We were recently contacted by local radio BBC CWR and asked if we would like their help with our campaign, Operation Turtle Dove. Each year the Vic Minett show highlights and champions a wildlife cause, last year it was hedgehogs, this year turtle doves.
The UK population of turtle doves have declined alarmingly over the past 15 years and we have lost something like 90% of the population. The RSPB launched 'Operation Turtle Dove' last week and in collaboration with Pensthopre Conservation Trust and Conservation Grade we hope to identify some of the reasons for the decline.
We are asking for help from the regular listeners of the show to keep an eye out for these beautiful and delicate birds and let us know if they spot one.
You can find out more by visiting our website www.rspb.org.uk and searching for Operation Turtle Dove.
There will be regular updates over the coming weeks on the Vic Minett show on BBC radio Coventry & Warwickshire.
The extraordinarily warm weather at the moment has brought out a wealth of wildlife. Now is the perfect time to come along to the reserve and hone up on your photography skills!
Birds, bees, butterflies and flowers are all terrific subjects and they're out and about in abundance at present.
A recent picture of a reed bunting taken by our volunteer Adrian.
Occasionally I get the chance to take a walk around the reserve and yesterday was just one of those days.
The idea of meeting at 6.30am on a Sunday morning is not very appealing to most people but to a hardy few it was the best time of the day. We were taking part in the Central Rivers Initiative Festival of Birds and our visitors had come to experience the dawn chorus. Setting off from the car park we were treated to the full spectrum of birdsong from blackbird, song thrush and robins through to our summer arrivals, chiffchaff, blackcap and whitethroats.
Over the two hours we spent on site we listened and learned as our volunteer guide, Nigel, told us stories of why, where and when the birds sing. All this played out to a backdrop of heckling herons, boistrous rooks and squawking gulls, depending on where abouts on the reserve we were. A great introduction to early morning bird behaviour.
Following a hearty breakfast sandwich at the Courtyard Cafe, I was out again with our volunteer walk leaders, Dave & Lynn, who organise the monthly 'Birds for Beginners' walks. We set off past the heronry and noted 31 nests with 69 young herons this year, this could be a record. The bridleway and woodland contained the usual suspects, treecreeper, blackcap, reedwarbler & sedge warbler but it was out on the wetlands trail that we had our most success.
One of our many summer migrants to Middleton Lakes is the grasshopper warbler - this is usually a difficult bird to spot as it prefers to lie low and keep it's head down only giving away it's location by a distinctive song. Not today, we obviously have a showman on the reserve, there he was sitting proudly on top of a plant, singing his head off and quite unconcerned by us lot peering at him from only a few yards away. Ordinarily we'd have have been very happy with this sighting but further on round the wetlands trail we were treated to a pair of short eared owls hunting in the middle of our lakes. Superb and in view for ages. What a day.
I suppose the fact we saw a hobby, barnacle goose, gadwall and great crested grebe and found fresh otter spraint, added to the excitement but for me the owls were just terrific.
I've just been interrupted by two of our volunteers who excitedly burst in to my office to announce they'd seen an OSPREY with a fish taking off from Fishers Mill Pool!!!
Not a first osprey spot at Middleton Lakes but certainly the first that could possibly have been hunting on the reserve.
Couple this with a confirmed spotting of an osprey yesterday and you can understand the excitement here.
The morning was cool but dry, as I started my introduction dawn was breaking and within a couple of minutes a Cuckoo started calling, not too far distant, and went on non-stop for about 5 minutes. Whether it was questioning our sanity in rising so early, or commenting on my diatribe I am not sure!
From the feeders boardwalk we heard the early risers, Robin, Song Thrush and Blackbird, almost drowning out everything else, except of course the Grey Heron’s (complaining about the noise no doubt).
The bridleway to the main reserve turned out to be much drier than I had expected, and as we walked down Dunnock, Chiffchaff and Blackcap joined the chorus, which was reaching its crescendo. I never fail to be amazed at the number of birds singing.
On the viewing platform we had Sedge Warbler, and moving into the woodland walk we heard Wren, belting out its song - above the noise of the squabbling Rooks, and the occasional calls of male Pheasant.
Between the Woodland and the canal bridge a Whitethroat did its stuff, and after a short while listening (and watching) I led the group, with impeccable timing, to the entrance to the wetlands.
I say impeccable timing, and It couldn’t have been planned better, because as we came over the canal bridge to the reserve fence we were greeted by the amazing vista of the rising Sun just appearing over the earth banking of the Water Ski Club and casting its first rays of the day across the reserve.
Truly breathtaking! It stopped us in our tracks, and If any of us were thinking it would have been better to have stayed in bed those doubts were well and truly dispelled!
We stood there for several minutes taking in the view and listening to the sounds of the Black-headed Gulls before we continued round to the river walk, picking up Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting as we went, and just after passing the Willow screen Mr Cuckoo did a fly by for us, seen by everyone!
By now the light was really strengthening and the main crescendo of the dawn chorus had subsided. We progressed at an easy pace along the river bank path and watched sedge warblers exploding out of the reeds and parachuting down, singing as they went. As we reached the new reedbed pool we saw a Hare making its way along the bank, and a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew over our heads.
As we reached the signpost to turn back towards the canal I looked at my watch to find it was 6:40! Time to head back for what was now going to be a late breakfast!
We made a little more haste now, but we managed to see two more Hares, and heard Garden Warbler, Chaffinch and Green Woodpecker on the return trip.
Just after leaving the Woodland trail path we stopped briefly at the dead tree to survey what looked to be a woodpecker hole, when I noticed two Treecreepers, and as I watched one of them disappeared into a nest under the bark on the left hand side of the tree.
It was now a brisk march back to the car park, no time to survey the feeders, but we finished the morning with a couple of goldfinches tinkling their song on the telephone wires.
We were 25 minutes late for breakfast, but I don’t think anyone minded!
My only disappointment was that we didn’t hear a singing Cetti’s Warbler, but you can’t have everything!
Posted by Peter Rollin who hosted the walk on behalf of the RSPB team.