Attenborough – 15 May 2022

Attenborough nature reserve Photo: Paul Maddox

We arrived at Attenborough just after 9am and the weather gods were again kind to us as the forecast rain failed to materialise. Instead, we were greeted by blue skies and a garden warbler singing its heart out in a small tree near to the car park – the first of many warbler photo opportunities.

Garden warbler at Attenborough Photo: William Bennet

Attenborough is a nature reserve reclaimed from old gravel pits and the habitat of grassland, scrub and trees is perfect habitat for warblers, the main reason for choosing to make this our May field trip. After a coffee in the visitor centre and excellent views of an unusually confiding reed warbler, most of us strolled along the main track and over the bridge in the direction of the hides. We made slow progress as there seemed to be a warbler in every bush – whitethroats, blackcaps, sedge warblers and garden warblers serenaded us as we scanned the hedges. A dunnock and a wren, not to be outdone, joined in the chorus. All in all we saw nine warbler species with chiffchaff, lesser whitethroat, Cetti’s warbler and willow warbler all putting in an appearance.

Whitethroat at Attenborough Photo: Mike Smith

The dense scrub made for plenty of song perches but the impenetrable bramble patches provided an even better nesting opportunity, well away from predators and bird watchers! More noticeable nesting birds were the colony of cormorants, the nest and trees bleached white with their droppings. Cormorants were almost exclusively coastal birds in the UK until 1981 when an inland tree-nesting colony became established in Essex. The trees in which cormorants nest seldom look healthy as, over time, the acidity of the birds’ droppings kills the trees in which they breed.

Although not the best time to see waterfowl, there were plenty of other birds of interest on the water. Two pairs of little-ringed plover were present on islands in Clifton Pond as were redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher. One group member was lucky enough to see a cuckoo flying along the tree line from the tower hide, followed ten minutes later by a hobby! Common terns fished in the lakes, their buoyant flight providing more of a challenge to the photographers. Two great white egrets provided excellent views too.

Common tern Photo: Steve Martin

In between the hedges and scrub, wildflowers seemed to fill every space. The delicate umbels of cow parsley quivered in the breeze, with an understorey of buttercup, dead nettle, red campion and ground ivy. Holly blue butterflies and banded demoiselles waltzed effortlessly across the swaying carpet.

Banded demoiselle at Attenborough Photo: Sean Ashton

Nearer the Visitor Centre, a small hide at water level afforded us excellent views of the sand martin colony, the sky busy with martins hawking for insects and visiting their nests. From the same hide, a kingfisher arrowed across the water to a perch, momentarily dazzling us before moving off.

Reed bunting at Attenborough Photo: William Bennett

Refreshments at the visitor centre where we could watch birds from the comfort of the covered balcony rounded off a wonderful day.

Attendees: 24
Bird species seen: 73