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No 3 / August 2020

 Posted by on August 22, 2020  Carsington Bird Club, CBC Newsletters
Aug 222020


There’s a bit more to smile about since the last newsletter in May, firstly with the reopening of Carsington Water to visitors in early June (albeit with restrictions), and along with that the resumption of bird recording by our faithful band of observers – though we do also remain indebted to John Matkin and his team of Severn Trent rangers who kept a note (reported in the last newsletter) of what they were seeing during their guardianship of the reservoir during the early stages the Covid clamp-down, between March and May.

A number of the site’s facilities are also now up and running; including the restaurant and snack outlets for those planning to make a day of it cycling, walking or, indeed, birding around the reservoir.  The Wildlife Centre has reopened, complete with knowledgeable volunteers on certain days, although anyone wanting to visit there must wear a face mask and follow a one-way system for the time being.  A few of the activities are also resuming, including the Birdwatching for Beginners walks (just as much fun for non-beginners!), which are led by STW volunteers but I usually pop along to help out.  The first of these should be on 6 September.

Best of all, we are proposing a resumption of some of our own regular club activities, including the autumn/winter indoor meetings programme … though, importantly, we have negotiated a change of venue as the Henmore Room was deemed much too small and constricted to accommodate the typically-sized audience in comfort bearing in mind current Covid regulations.

Instead, we have negotiated with New Leaf Catering to use the site’s restaurant; this relatively huge space – with its high ceiling and airy environment – will offer an area that meets and beats the current Covid regulations (even with just one person or a couple at each of the well-spaced tables or fixed-point booths).  We are not planning to serve drinks and biscuits, so we suggest attendees bring their own refreshments; bring along face masks, too, if you wish.  The first meeting is on 15 September (see ‘dates’ panel below for details).

We also plan to hold an autumn club trip to old favourite Old Moor, the RSPB’s South Yorkshire reserve that invariably yields a good array of birds, and the odd surprise, particularly during migration.  Toilets and some hides at this reserve will be open, so we should enjoy a productive day – that day being 20 September.  Come along if you can; and please let Chris Lamb know if you intend to do so.

Gary Atkins



Below are the dates of upcoming events; all indoor meetings begin at 7.30pm:

** TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 ** – Talk: We have Ian Newton travelling north from his home patch to tell us about the wildlife highlights of Lesvos, the Greek island that is a true birding haven.

** SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20 ** – Outing: After a 12-month absence, club trips resume with a short journey to the RSPB reserve at Old Moor, generally an excellent site with a good range of birds and the occasional surprise.  Meet 10am and bring own refreshments.  If you intend to come along, please inform Chris Lamb (phone 01629 820890 or by e-mail at cflamb@yahoo.co.uk).

** TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20 ** – Talk: Our annual joint meeting with DOS will feature a fascinating talk by on the creation and maintenance of a private wildlife sanctuary, along with some of the delightful creatures he has attracted there.

** TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17 ** – Talk: Nigel Slater returns to describe his visits to the Scilly Isles and show us some of fabulous wildlife he has encountered during island-hopping sorties.


When Carsington’s car parks reopened to the general public in early June, the wildlife might have been expected to keep a low profile having roamed the site pretty much unseen and unhindered for over two months, but not so. 

As the hoards of cyclists and walkers quickly resumed their massed perambulations of the reservoir (on good weather days, at least), so did the regular recording by CBC’s dedicated band of observers, and what they experienced were two record-breaking months in June and July, and a healthy start to August.

Both of the new records topped the 100 mark and, while there were no more Spoonbills (one of numerous species recorded by Severn Trent staff during the lockdown), a Great White Egret was seen in July and there were plenty of Little Egret records, showing the continuing drift northwards of these attractive white herons.  Meanwhile, Grey Herons logged another landmark when a pair raised young for the first time at the Carsington site (see separate article on next page).

Two summer plumage Black-necked Grebes were rather a surprise on 7 July, joining briefly a healthy flotilla of up to 55 Great-crested and 22 Little Grebes.  By August, the slow build towards the usual autumn influx of wildfowl was underway, with 107 Teal, 218 Tufted Ducks, 183 Mallard and 557 Coot counted, and much smaller numbers of Shoveler, Pochard and Wigeon.  Eleven Common Scoter viewed on two dates in July was another duck highlight.

On the water’s edge, waders were well represented during mid and late summer with single Avocets seen on 10 and 19 June, Whimbrel noted on five dates across July and August and Common Sandpiper seen in various quantities each month.  Black-tailed Godwits showed up on several dates in June and July, when Sanderlings were also recorded, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers popped in fairly regularly, while a Greenshank called in on 12 June, two Turnstones on 30 July and a single Green Sandpiper was logged in both July and August.

It’s been a relatively quiet time for gulls, the main highlight being a trickle of single Mediterranean Gulls through and two on 16 July, two Yellow-legs on several dates, and a Caspian type 3rd year specimen in August.  The maximum number of Lesser Black-backs was 375 during this period, with similar numbers of Black-headed Gulls around – including a sizeable proportion of young birds of which 300 had been counted on Millfields Island in June.

Other breeding was mixed as 12 Mallard, 11 Great-crested Grebe and 10 Canada Goose broods represented the most successful breeding species until mid-August, though eight Greylag Goose and Coot, five Little Grebe, four Moorhen, Gadwall and Tufted Duck and single Barnacle Goose families were also being raised.

There had been signs of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover broods, too, but in the final event these species seemed to have failed.  The cause was thought most likely to be predation by corvids or gulls.

Red Kites seem to be an increasingly regular sight in the vicinity of Carsington, with several records over the summer, while Ospreys called in on two dates in June and another in July.  A Hobby was around on 20 June, two more were seen on 2 August, and one individual was speeding through on the 17th.  Other raptor sightings centred mostly on the more common Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, though Peregrines also showed up on several dates, including two young birds on one day when they chased Lapwings (catching but then losing one which wisely dropped into a bush!) then each other.

Away from the water, passerine species have been busy breeding, too, and as many as 10 Spotted Flycatchers were counted in late July, and up to 40+ Chiffchaffs, 17 Blackcaps and single figure numbers of Willow, Garden, Sedge and Reed Warblers have been recorded daily, along with nine Redstarts, including young, that are often viewed in fields fringing Wildlife Centre creek.  Earlier, the haunting reeling call of a site-scarce Grasshopper Warbler was heard on 21 June.

Another scarce visitor to the site is Green Woodpecker, but one of these attractive birds was encountered on dates in June and August.  Tree Pipit was noted on three dates in July and another in August, as many as 60 Pied Wagtails have been seen at one time, along with five Grey Wagtails on several dates and three Yellow Wagtails were around on 14 July.

Hirundines have been evident in some profusion over the summer, as up to 100 House Martins were skimming the water in early June, more than 200 Sand Martins were counted a month later, and 200 Swallows were observed on 4 August.  A healthy number of 105 Swifts were also recorded moving through on 26 July.

Twenty-two Ravens seen on 10 July was a highly impressive sight, and the occasional visits of Crossbills – often heard rather than seen – continued with a maximum of four logged on 14 July.



A particular 2020 Carsington “first”, now firmly proven, had begun with some random observations before and during the Covid alert that restricted access to the site for over two months.  As time went on, however, the evidence grew that Grey Herons were nesting and raising a brood for the first time on site. 

While not on the immediately accessible circuit around the reservoir, the secretive herons chose to build their nest in a tree on Severn Trent land only about 50 metres or so from the main path though largely obscured from general view.  The first hint that something was afoot came in early February when a heron was seen carrying a stick, and the observer (one of the club’s regular recorders) wondered if this could indicate nest building.

On closer inspection of the area ten days later, herons were observed on the nest and, the following day, one was viewed laying flat on the nest.  Did this indicate the parent was incubating eggs?  A week later a single heron was once again seen sitting, then three weeks later, during the second week of March, the club’s observer returned and – though good views were limited – he believed there to be young in the nest.

The site then closed and travel was not permissible, but by early April Severn Trent staff (having been tipped off about the earlier sightings), who remained working on site throughout the initial lockdown, visited the location and confirmed that there were three young herons in the nest.  Twelve days later, they returned and found that the youngsters had fledged. 

So, even Covid could not prevent nature continuing to do its thing – nor allow the story to be told by meticulous observation, interpretation and communication through the joint efforts of CBC and STW personnel.



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





Committee Post



Email Address


Peter Fletcher

01332 383682


Treasurer / Membership

John Follett

01332 834778



Clive Ashton


01629 823316




Publications / Indoor Meetings

Gary Atkins

01335 370773



Events co-ordinator

Chris Lamb

01629 820890



Roger Carrington

01629 583816


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


Richard Pittam


Contact Richard via the website

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