Stockbridge Reserve

Stockbridge Nature Reserve was the first area acquired by the group. This is a wetland site in the valley bottom adjacent to the river Aire and has a scrape and small shallow lake. Good views are obtainable from our large hide over-looking the site. Warblers breed in the vicinity, Kingfishers use the site daily and Water Rail are regular winter visitors. Keys to the hide are provided for all members and a daily log is kept on-site.
Newsletter Spring 2016
Next to the Reserve is the River Aire and it attracts some interesting visitors. Whenever the river is in flood, there is a better chance of seeing a Kingfisher fishing on the lake especially when the conditions are better than on the river. The same applies to Goosanders and, to a lesser degree, Little Grebe. This winter, at times up to four Goosanders have been searching for sticklebacks and they are often accompanied by Black-headed Gulls who try to snatch the fish from the ducks as the bird surfaces with its catch.

At the back end of last November, we endured days of heavy rain, which brought about local flooding. However, inside the hide you could remain dry thanks to the work undertaken by a BOG member from Baildon, Peter Riley. The roofing work he did has kept water out and also saved BOG a large bill for the work.

Due to the heavy rainfall, the two islands almost disappeared (see picture). This in fact was nothing compared to the rain that fell at Christmas as both islands disappeared, the fencing was all submerged and the feeder next to the willows was under water.

Once the berries had dropped the hawthorn hedges were cut and you can see the effort given by John Tyson in the photograph. The willows are not cut until January. Some pruning of trees and bushes has provided material, which is then piled up in the wetland area. Hopefully, this will provide potential nesting sites for Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Wren and (with a bit of luck) Grasshopper Warbler. I mentioned this in the last edition of Lapwing so its now, wait and see. The photograph shows the heap constructed. The wet weather mentioned in the previous paragraph, dislodged the pile and it floated away down river. Another pile will need to be constructed.

On the 4th October, a special visitor was at the Reserve. A small bird was spotted at the far side of the willows as it worked busily looking for food. The constant movement and fluttering at it searched made the observer consider it to be a Goldcrest but it looked slightly larger. Fortunately the bird continued towards the open area of the willows where the sun was shining and when it could be viewed completely, a clear pale stripe was seen over the eye along with two creamy wing-bars on the wings. The size of the bird was about in line with a Chiff-Chaff but those wing bars proved the species to be a Yellow-Browed Warbler. Amazingly, this warbler breeds in parts of eastern Russia, China and other parts of Asia. It spends the winter in India and south-east Asia.  
I should like to thank the members who have worked at Stockbridge in 2015 namely – Keith Allen, Mike Bloomfield, Alan Cooper, Penny French, John Ogden, John Preshaw, John Tyson (pictured), Thomas & Susan Simcock. Working parties usually occur on Thursday & Sunday mornings. If you are interested in helping out, please contact me for further information.             
Shaun Radcliffe (01274 770960) or
As the birds should not be disturbed during the breeding period, there are always other jobs which can be done. The hide was erected in 1990 and has stood the test of time. Repairs have taken place such as the roof recovered and a replacement of the front boards. These jobs were ably arranged and done by Peter Riley (Baildon) who is a retired joiner. Others did help but it was Peter's know how which BOG benefitted from - so many thanks Peter. This year, the hide was weatherproofed again and the workers captured on camera!

Newsletter Autumn 2016
Over the last few years I have noted a change on the Reserve. At one time, Sedge Warbler was an annual breeder but this species failed to show this year. In 2014, a bird was recorded singing on 1st May and again on 18th of that month. No further records were received but a Reed Warbler was on site on 29th May. This would seem normal as Reed usually arrives after Sedge. However Reed was again seen on 22nd June and a week later food was being taken to a nest site. A juvenile bird was then noted on 13 July so breeding took place. In 2015 a Reed Warbler was singing on 21st June and on 5th July. The bird sighted on 20th August may have been a migrant passing through but breeding was not proven in 2015. Sedge Warbler was not recorded.

This year, the site, i.e. the reed bed, has been dominated by disturbance as a nearby bungalow has been almost rebuilt which included knocking parts of it down. The noisiest work took place during May with the reed bed quite close by. A Reed Warbler turned up on 22nd May singing but was not recorded again until 16th June followed by no other records until 25th June. I believe the noise may have been a factor so will this bird remain? Again Sedge Warbler has not been seen. By the time this article was written (end of July), Reed was seen on 7th & 21st of July, an adult feeding in the willows in front of the hide. Sadly, there is no evidence of breeding but live in hope for next year when the Reserve might be a little quieter.

Walking around the Reserve is very pleasant especially if you take your time and watch out for birds during the breeding season. There are two male Whitethroats singing from their territories, each at different ends of the Reserve. During June, I walked carefully along the embankment to study one pair as they appeared to be feeding recently fledged young. I almost jumped out of my skin because about 20 feet in front of me and well-hidden was a male buck Roe Deer. I didn’t see it but it saw me and let out an extremely loud bark which took me by complete surprise. The deer then broke cover and took off barking as it went. I later read that this was a typical way in which Roe Deer show their alarm. After getting back my breadth, I enjoyed seeing the Whitethroat attending to their young. Whitethroat take advantage of the area dominated by Meadowsweet which by July is tall and is very attractive with its "frothy"head. The birds build their nests in the plant and search amongst it for insects to feed the young.

Please see the advert in this issue of Lapwing expressing the need for helpers during the autumn onwards. SR
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