RSPB Leeds Local Group trip to NWT Idle Valley Nature Reserve on 11th May 2024

This was to be the group’s first visit to this Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Reserve in over ten years. Indeed, it was a first-time trip here for several of the participants. 32 of us set off in sunny and warm conditions, which remained the case throughout the duration of our visit.

At 375 hectares this is one of the largest nature reserves in the area and is the site of a beaver reintroduction program in recent years. Their website states that beaver kits have been reported in the vicinity.

Situated on the western banks of the River Idle, north of Retford, many of the pools had been sand or gravel pits in the post-war period. Now, like many other such sites, these have been restyled into a major resource for nature.

Our target birds for the day would be turtle dove, hobby, cuckoo and some lingering red crested pochard. Not long after 10am we parked up on Chainbridge Lane to begin our search around some of the lakes and pools in the northern area of the reserve.

An initial check down Walters Lane for the reported turtle doves was at first unsuccessful but the walk along the track past Chainbridge Scrape soon had encounters with garden warbler, blackcap and willow warbler, then whilst we scanned the pool area, we had a view of five hobbies hawking above our heads. Continuing north we soon added sedge warbler and some more hedgerow birds. When we reached Neatholme Pit we were rewarded with a distant view of a male red crested pochard. This was a highlight for everybody judging by the smiles breaking out on people’s faces as they arrived at the screen to observe it!

We then started our return route to the coach so we could transfer to the visitor centre to begin afternoon exploration of the southern area of the reserve. During this part of our walk some of the group did observe some turtle doves and a few others heard a distant cuckoo.

After refreshments at the excellent visitor centre the birds on the island seen from viewing windows drew our attention. The two Egyptian geese were quickly noticed, and other birds were added to our list as a pair of common sandpipers made an appearance, shortly followed by a sanderling. At this point we departed for our afternoon stroll along the river.

The bird count continued to rise slowly here, but other wildlife began to make an appearance as the weather warmed up. As well as beautiful demoiselle and banded demoiselle we encountered other damselflies and dragonflies as well as a grass snake swimming in the river. A distant yaffle of a green woodpecker was also heard by some of the party. Then as we approached Bunker Wood the calls of cuckoos began to ring out ahead of us. Shortly after this, near Tiln Pits two bitterns were seen flying over the path by Iain, soon followed by a third bird crossing between the trees.

From here we wearily worked our way back to the visitors’ centre to refresh ourselves for the journey back to Leeds. While we chatted about the day’s events before heading for the coach, ‘Hawkeye’ Iain added kingfisher to our count, as well as finding a herring gull amongst the plentiful lesser black backed gulls.

At 5pm we started our return journey home. Our species count for the day came to a creditable 78, one of our higher day totals for this year’s outings.

Thanks are due to Pauline for again giving us the opportunity for a great day of birding, and to Russell and Karen for driving the coach on the two legs of the journey.

Geoff Craigs