden Warblers, seven Common and three Lesser Whitethroat, along with healthy numbers of resident species, while a few days earlier eight Sedge Warblers and three Reed Warblers were recorded.

A perimeter walk a month earlier had also found three-figure total of Chiffchaffs, but also 136 Wrens, 122 Robins, 101 Blue Tits, along with double-figure counts of Blackbird, Dunnock, Great Tit, Jay, Blackcap and Song and Mistle Thrushes, plus the arrival of the very first Redstart at Hopton end.

Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears passing through were often found early morning on the dam, up to 150 Meadow Pipits were flying north on 22 March, 750 Starlings were heading in the same direction a couople of weeks earlier, while the first Swifts of the year were seen on 26 April.

Early breeding came in the shape of two Greylag Goose broods, a pair of Oystercatchers producing a brood of four chicks on Horseshoe Island, and evidence of at least one of two pairs of Ravens raising young as an observer witnessed food being taken to the nest. 

Another regular breeding species is Black-headed Gull and there are plenty of these noisy birds at a number of locations around the reservoir.  After last year’s first ever Heron brood, three more pairs have established nests in a remote part of the site.

As many as 5,000 were Black-headeds were counted in March, but theirs and gull numbers in general were down in April, yet there were still plenty of interest for the gull enthusiasts as 13 Little Gulls were counted in late April and single-figure appearances by Kittiwakes and Mediterranean, Caspian and Glaucous Gulls were recorded.  Yellow-leg Gull sightings increased in regularity with two records in March and five in April, and Carsington seems a popular destination for Common Gulls, 175 of which were in a daytime roost on 9 March.

Healthy groups of up to 46 Curlew were counted in early March and other notable wader sightings included Bar-tailed Godwits on four dates in April, plus nine Icelandic race Black-tailed Godwits on the 21st, the same day a single Greenshank was spotted, while single Whimbrel were recorded on consecutive days again in late April, when a single Great Egret also made an elegant appearance.

A summer plumage Grey Plover was a good record, and up to six Little Ringed Plovers have entertained observers as they flew to and from the shore and seemed to be frolicking over the water on several dates in March and April.  Still on the water, Shelducks became a regular sight in April with records of up to three birds on six dates, two male Mandarins were picked up on the 27th and a pair of Common Scoter was among the April WeBS count.

A month earlier, the WeBS count on 14 March included 261 Canada and 39 Barnacle Geese, 136 Coot, 68 Mallard, 46 Tufted Duck and 20 Little Grebe, while Great Crested Grebe numbers seemed to increase as the month went on reaching a peak of 60 on the 24th

Water Rails are noted fairly regularly at Carsington, chiefly at Hopton end, though there was a record this time from Wildlife Centre creek, too; meanwhile, as many as five Woodcock were counted flying into Hopton end in the early morning of 4 March, with the last of this elusive species recorded on the 20th of that month.



As a small club, without the ready ability to acquire a licence to use the Zoom online system, we remain hugely grateful to those larger local wildlife organisations – DOS and RSPB Derby – that could and offered to extend their own programmes of talks to our members over the winter and early spring.  A number of us took advantage and we certainly were treated to an enjoyable and varied selection of topics.

The first talk delivered this way (in fact our joint ‘meeting’ with DOS in October) was a real highlight as Tony Davison recounted two trips taken to Mongolia in search of Snow Leopard.  His was a dramatic and, ultimately, successful story, though not without its downside as he was quarantined for weeks in Asia at the front end of the Covid pandemic.

Places visited vicariously after that included Tanzania and Morocco in Africa, Lake Prepsa in eastern Europe and a breakneck journey down the western edge of the Americas, from Alaska to Argentina.  Other talks looked at subjects such as tropical forests, ‘magical Merlins’ and ultra-fast photography required to ‘freeze’ the fastest moving wildlife.  All, of course, had brilliant photographs in common!

So, while we give three cheers to Zoom, for our 2021-22 season we hope to be able to get back indoors with speakers on the spot at the Visitor Centre (along with tea, coffee, biscuits and ‘half-time’ chats).  With fingers firmly crossed, we hope that our first speaker – the ever-entertaining Paul Bingham – will be able to stand in front of us and tell us about the wildlife he encountered in Sri Lanka.  This meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 21 September.

Nick Martin is then due to take us into the mysteries of the Forest of Dean in October, while Ian Newton, who we had to postpone from last season, will carry us from the shade into the sunshine with a talk about Lesvos.

Two further presentations are organised, and two more are still to be arranged, but hopefully we’ll have a full season.  Whether we can stage these in the Henmore Room is uncertain; we had negotiated with New Leaf Catering the alternative of using the much larger restaurant, which might prove to be more suitable while Covid remains a concern.  We will keep you informed precisely how and where these talks will take place.


KNOW YOUR COMMITTEE – Here are the club officials and their contact details……..





Committee Post



Email Address





Treasurer / Membership

John Follett

01332 834778







Publications / Indoor Meetings

Gary Atkins

01335 370773



Events co-ordinator

Chris Lamb




Roger Carrington

01629 583816


…..and the website address   –   http://www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk


Richard Pittam


Contact Richard via the website

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