Trip reports

Field Trip - RSPB Middleton Lakes

Adult whooper swans feeding in fields

Sunday, 10 March 2019

28 members set off from a very wet, snowy and windy Sheffield to RSPB Middleton Lakes near Birmingham. A diversion, caused by an accident on the motorway, meant that it took just over two hours to get there but, when we finally arrived, we were greeted with bright sunshine. Before setting out to explore the reserve, the majority of members took advantage of the café and toilets at Middleton Hall.

The Middleton Lakes reserve consists of a mosaic of lakes, meadows and woodland on reclaimed gravel extraction land in the Tame Valley and is managed as a refuge for wintering wildfowl and breeding wetland birds. There is one hide as well as several screen hides and viewing areas. At the time of our visit, some of the paths were very muddy but all were passable.

Although there had been a report of a Great White Egret on the reserve, alas it was not to be seen as it was probably keeping its head down out of the wind. Whooper Swans had also been reported and one of our group was lucky enough to see one of these. Four Buzzards were watched over the wooded area starting to 'sky dance' and one Avocet and one Ringed Plover were recorded. Several Cetti's Warblers were heard around the reserve starting up with their loud song but, as so often with this species, they were not to be seen.

There were plenty of wildfowl on the lakes including Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Goldeneye. Canada and Greylag Geese were present in abundance and an Egyptian Goose was also seen. Herons were on their nests in the heronry and were flying over regularly like pterodactyls and the rookery was very noisy.

In the wooded area, Wood Anemones were just starting to come into flower and there was the promise of Bluebells and Ramsons to follow. Also noted was Scarlet Elf Cup fungus which grows on decaying wood - particularly in damp areas.

The bird feeder area was busy with Great Tits, Blue Tits, House Sparrows and Chaffinch. Mallards were picking up seed that had dropped onto the floor - in competition with several large Brown Rats. On one of the viewing platforms, bird seed had been put out which attracted both Blue and Great Tits and Nuthatch.

The highlight for three members of our group was the sighting of an Otter. Speaking to reserve staff and volunteers who were on a working party, they told us they knew that there were Otters there but none of them had ever been lucky enough to see them.

Though windy, the weather was very kind to us and we only had one short hail shower over the time we were on the reserve. It took us an hour and a half to get home.

A total of 72 bird species were seen during our visit.

Helen Ensor