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Warwickshire

Dipper Cinclus cinclus ©Rosemarie Kearney Website

Birding Warwickshire

Warwickshire (abbreviated to Warks) is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The county is bordered by Leicestershire to the northeast, Staffordshire to the northwest, Worcestershire and the West Midlands to the west, Northamptonshire to the east and southeast, Gloucestershire to the southwest and Oxfordshire to the south. The north of the county, bordering Staffordshire and Leicestershire, is mildly undulating countryside; the south of the county is largely rural and sparsely populated, and includes a small area of the Cotswolds. There are several canal systems including an arm of the Grand Union Canal, the major river is the Avon which is navigable from just north of Stratford.

For a county as far removed from the sea as Warwickshire, it may seem strange that the focus of birdwatching is around water. The main sites are found in the Tame, Avon and Leam valleys and have been shaped by mining subsidence, sand and gravel extractions and the need for drinking water. In the north, Alvecote Pools (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve SK250040) is the first in a series of waters with other interesting sites such as Kingsbury Water Park (County Council) and Ladywalk Nature Reserve (West Midland Bird Club, noted for annual wintering Bitterns) ending with the relatively small but often very good Shustoke Reservoir (Severn Trent Water SP220910).

Near Coventry lies Brandon Marsh, headquarters of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and first breeding site in the region for Cetti's Warblers. Not far away is the largest heronry in the county (approx 60 pairs SP4079) at Coombe Abbey Country Park, here you can also find Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in some good mature woodland. The vast expanse of Draycote Reservoir near Rugby can be good for passage waders and terns and is excellent in winter for scarce gulls, grebes, divers and sea-duck. In the south of the county are a couple hills near the villages of Napton and Ilmington, which sometimes have small falls of migrants, with Icterine and Yellow-browed Warbler turning up in recent years.

The county of Warwickshire in the Midlands offers a limited range of habitats for birds being land-locked. There are numerous small nature reserves throughout the area, most of which are maintained by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (See website list below). The majority of these sites are woodland and hedgerow, which are home to a range of species typical to these habitats. Brandon Marsh is home to one of the UK strongholds of the Cetti's Warbler that can be easily heard and sometimes seen during the summer. There are a few sites, which are good for over-wintering water birds. Draycote Water regularly holds over 50,000 roosting gulls in the winter and both Draycote and Coton Lakes regularly feature various scarcer species of ducks, grebes and Divers including Smew, Scaup, Goosander, Goldeneye, Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Diver.

The other main winter county highlight is Bitterns at Ladywalk Nature reserve. Passage migrants can be seen at any of the sites mentioned in Spring or Autumn and typically include Black Tern and Osprey. Warwickshire is an ideal base for twitching, as any part of the mainland UK is reachable by car in a day. Day trips to sites like North Norfolk, the South Coast etc., are also entirely feasible.

Top Sites

Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve

Satellite View

The reserve is owned and managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. It consists of a combination of scrubland, reed bed, ponds and lakes. There is an entrance charge of £2.00p for non-members and facilities include a cafeteria and toilets. A number of paths network the reserve and there are also hides overlooking the main lake. The most important summer residents of the reserve are a population of Cetti's Warblers. The best place to find them is at the start of the nature trails, near the reserve map from where their distinctive call should be heard in the bushes. The reserve is also home to Grasshopper Warblers, which can be heard in the reeds and scrub but seldom seen. Recent unusual sightings have included Osprey, Spoonbill and Great Grey Shrike. It is also well worth having a good look around the car park area as recent sightings here have included Black Redstart and Stonechat.

Coton Lakes

Satellite View

This site is best in the winter months when it is home to various species of wildfowl. Smew have been present here for several consecutive winters. Other regulars include Goldeneye and Goosander. A Ferruginous Duck was present for several years up to 1998. The lakes are all close to the road so just park off the road and viewing is straightforward.

Draycote Water

Satellite View

This large reservoir, owned by Severn Trent Water is probably the premier site in Warwickshire. The easiest way to watch birds here used to be to drive around the perimeter road (approx 5 miles) and stop at convenient viewing points - but this is no longer allowed. However, you can park in the nature trail car park and walk. The site is best in the winter months when a wide variety of species of wildfowl are present including Goldeneye, Goosander and Wigeon. Other occasional visiting species include Smew, Scaup and Common Scoter, Slavonian and Black-Necked Grebes. Four Great Northern Divers over-wintered here during 1998/99. The reservoir is also a roost for large numbers of Gulls (50,000+) and these frequently include Glaucous, Iceland, Mediterranean and Little Gulls. The gulls can be viewed from several points around the perimeter but the best bet is to look for the other birders who gather in the evening (about an hour before dark) in the hope of finding something special. A good telescope is essential for this as the birds are generally fairly distant. The reservoir is also a stop-off point for passage migrants both in spring in autumn with visitors typically including various Waders, Black and Arctic Terns and Osprey. Half of the perimeter of the water is grass, which is ideal for grazing geese and ducks. The other half is a man-made bank of boulders, which is home to all three common species of wagtails and to kingfishers. Outside the perimeter road are trees, shrubs and a hedgerow that provide a home for all the species one would expect including treecreeper, woodpeckers and warblers.

Contributor

County Recorder

Steven Haynes

01676 542612 or 07815 675090

warks-recorder@westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 307

County Bird - White-tailed Plover Vanellus leucurus [as it was a UK first… …plus it was used for the now very rare Warwickshire Birders car stickers!]

Useful Reading

The New Birds of the West Midlands

(covering Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the former West Midlands County) | Graham Harrison & Janet Harrison | West Midlands Bird Club | 2005 | 496 pages, colour photos, line drawings, maps |

ISBN: 0950788120

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in West Midlands

by F Gribble, G Harrison, H Griffiths, J Winsper & S Coney | Christopher Helm | 2007 | Paperback | 343 pages, 53 maps, 24 line drawings |

ISBN: 9780713664195

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

Draycote Reservoir Recorder - John Judge

Tel: 07733 017594 (mobile) recorder@draycotebirding.co.uk See Draycote Birding

Organisations

Banbury Ornithological Society

Website

Founded in 1952, the Banbury Ornithological Society (BOS) studies the bird life in the twelve 10km squares surrounding Banbury which includes parts of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire (see BOS area map). Fieldwork is the core of BOS activity but the Society also holds regular monthly meetings, publishes a monthly Newsletter and Annual Reports, manages seven bird reserves and is pro-active in local conservation matters. Guest speakers are invited to our scheduled indoor meetings and several outdoor meetings are arranged in the summer months. Overviews of local study data are presented in both visual and written formats published in the Newsletters and collated in the Annual Reports.

Nuneaton & District Birdwatchers' Club

Website

We are an independent birdwatcher’s club based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, founded in 1950. A small, friendly club, we have regular indoor and outdoor events, and are always keen for new members to join.

RSPB Coventry & Warwickshire Local Group

Webpage

The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings locally throughout the year and monthly coach trips to reserves around the country with occasional day-trips to local nature reserves.

RSPB Kingsbury Kingfishers RSPB Wildlife Explorers

Webpage

RSPB Wildlife Explorers is the junior section of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Our group aims to involve and inspire children to take an interest in nature and the environment through a fun and enjoyable mixture of indoor and outdoor activities, games and projects covering Staffordshire, Warwickshire and East Birmingham areas.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Website

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is the leading local environmental charity, protecting wildlife and natural places throughout Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull.

West Midland Bird Club

Website

e-mail: secretary@westmidlandbirdclub.com - The WMBC serves birdwatchers and ornithologists in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the Metropolitan WM, with lectures, field trips, a bulletin and an annual report… - Local page for Tamworth: http://www.westmidlandbirdclub.com/tamworth

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

Draycote Water

Website

Satellite View

Site description, recordings, bird list, photos, contacts and more…

WMBC Ladywalk Reserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Ladywalk reserve is owned by E.on - formerly Powergen - and is leased to and under management of the West Midland Bird Club. The reserve is located behind the Hams Hall Distribution Park and sits in a loop formed by the River Tame. This reserve is an integral part of the important wildlife area known as the Middle Tame Valley and the site is comprised of lagoons that are the result of flooded gravel extraction workings. The large area of reedbed has become an important feature not just to this reserve but to the whole Middle Tame Valley and the entire region too. This area of reed has become associated with the occurrence of wintering Eurasian Bittern and the reserve has been identified as one of the foremost sites in the country to observe this bird. Tracts of Birch and Alder woodland add to the diversity of habitat and this attracts winter finch flocks. The reserve is also an excellent place to see Water Rail, Hobby is also a frequent summer visitor. A wide range of birds species can be found here year round and wetland birds are the predominant feature.

WWT Brandon Marsh SSSI Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre

Information

Satellite View

Brandon Marsh Nature Centre is the headquarters of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Set in 220 acres, the Reserve, consists of large pools created by gravel extraction. The Visitor Centre is a great place to visit including a Tea Room and well stocked gift shop.

WWT Parkridge Centre, Brueton Park, Solihull

Webpage

Satellite View

Set in the middle of Brueton Park, on the edge of Solihull Town Centre, the Parkridge Centre and its 5.5 acre nature area offer a tranquil setting for environmental education and information, plus a wide variety of nature conservation events and activities throughout the year. The Parkridge Centre is a short walk through a public park from the car park.

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Folly Farm Cottage B&B

Accommodation

Romantic Country Cottage situated in delightful Cotswold village of Ilmington, Near Stratford Upon Avon. We are providing luxury Four Poster B and B all En suite. 3 Four Poster B and B rooms (2 King Size Beds, one with Whirlpool bath)Hospitality tray, TV and Video, late breakfast served in your room.

Blogs

Adam Archer - Archie's British Birding Blog Deluxe

BLOG

Polesworth, Warwickshire, United Kingdom - Welcome British Bird Fans. This blog is just a lighthearted collection of my birding exploits around this wonderful Country of ours and very occasionally beyond. During 2010 I foolishly decided to attempt a target of 300 British Bird species in a year, a challenge I'm now regretting…

Bob Duckhouse - Bob the Birder

BLOG

Hi,I've lived and worked in Warwickshire all my life, now retired my lifelong interest in wildlife is now my main hobby. Birding in particular both local, national and in the Western Palaearctic region is a major interest.

Keith Yates - Boatbirder

BLOG

I've been living on water aboard my 60ft traditional Narrowboat for the past 9 years and wouldn't change that for the world! I'm currently moored on the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union Canals at Napton-on-the-Hill Warwickshire, England…

Other Links

Birds of Shustoke Resevoir

Website

Shustoke Reservoir lies on th B4114 Coleshill to Furnace end road, south of the river Bourne. The site runs 1.5km west to east, the main pool is only 400mts across at its widest point. The water supply comes from the river Bourne which feeds the small pool of eight acres at the eastern end, the water is then transferred to the main pool of 92 acres. Disturbance at weekends from sailing boats can be a problem…

Draycote Birding

Website

Log book, access details, and much more.

Gulls in the West Midlands Region

Website

This is a personal website which presents data and images relating to gulls in the West Midlands Region (the counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the metropolitan county of the West Midlands).

Steven Haynes - Warwickshire Birding

Twitter Website

@Warksbirdobs All things birdy in Warwickshire including a species list and up to date information on sightings. VisMig and hedge bashing, Obs style. BarnOwl Champion, Ex-County Recorder, Ecologist, Villa fan & Birdseed entrepreneur. No Moths

The Unofficial Guide to Brandon Marsh

Website

Brandon Marsh is a superb mosaic of open water, wetland and grassland that attracts a wonderful variety of wildlife. It is especially important for birds throughout the year, but also provides suitable habitats for many other plants and animals.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Ashley Grove Wild Images

Gallery

Ashley Grove is a semi professional photographer based in Worcestershire. Having a life long interest in wildlife, his images show that passion. With several lectures available to Birding and Photography groups, Ashley is a highly rated speaker…

Photographer - Brian McGeough

Gallery

This is just an on going gallery to see how I can improve my birding pictures I will replace bad with good as I get better…

Photographer - Keith Burtonwood - "Owt & Nowt" Photography

Gallery

We live in the beautiful Warwickshire village of Easenhall. The garden is flanked by an ancient hedgerow which I try to leave undisturbed. Some 35 species of bird and various mammals and plants are present throughout the year - species such as Nuthatch, Great Spotted and Green Woddpeckers, Tree creepers, Goldcrest and Fieldfare to name but a few…

Photographer - Rosemarie Kearney

Gallery

A growing portfolio of bird pictures…