Friday, March 2, 2007

Site for sore eyes

Production editor Matt Merritt writes:
It's always a pleasure, as a patch-watcher, to discover a new site, and that's just what happened to me last weekend. A horrendous pile-up of prior engagements meant my Saturday birding was restricted to an hour around lunchtime, so I headed to Sawley Marina, close to my Leicestershire home, to look for the Short-eared Owls, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers that had been reported there.
Sadly, I had little luck, but heading home, I took a quick detour around the maze of industrial estates between the M1 and Castle Donington. Willow Farm Estate, which has turned up some good sightings in the past, is starting to look too filled-in and manicured, but next to it is the large EMDC site, which at the moment seems to be just an expanse of scrubby wasteground, plus a few large puddles with pretensions towards being pools.
Not necessarily that promising, but 15 minutes with bins and scope revealed some great birds. A Ringed Plover, for starters, not always easy to see on my patch, plus two Shelducks, which can also be tricky to find. Then there was a Mistle Thrush, a mixed finch flock, plus an incredible 79 Pied Wagtails (I had to give up counting because of the time). I think they were attracted by the swarms of very big gnats which were everywhere, making it look like high summer rather than a blustery February day.
I'm going to be heading back there this weekend, because two things suggest this site could turn up some real goodies.
Firstly, it's very close to the M1 migration flyway (I presume the birds follow the gravel pits, rather than the actual road), and secondly, all those insects are bound to be popular with all sorts of species. Oh, and there's something about the site that suggests Black Redstart isn't out of the question. Here's hoping...

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