Bitterns Booming and Grasshopper Warblers at Middleton Lakes

7 June 2021

It had been a year since I visited Middleton Lakes for the first time and so two months back I decided to go back to explore the wetlands and woodland paths. Middleton Lakes is a RSPB reserve, nestled away in the heart of the River Tame Valley in Tamworth. The reserve has a network of wetlands, meadows and woodland trails to explore and is home to a variety of wildlife. I went out to the reserve on one sunny Saturday to see what wildlife I could find. 

As soon as I got out of my car, two swallows zoomed past my head, circled the sky and landed on a telephone wire to the edge of the car park. I couldn't believe it as I had only just seen my first ever swallow a week ago and there they were, with their long pointed tails, glossy blue feathers and red throats, metres away from me. I set off through the woodland trail which was surrounded by a sea of bluebells, with the scent of pungent wild garlic floating in the air. I made my way along the path and headed towards the wetland trail. Along the way I spotted two orange tip butterflies chasing each other in the air and landing on the cuckoo flowers amongst the long grass. I spotted many butterflies around Middleton Lakes that day including peacocks, speckled wood and a brimstone. 

I stopped for a while at the bridge over the canal and took in the beautiful views of the rapeseed fields. There were two friendly mallard ducks who were waddling along the bridge, followed by robins and chaffinches swooping down towards some bird seed that had been left on the bridge. I walked over the bridge and made my way to the start of the wetland trail where the first sound I heard was a loud, high pitched, grasshopper like sound coming from the long grass beside the wetland. Camouflaged against the long grass, perched on a low hanging branch was a grasshopper warbler! You can certainly understand where this warbler gets its name from as it makes this loud, insect-like reeling noise. Unfortunately this bird is now on the red list as its numbers have plummeted over the years, so I was very happy to have been lucky enough to see one for the first time at Middleton Lakes. 

After watching the grasshopper warbler for a while, I made my way along the trail watching wading birds spread out across the different pockets of wetland pools. Then all of a sudden, from what I think came from the reedbeds in front of me, was the sound of the famous bittern 'boom'. I couldn't believe it, it sounded exactly like someone was blowing a tune into an empty bottle. A local birder who was only a few metres away from me stopped to listen to the bittern too. We stood for a while waiting and we were very lucky to hear the sound of the bittern again! 

I saw plenty of butterflies whilst walking around the reserve. There were brimstones, small tortoiseshells, orange tips, peacocks and even a speckled wood which was lovely to see. Mayflies danced in the sky and many bumblebees were spotted buzzing around the wildflowers that were springing up. After a good walk around the reserve I made my way back towards the woodland and heard my first cuckoo of the year. A friendly robin was perched on a branch right in front of me as I walked back towards the car park. I left some bird seed on a wooden pallet as it wasn't too sure about whether to land on my hand, which it very nearly did! There are quite a few tame robins and other birds around the site and so I would recommend keeping some bird seed to hand! 

I look forward to visiting again soon, especially as I have been told that there are barn owls around the site, which unfortunately I missed as I was heading to the car park. Now that summer is on the way, I'm sure the reserve is going to be bursting with even more life. 

RSPB Middleton Lakes

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