Trip reports

Paxton Pits, 28th April 2019

Paxton Pits, 28th April 2019
Martin Fisher

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

It's was late April, so the search for Nightingales was on!

28 of us left Sutton Coldfield at 7 a.m. heading for Paxton Pits Nature Reserve. The reserve is council owned but much of the day to day activities are organised by the Friends of Paxton Pits on a voluntary basis, and that includes Trevor Gunton (who was one of the instigators of RSPB local groups and was very involved in setting up our own Group in 1985 ) who gave us a brief introduction to orientate us when we arrived at about 9.30.

The reserve is a group of old gravel pits which have been converted to lakes interlaced with woodland, scrub, meadows and grassland all nestling between village housing, some active pits and the Great River Ouse.

This environment is working well for nature although we did notice that there were very few waders around, with only Oystercatcher and Green sandpiper being recorded. Likewise there was a limited range of duck species with Tufted duck, Gadwall and Mallard making up most of the numbers with a few Teal and Goosander also noted. Some Mute swans, Greylag geese and Canada geese were scattered across the reserve and there were several Grey herons. A Little egret was seen flying along the course of the river.

In good supply were Cormorants, which have an established breeding colony, and Common Terns which have rapidly adopted the breeding platforms recently put out for them. Arctic tern was also identified.

It is the time of year we hope to get migratory warbler species our onto annual tick lists, so sightings of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were welcome alongside Reed and Willow warblers. A significant contribution to the choral soundtrack of the reserve was being given by Blackcaps and Garden Warblers with assistance from some Song thrushes who were earnestly demonstrating their repertoire. These and other preparations for breeding were not going unnoticed by Cuckoos who were seen and heard during the day.

Raptors that appeared were Common buzzard, Hobby, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Some of the smaller species recorded were Treecreeper, Tree sparrow, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer. Non-bird species included Great crested newt, Muntjac deer, hare and Speckled wood butterfly.

In total we saw 78 bird species and heard a Little grebe. Other notable sightings were Red-legged partridge, the group's first Swift of the year, and Green and Great spotted woodpeckers

As alluded to above most of us had had the Nightingale in our minds as a highly desirable tick, but a few had other ideas. A small group went north of the reserve and ventured along the river bank past some active gravel pits and were rewarded with a sighting an American wigeon. As a bonus they also had close up encounters with a few Nightingales, clearly heard but not clearly seen! They were able to record the birds as proof of their proximity. But what about the rest of us? Well most were not so lucky but a Nightingale was seen by one of our number and so, although many of us did not get our personal sighting tick, the group did. Perhaps more important is that, given the immense pressure this species is under and the dramatic reduction of its numbers in recent years, it is good to know some at least have returned this year. (Photo - nightingale from a previous visit).

We left the reserve at 4.15 and a very uneventful return trip delivered us back to our drop off point shortly after 6 p.m. Despite a few short-lived light showers during the day, the gentle breeze and the bit of sunshine had that penetrated the clouds on occasions had produced many red faces, but there were even more satisfied smiles.

Tony Green
Sutton Coldfield RSPB - Field Trip Organiser