Stockbridge Reserve

Stockbridge Nature 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. The large hide over-looks the main pool and much of 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.

If you wish to visit the Reserve you will have to be a B.O.G. Member. Please contact Shaun Radcliffe on 01274 770960 or e-mail at for further information.
Stockbridge Nature Reserve Newsletter – Autumn 2017

Some of the sightings during the period September to November 2017 relate to last sightings of birds moving on to warmer climates. September saw records of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler on 17th and Swallow on the same day. Two Chiff-Chaffs were seen on the same day but that species was also recorded on 28th when three birds were on the Reserve. That same day, Water Rail was heard and seen under the willows and recorded regularly throughout November after being missing during October. A female Teal visited on 21st along with a flock of 26 Goldfinches. On the 28th, 130 Pinkfoot Geese flew east.

A feeding party passed through the Reserve on 5th October and included a Treecreeper and Nuthatch, birds not seen very often here. Two Cormorants fished in the lake on 15th whilst 70 Pinkfoot flew high overhead going west. A Siskin was recorded on 19th along with a family of three young Pheasants. An observer enjoyed watching a Kingfisher for 15 minutes preening whilst perched on the wire in front of the hide.

This month gave plenty of views of the Water Rail including it walking carefully on the ice. A male Sparrowhawk flew across from the riverside and perched in the willows in front of the hide. It’s attention to preening took so long that the birds returned to the nearby feeders totally ignoring the raptor. During a cold period, the Reserve was visited by four Herring Gulls who searched the fringes of the ice looking for food.

A VIP bird recorded was Little Egret which unfortunately only stayed for a few minutes on 24th of September.

A close inspection of areas of rush showed evidence of Field Vole activity with rush cuttings found along with the vole’s droppings. The Bank Vole was also recorded as the mammal swiftly moved out from below a wall to grab some of the bird food laid out on the surface of the wall.
A Red Admiral Butterfly was recorded as late as 15 November whilst the Kestrel Box has been (temporarily) taken over by a Grey Squirrel. Removal of the twigs in the box should keep it clear for Kestrels to move in.

Work was undertaken to keep the ponds and ditches clear. Also members have helped to cut back the willows growing.
John Preshaw clearing out the stream that feeds the main pool and the Kingfisher using the ditch

The kingfisher visits the reserve regularly from the adjacent river.
From now until March, there will be working parties down on the Reserve usually on Thursday & Sunday mornings. If you are interested in helping and are a member of BOG, please contact me and I shall let you know the dates concerned.

Shaun Radcliffe
Stockbridge Nature Reserve Newsletter Summer 2017

On the first of June, there was no sign of Reed or Sedge Warbler on the Reserve which is not surprising after the recent heavy downpours. Four days later a Sedge was heard at the back of the reedbed but not recorder again until 9 July. It was pleasing to see a family of Greenfinch at the feeders mid-month with a pair with two young. A female Mallard guarded her eight ducklings but within a week she only had two left. The raspberry patch proved a big attraction with Blackcaps, Blackbirds and Whitethroat enjoying the fruit. A young Chiff-Chaff was recorded on 8 July and observers enjoyed watching Swifts flying low over the water to drink. The next day, a young Kingfisher arrived and perched on the wire cable in front of the hide.

Butterflies seen over the summer included a Brimstone, Comma, Ringlet, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. Mallards during the eclipse gathered in the evening with up to 32 birds at times. A Sedge Warbler turned up in the reedbed on 13 August and a young Reed Warbler was spotted low down in the willows on the last day of August. However, neither species is believed to have bred on the Reserve this year. Frequent visits by young Bullfinches were enjoyed.

During this period, little management of the Reserve was undertaken so as not to disturb breeding birds. However, the flooding which took place on Boxing Day, two years ago, has introduced a great number of seeds from Himalayan Balsam so some limited pulling took place especially around the reedbed area. Special notice was made as to whether Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler were breeding. The plants outgrew the height of the common reed (see photograph). This work will be ongoing for some time.

There is always a lot of water mint growing on the Reserve and also Marsh Woundwort (pictured), which is from the mint family. I read that the plant was used to heal wounds and was more effective than a more orthodox herbal method. It was often used on people who had been badly wounded in tavern brawls.
Marsh Woundwort
Common Sandpiper - Photo: Brian Vickers
Himalayan Balsam
Stockbridge Nature Reserve Newsletter Spring 2017

Once March arrived, the Reserve started to wake up. The last record of Water Rail was on 16th when the bird was heard calling from the reedbed. It is a shame the species does not stay and attempt to breed but returns in the autumn. On the same day, the first Chiff-Chaff was heard singing. By the end of May, a family was observed moving about the small trees and being fed by the parents.

Back to March and by the end of the month, a female Goosander was seen peering out of the Stock Dove nest box situated next to the river. She was seen quite regularly over the next two months, coming to the lake to freshen up before returning to the box. It’s difficult to determine whether breeding takes place until the box is checked in the winter. Last year, 10 abandoned Goosander eggs were removed.

April brought records of flight displays by Woodpigeon whilst a visiting Kingfisher caught a stickleback and took it away to offer to the female, probably waiting on the river. By mid-month, Blackcap & Willow Warbler are singing whilst House Sparrows come onto the Reserve to collect nesting material. The first sighting of Sand Martin was on 1 April. Two more arrivals were Reed Warbler on 23rd and Common Sandpiper on 30th. The Sandpiper only stayed for a day whereas the Reed Warbler was still singing from the reedbed at the end of May. A pleasant surprise was of a singing Lesser Whitethroat on the same day. The bird was situated in a thick hawthorn bush next to the gardens and although it sang for 40 minutes, it was too well hidden to be seen. The bird moved on but Common Whitethroat was also on the Reserve and later two singing males took up territories and could be clearly observed. A pair of Moorhen had two chicks despite the arrival of two pairs of Coot who appear to enjoy chasing everything including Canada Geese. Swift sightings were on the late side on 7 May but during this month, the Reserve had now two Sedge Warblers singing at either end of the Reserve.

It has been interesting to watch regularly the Roe Deer who come out in the evenings with up to four seen. Butterflies sighted – a yellow butterfly on 23 May probably a Brimstone, Orange-tip, Speckled Wood and Comma.
I should like to thank the members who have worked at Stockbridge – Keith Allen, Mike Bloomfield, Penny French, John Ogden, John Preshaw, John Tyson , Thomas & Susan Simcock.
An early photograph of the main pool from the east end of the reserve.
Regular pruning is essential to maintain a variety of habitats across the reserve.
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