Saturday, 21 May 2011
Birdwatching Fair and new RSPB Reserve
We visited the Birdwatchers Spring Fair at Middleton Hall today.
There was lots to see and do with many exhibitors including birding holidays, secondhand books, cameras, binoculars, artists, outdoor clothing and footwear and repesentatives from Birdwatching Magazine, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, BTO, West Midland Bird Club etc.
The most interesting part for me was the Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation stand which had lots of moths on display caught last night in the grounds of Middleton Hall. So I got chance to see species I have never trapped such as Blood-vein, Gold Spot, Peppered Moth, Poplar Hawkmoth and Swallow Prominent.
If you had time there were bird ringing demonstrations, digiscoping workshops, bird photography workshops (I would have loved to attend that one) pond dipping etc.
Middleton Hall itself is very interesting being a Grade II listed building which dates back to Medieval times. It was once visited by Elizabeth I and in the seventeenth century it was owned by Francis Willughby, a founder member of the Royal Society. He was greatly interested in natural history due to the influence of one of Britain's greatest naturalists, John Ray. According to the Birdwatching Fair programme Willughby and Ray's early work on flora and fauna classification formed the basis of the Linnean system. There is a craft centre at the Hall, 2 walled gardens and the largest man-made lake in Warwickshire.
I could easily have stayed at the Fair and Hall all day but the other reason for our visit was to walk over to the new RSPB reserve at Middleton Lakes which only opened a week ago.
The RSPB acquired the 400 acres of old gravel quarry in 2007 and the Reserve was initially closed to the public, apart from guided walks, whilst RSPB staff and volunteers (all of whom have done a brilliant job) restored the habitat.
I was really impressed with the reserve - it is much larger than I envisaged when we went on a guided walk several years ago. There is a rich variety of habitats - woodland, wetlands, pools, meadows, reedbeds with the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal nearby. It is great that the stretch of the Tame Valley between Birmingham and Tamworth is now served by a series of interconnecting Wildlife Reserves, Conservation areas and places that are rich in wildlife - Shustoke Reservoir, Ladywalk and Whitacre Heath NR's, Lea Marston Lakes, Kingsbury Water Park, Middleton Lakes, Dosthill Park and Local Nature Reserves nearer Tamworth. They form a superb wildlife corridor and part of the Wildlife Trust's vision of a "Living Landscape".
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Mrs Mallard and well-grown "ducklings"
This view shows some of the islands and reedbeds that have been created on one of the pools.
We saw a good variety of birds - highlights being a cuckoo calling in the woodlands and my first house martin of the year. Saw a brimstone butterfly and my first damselfly of the year - a beautiful male banded demoiselle.
There is a heronry of about 25 nests on the reserve and also a rookery. There were plenty of wetland plants such as cuckoo flower and, oh yes, yet more ragged robin!
Cows are used to graze part of the reserve and here is a calf with the "aah" factor!
I'm really looking forward to exploring this new Reserve a lot more in the future.