Thursday, 3 March 2016

Centre of the action

One small part of Rutland Water Nature Reserve, arguably Britain's best inland birding site.
I had a meeting at the Birdwatch-BirdGuides head office in Lincolnshire this morning, so set out early through morning rush hour traffic in north London and then up the A1. It's never an eventful drive bird-wise, but if my luck's in the occasional Red Kite brightens the latter part of the journey. Nearing junction 16 south-west of Peterborough, I duly struck Milvus gold - not one Red Kite this time but a staggering 16 circling together! It's easily the highest number I've seen in this part of the country, and actually at exactly the same spot as last time - about quarter of a mile south of the junction and just east of the southbound carriageway (is there a refuse site nearby?).

Birdfair's Tim Appleton OBE, my host for the afternoon.
After the meeting, I took the opportunity to call in at nearby Rutland Water and catch up with organiser and co-founder of Birdfair, Tim Appleton. I've been at every Birdfair since 1991 with Birdwatch (latterly also with BirdGuides), and since 1998 the magazine has generated £229,000 of revenue for Birdfair's annual conservation appeals by publishing the official programme; just over £45,000 of this went to help conserve the endangered Azores Bullfinch, a species for which Birdwatch was proud to act as BirdLife International Species Champion. So Tim and I had plenty of Birdfair business to chat about, especially after the event notched up another fundraising record year.

The reserve's new Volunteer Training Centre, generously funded by Anglian Water.
It's easy to forget that the habitat in this vast wetland is entirely man-made and carefully managed for wildlife.
Our meeting took place while Tim gave me a tour of the reserve as I'd never seen it before - without giant marquees and 20,000 visitors in August! This showcase site now has a very impressive new Volunteer Training Centre, generously funded by Anglian Water, and some equally impressive birds - we saw Red-necked, Slavonian and three Black-necked Grebes (in fact all five grebe species), six Smew, two Whooper Swans, Red Kite, Peregrine, Water Rail and the local star of the show, a lingering Long-billed Dowitcher. A superb afternoon's haul which reinforces Rutland Water's reputation not just as home to the world's biggest birding event, but also as the single best inland birding site in Britain.

The Long-billed Dowitcher (left) was on show distantly from Shoveler Hide with Common Snipe and Northern Lapwings for an interesting size comparison; note that this species is barely bigger than a snipe.
The dowitcher is thought by some local birders to be different to the individual seen recently at Wanlip Meadows, just 20 miles or so to the west in Leicestershire.


  1. Trying to get in contact with Gerry Hinchon. Would you happen to know him?

  2. Hi Rebecca, I know the name in connection with birding but I'm afraid don't know him personally - sorry I can't help



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