Leicestershire & Rutland

Grey Partridge Perdix perdix ©Carl Baggott Website

Leicestershire & Rutland are both ceremonial counties in the East Midlands of England and together form the recording area number 55 in the Watsonian system. Rutland is the smallest ceremonial county in England; its county town, which is its largest is Oakham. The county has around 40,000 residents, and, for administrative purposes is a unified authority.

Leicestershire has an area of over 2,000 km2 (800 square miles) and a population of under three-quarters of a million people, almost half of which live in its built-up area. Its largest and county town is Leicester with the next largest being Loughborough. Leicestershire & Rutland is bordered by Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire to the northeast,  Northamptonshire to the south, Warwickshire to the south-west, and Staffordshire to the west. It contains the mid-point of the country.

Rutland is mostly rolling hills and the area is dominated by Rutland Water. Leicestershire is also mostly low rolling hills and is bisected by the River Soar which runs into the Trent at the county border. To the west of the river is Charnwood Forest, an upland area which contains Bardon Hill, which at 278m (912 ft) is the county’s highest point. A large part of the north-west of the area, around Coalville, forms part of the new National Forest area extending into Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Birding Leicestershire & Rutland

No wonder others used to call local birders the Leicestershire Low Listers. With no coastline and few other distinguishing features, Leicestershire & Rutland was not the place to build up a big list back in the 1970s. Its saving graces were its woodland and reservoirs; particularly Eyebrook on the Leicestershire/Rutland border. In 1975 water started being dammed in what was then called Empingham Reservoir… it later attained glory as Rutland Water. Even in the 1970s ‘decent birds’ were found at Eyebrook Reservoir; Squacco Heron (1971) and Killdeer (1975) being the best of the bunch.

Eyebrook Reservoir ©Andy Mackay

Rutland Water rapidly filled up and its bird list soon put Eyebrook in the shade. It became renowned worldwide because the annual British Birdwatching Fair was held there for a generation. If you joined more than 20,000 other people visiting each August you will have seen its tremendous birds including the first introduced English ospreys. Fifty 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 (1941) there’s only been one record of Razorbill – which equals the number of records of Red-flanked Bluetail and Crag Martin! Birds logged there have included Red-throated Pipit (1981); Bridled Tern (1984); and Redhead (1997).

The late 1990s saw a stream of good birds pass through Leicestershire & Rutland. Not one but two Greenish Warblers (1996), the Redhead and Red-flanked Bluetail (1997) (Britain’s first inland record); Blue-winged Teal and Spotted Sandpiper (1998) and, of course, Britain’s first twitchable Crag Martin (1999). That this unlikely county became 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.

The Leicestershire & Rutland list is now risen to a respectable 325 species. The Crag Martin took the county list to 302 (including some interesting 19th Century records like Cream-coloured Courser, Great Snipe and Pallas’s Sandgrouse). More recent additions at Rutland Water include Pied-billed Grebe (2014), Surf Scoter (2016), and Cory’s Shearwater (2017). Elsewhere in the Counties, both Radde’s and Dusky Warbler have been recorded in recent years. Most impressively a pair of Hoopoes raised three young in Leicestershire (2023)!

The wader list is respectable but appearances of Bar-tailed Godwit or Knot are causes for celebration. Local observers are seeing increasing numbers of Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls. The main location for gulls is Shawell Sand Quarry where there is also a working landfill site. A third of all the BBRC accepted Baltic Gulls have been recorded at Shawell. The site also has an enviable reputation for attracting ‘white-winged gulls’ including Kumlien’s Gulls.

As the frontiers of bird identification advance, county birders have stayed in the front line. In the 1970s, in common with much of Britain, most birds of prey were very rare in Leicestershire & Rutland. However, Buzzard, for example, have regained its rightful place as a breeding species – as has the Peregrine.

Species of current concern, including Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove are barely hanging on and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has now probably disappeared altogether.

Some top sites are listed below, but for a comprehensive list see here on the LROS website.

Top Sites
  • Bardon Hill

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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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

    | adriangpitches@gmail.com

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 325 (306 since 1941)

    County Bird - Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
  • Leicestershire & Rutland County Checklist

    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • 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
  • Rutland Breeding Bird Atlas

    | By Terry Mitcham | Spiegl Press | 1992 | Paperback | 139 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps | ISBN: 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 | 2009 | 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 | Out of Print | 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 | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713675306 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Global Bird Fair

    Global Birdfair 2024 July 12, 13 & 14 New Venue: Lyndon Top, Rutland LE15 8RN See. you there!
  • 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 Ornithological Society

    Facebook Page
    A group set up on behalf of the Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society (LROS), hopefully to get more of the public involved
  • 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

  • LNR Charley Woods

    WebpageSatellite View
    A mosaic of woodlands in the heart of Charnwood, this ancient, broadleaved woodland is bursting with wildlife. In the spring, you can enjoy a spectacular display of bluebells. Enjoy woodland birds all year round, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, woodpeckers and Tawny Owls.
  • LNR Cossington Meadows

    WebpageSatellite View
    This wetland haven is worth visiting all year around, but comes alive in the winter, when rafts of ducks, like wigeon and teal, gather on the lakes, and short-eared owls hunt over the meadows. Wrap up warm enjoy a brisk winter walk to one of the best wildlife spots in the Soar Valley.
  • LNR Egleton Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre is the gateway to the Egleton Nature Reserve, which makes up the larger part of Rutland Water Nature Reserve. A network of lagoons and wetlands, joined by meadows, hedgerows and woodlands, every inch of this beautiful place is bursting with wildlife.
  • LNR Great Merrible Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    A haven for mammals and birds, there’s a diversity of species that you might spot here – or at least spot their tracks and signs! Badgers, deer, foxes and lots of small mammals make the most of the quiet, ancient woodland, whilst birds like tits, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatch and treecreeper can all be seen.
  • LNR Lyndon Visitor Centre

    WebpageSatellite View
    Home of the iconic Rutland Ospreys, Lyndon Visitor Centre lies on the south shore of the reservoir. Enjoy hearing the stories of the Rutland Osprey Project in the centre (complete with facilities, refreshments and a shop), then enjoy a walk through the meadows, stopping off at a hide or two on the way, to Manton Bay – and see our nesting ospreys for yourself.
  • LNR Mountsorrel & Rothley Marshes

    WebpageSatellite View
    A network of scrapes, pools, meadows and naturally-regenerating woodland, we are working with nature to bring real diversity to this reserve. The wet grassland and shallow wet scrapes have been designed to encourage overwintering birds such as lapwing, snipe and redshank. All year-round visitors are likely to include grey heron, mallard and skylark. As the wet woodland grows it may encourage various warblers to visit and hopefully breed.
  • LNR Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Planted in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, there’s so much to discover here. A bird watcher’s paradise, the wood has an abundance of wildlife, including the skylarks, buzzards and the rare hen harrier.
  • Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Society Nature Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust manages 35 nature reserves covering over 1,200 hectares of rich, diverse and beautiful habitats. From woodland to meadows, wetland to heaths, our nature reserves comprise some of the most important wildlife and geological sites in the counties. As well as containing varied, interesting and even rare wildlife species, our nature reserves are hugely important places for people to visit and enjoy, and appreciate outstanding wildlife. We hope you love them as much as we do.
  • Rutland Water Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Rutland Water is one of the best places to enjoy birds and wildlife in the UK. Search for rare spring migrants, admire fishing ospreys in the summer, enjoy the autumn wader passage and marvel at huge flocks of winter wildfowl. With events year round, walking trails and two visitor centres, you'll be sure of an immersive wildlife experience for the whole family.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Leicestershire Bird Sightings & Photos

    Sightings & Photos
    Leicestershire bird sightings & photos page, interesting, rare and photogenic birds, from within the county.
  • Leicestershire and Rutland Bird News

    Latest Bird News
Other Links
  • Leicestershire Birder

    YouTube Channel
    Welcome to my nature, photography and birdwatching channel!
  • 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.
  • Stanford Birder

    Twitter Page
    Leics & Rutland birder. Patch - Stanford Reservoir (my patch list #201 - Blyth’s Reed Warbler).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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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