Leicestershire & Rutland

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo ©Mike Lane Website
Birding Leicestershire & Rutland

No wonder other birders used to call us the Leicestershire Lower Listers. With no coastline and few other distinguishing features, Leicestershire & Rutland was not the place to build up a big list when I started birding in the 1970s. Its saving graces were its woodland and reservoirs. Well, one reservoir really – Eyebrook on the Leicestershire/Rutland border. In 1975 water started being dammed in what was called Empingham Reservoir…it later attained glory as Rutland Water. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the early 1970s the only decent birds were found at Eyebrook Reservoir – Squacco Heron (1971) and Killdeer (1975) being the best of the bunch. When I visited Eyebrook in October 1975 on a YOC trip, the Killdeer was still present. But the group leader chose not to show it to us young ones, probably in case it turned our heads before we’d had a proper grounding in common birds…and I still need Killdeer for my British list.

Rutland Water rapidly filled up and its bird list soon put Eyebrook in the shade. Today it’s renowned worldwide for the annual British Birdwatching Fair. And if you join the 20,000 other people visiting each August, spare a thought for the local RSPB members who planted most of the trees around the reserve. Back then – 35 years ago – Leicestershire & Rutland shared the same avifauna as other landlocked Midlands counties. Lots of wildfowl and woodland birds but precious few waders and seabirds were mega rarities. They still are. Since the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society was formed in 1941 there’s only been one record of Razorbill – which equals the number of records of Red-flanked Bluetail and Crag Martin!

In 1975 Rutland was an ex-county. It had ceased to be with local government reorganisation in 1974. Hence the campaign to rename Empingham Reservoir. But the county was not dead, merely resting. In April 1997 it reappeared and regained its status as the smallest county in England and Wales. Of course the LROS did not change its name and records from Rutland (Water) continued to put the county on the map…even when it wasn’t on the map. Birds logged here have included Red-throated Pipit (1981); Bridled Tern (1984); and Redhead (1997). The latter bird was only the second for the Western Palaearctic and was most probably the drake first seen in Nottinghamshire in 1996.

The late 1990s have seen a stream of good birds pass through Leicestershire & Rutland. Not one but two Greenish Warblers in 1996, the Redhead and Red-flanked Bluetail in 1997 (Britain’s only inland record and on the same day as the Siberian Rubythroat in Dorset); Blue-winged Teal and Spotted Sandpiper in 1998 and, of course, Britain’s first twitchable Crag Martin in April 1999. That this unlikely county has become a rarity hotspot is certainly not a function of its location but rather it’s a tribute to the excellent field skills of birders resident here, many of whom are local patch birders turning up great birds away from the honey pots of Eyebrook and Rutland Water.

But despite this purple patch, the Leicestershire & Rutland list has only just struggled over the 300 mark. The Crag Martin will take the county list to 302 (including some interesting 19th Century records like Cream-coloured Courser, Great Snipe and Pallas’s Sandgrouse). Uncommon migrants rarely stray inland (notwithstanding recent events) and coastal birds remain highly desirable ticks for county listers. People lie awake dreaming of Razorbills.

The wader list is respectable but appearances of Bar-tailed Godwit or Knot are causes for celebration. However, the gulls – and their obsessive watchers – are turning Leicestershire & Rutland into a laridist’s dream destination. In particular, local observers are claiming increasing numbers of Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls. There were only four records of the latter species up to 1998 – but a further 22 during 1998! The number of records in recent years has been 33 in 1999, 14 in 2000, 20 in 2001, 17 in 2002, 32 in 2003 and 29 in 2004 – so the county total is now 171 and counting! As the frontiers of bird identification advance, county birders have stayed in the front line. And as the birds have advanced – or returned – to THEIR front lines, the county has benefited too. In the 1970s, in common with much of Britain, most birds of prey were very rare in Leicestershire & Rutland. I can remember my one and only Buzzard after a period of gales. Today it’s not uncommon to see double figures and the Buzzard has regained its rightful place as a breeding species – as has the Peregrine.

Meanwhile many species of current concern – Tree Sparrow and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – are holding their own in the county. Indeed, Rutland Water has a very successful Tree Sparrow nest box scheme. So birds and birding in Leicestershire & Rutland are in a healthy state. For further evidence, just check out the excellent LROS Annual Reports.

Top Sites
  • Bardon Hill

    Satellite View
    Another site in the NW of the county which recent watching has shown to be good for seeing visible migration.
  • Beacon Hill

    Satellite View
    A site in the NW of the county which recent watching has shown to be good for seeing visible migration. Beacon Hill is the best place to find Pied Flycatcher in Leics - two unpaired males were present in May 1999.
  • Bradgate Park

    Satellite View
    This public park northwest of Leicester has woodland and bracken-covered hills. It also includes Cropston Reservoir (SK545109). It's a reliable site for Green Woodpecker and other woodland species. In 1998 a confiding White Stork stopped off here.
  • Eyebrook Reservoir

    Satellite View
    Sited on the boundary of Leics and Rutland, Eyebrook was THE birding site in the counties until the mid-1970s when Rutland Water (then called Empingham Reservoir) was constructed. There is a road around most of its boundary allowing good viewing over the water - and mud at the North end. There's a carpark next to Stoke Dry wood (SP845978) accessed from the Uppingham road. Eyebrook is good at passage times for waders and terns - and its winter gull roost (best viewed from the SW corner) regularly produces Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls.
  • Rutland Water

    Satellite View
    Rutland Water is familiar to birders who attend the British Birdwatching Fair every August. The reserve HQ is at Egleton at the west end of the reservoir (Grid Ref SK882072). Here there's access to hides overlooking Lagoons 1, 2 and 3. There's a Tree Sparrow feeding station beside the interpretation centre overlooking Lagoon 1. Manton Bay (SK885056) is good for passage waders and can be viewed from Manton Bridge (park just past the bridge on the opposite side of the road heading towards Oakham). Lax Hill (SK885063) on the reserve is deciduous woodland with a good range of species. The Dam (SK 943075) at the east end of the reservoir is where deepwater species like divers can be found. The dam itself occasionally hosts unusual birds like Snow Bunting and Black Redstart.
  • Watermead Park

    InformationSatellite View
    The park is around 10K (6m) from Leicester and can be accessed from the city by following the canal towpath. By car take the A607 towards Melton from Leicester. Cross over Watermead Way (A563) (both dual carriageways meet at traffic lights). Keep in the left lane after the lights and about 1/4 to 1/2 mile on look for Alderton Close on the left. There is a filling station nearby and a large building just on the corner. Take that to the car park at the bottom. NB… look where you're walking about 1m either side of the main paths as some dog walkers don't clean up after their dogs!
  • Adrian Pitches

    | adrian.pitches@bbc.co.uk

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 316

    County Bird - Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Useful Reading

  • LROS Annual Reports

    See: HERE ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Leicestershire Garden Birds

    | By Steve Grover & Ken Goodrich | Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society | 1997 | Paperback | 44 pages, line illustrations, tables, maps, graphs | ISBN: 9780953158409 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland

    | By Andrew Harrop, Dave Gamble, Rob Fray, Roger Davies & Steve Lister | Christopher Helm | Hardback | 784 pages, Illustrations | ISBN: 9780713672336 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Rutland Water Ospreys

    | By Tim Mackrill & John Wright | A & C Black | 2013 | Hardback | 160 pages | 200+ colour photos | 200+ colour & black & white illustrations | ISBN: 9781408174142 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in the East Midlands

    | By Rob Fray | Christopher Helm | 2006 | Paperback | 320 pages, 33 line illustrations, 62 maps | ISBN: 9780713675306 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Global Bird Fair

    We hope you can encourage people in your community to come along and join in Global Birdfair.
  • Birstall Birdwatching Club

    Mr K J Goodrich (Secretary) - 6 Riversdale Close, Birstall, Leicester LE4 4EH - Tel: 0116 267 4813 - Meets: 2nd Tues of month, winter & spring terms 7.30-9.30pm - Place: Longslade Community College, Wanlip Lane, Luther King Centre
  • Burbage Birders

    The official website of the Burbage Bird Club
  • Charnwood Ringing Group

    We are a group of volunteer licensed ringers (banders) involved in ringing wild birds mainly in the Charnwood district of Leicestershire UK
  • Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society

    The Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society (LROS) was founded in 1941, and now has more than 500 members. Our aims are to promote the study, conservation and enjoyment of birds and birding in Leicestershire and Rutland, to record and publish members` sightings, and organise survey work to further our knowledge of the birds of Leicestershire and Rutland.
  • Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust

    Longfellow Road, Knighton Fields, Leicester LE2 6BT. 0116 270 2999 leicswt@cix.co.uk We care for 36 nature reserves covering more than 2,600 acres. From woodland to meadows, wetland to heaths, our nature reserves comprise some of the most important wildlife and geological sites in the counties with 20 being Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 2 designated as National Nature Reserves
  • RSPB Leicester Local Group

    This is the website of the Leicester Local Group.
  • Rutland Natural History Society

    The RNHS organises outings throughout the year to places of wildlife interest within the county, and sometimes further afield. Here you can learn more about plants and animals by seeing them in the wild with our wildlife experts
  • South Leicester Birdwatchers

    South Leicester Birdwatchers (SLB) club was formed in September 2006. Barry Raine, a well known local ornithologist had run evening classes for many years at both Countesthorpe College and Sir Jonathan North College, Leicester and it was when he announced his retirement from teaching that the idea of continuing the friendships and shared interest in bird watching was conceived.

Abbreviations Key

  • Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Interactive map of the county's reserves
  • Rutland Water Nature Reserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Rutland Water was built in the 1970s as a source of water for the increasing population of the Midlands. The lake covers 3,100 acres and is the largest man-made lake in Europe. Since the construction of the reservoir, Rutland Water's ornithological importance has been carefully monitored and it has now become one of the most important wildfowl sanctuaries in Great Britain. As well as full details of the reserve the site is updated every Friday with the previous week's sightings and news.
  • Woodland Trust Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    There are several main habitat areas at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood, near Coalville in Leicestershire, which are good for bird life. Since the site opened in 2012, I have made regular visits and have noted some exciting feathered visitors, especially in the winter when we have seasonal residents on the lake and in the hedgerows.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Leicestershire and Rutland Bird News

    This is a news service only - reports have not been verified or subjected to scrutiny by the LROS Records Committee. Please continue to submit records in the normal way in addition to e-mailing for this page.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
Other Links
  • Rutland Ospreys

    Get a front row view of our Manton Bay osprey nest at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, where our star pair Maya and 33 have nested together since 2015.
  • Carl Baggot - Bag a Wild One

    The main aim of this blog is to allow me to share my wildlife and adventure photographs with like minded individuals. As well as birding and wildlife photography, I also enjoy mountain walking especially in winter, so expect some ramblings.
  • David Gray - Avez-Vous un Cuppa?

    David ‘Earl’ Gray’s birding For those who are interested in Birds, Wildlife and the odd cup of tea!
  • John Hague - The Drunkbirder

    Hi there, my name’s John. Welcome to my blog. How did the Drunkbirder come about? Well it was first used on Shetland in October 2007 when Andy Mackay found a Pechora Pipit in the fields behind Toab. A load of us headed up there after a very heavy night on the whisky and some delicious but salty mutton stew courtesy of Helen Moncrief.
  • Mark Skevington - Skev's Blog

    Played in bands, drank some beer, went birding, started twitching, played poker, drank some beer, photographed moths, stopped twitching, watched some football, stopped birding, drank some beer, started birding, and somewhere along the way got married and created three great children.
  • Paul Riddle - Owls about that then!

    Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2007 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 7 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across
  • Rodney Baker - Rod's Birding

    Birding since late 1969 and lucky to have Rutland Water as my local patch. Watched the development of the reserve since its creation in 1976. Have a life list of 481 and county list of 270 (Leicestershire & Rutland). Have also made several birding trips abroad, USA, China, Nepal, Thailand, India; Gambia; Israel & Brazil.
  • Toby Carter - Grimston Warbler

    Hi I'm Toby Carter and I love wildlife, I have been birding for 8 years now and I still love it. Hopefully I want to be a wildlife Conservationist. And I'll do anything to help nature, as we are part of it too!!
Photographers & Artists
  • Artist - Andrew MacKay

    I’m a freelance natural history writer Nature Writing by Andrew Mackayand artist/illustrator with a lifelong passion for wildlife and wild places. My writing credits include Pocket Nature – Butterflies and Moths and the moths section of RSPB Wildlife of Britain, both published by Dorling Kindersley, and articles in numerous publications including BirdWatching magazine. My illustrations have appeared in many books including Concise BWP, RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe, Birds of North America, Watching British Dragonflies, Birds of South-East Asia, The Pelecaniformes and The Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland.

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