Nature Notes

Thornton reservoir January 2021 – photograph courtesy of Gillatphotography – (copyright applies)

Thornton is in the heart the National Forest and Charnwood Forest and is the central hub between three of Leicestershire’s most popular beauty spots; Thornton reservoir, Bagworth Heath and Ratby Burroughs; all outstanding areas of natural beauty and teeming with wildlife; hundreds of walkers and cyclists visit the area on a daily basis.

Bagworth & Thornton | NatureSpot (Leicester and Rutland Wildlife Trust)


Snow and Ice (By resident Andy Smith)

Early January was marked by very wet and mild conditions. The Reservoir was brim full and the inflow streams were regularly over bank full. My first Woodcock of the year was flushed at Brown’s Wood on the 12th and seven Song Thrush were feeding in flooded fields on the 14th.

A Peregrine flew north on the 16th and a flock of 18 Linnet were feeding on the stubble. The January Webs count took place on the 17th. Totals included 136 Mallard, 117 Coot, 64 Tufted Duck and an impressive 27 Moorhen. Also on this date a pair of Sparrowhawks were displaying and Lesser Redpoll and Tawny Owl were added to the year list.

Twenty Gadwall on the 19th was a good site total and two pairs of Shoveler were present on the 21st. Despite an early frost sunny and calm conditions had a very early Red Admiral on the wing on the 22nd. This early taste of spring was short lived as a good covering of snow arrived on the 24th. This resulted in a movement of wildfowl on the 25th. Three White-fronted Geese were the highlight, and 27 Pochard, 18 Teal and 22 Wigeon were also noted.

Milder weather at the end of January encouraged a thaw with several signs of lengthening days. On the 29th Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming in the Church yard, Song thrush were singing and the first frogs were braving the pond. Other sightings at this time included Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Little Egret and Kingfisher.

February commenced with mild weather. On the 2nd 35 Pochard were scattered along Wood Bank and a single female Goosander was resting on the dam. The following day and a smart male Mandarin was seen by Gill and Martin. Also on the 3rd a Buzzard was feasting on a dead goose in the fields below the dam.

On February 7th a Red Kite drifted over the house, already my fourth sighting of the year and clear evidence that this species is increasing locally. Also on this date high pressure over Scandinavia had slipped south west bringing an Arctic blast to the UK. 

As I write icy conditions are forecast, with night time temperatures dropping to -5C. With the ground and water bodies frozen bird species are under stress. Many will be forced to move west or stay to tough it out. By providing food and especially water you can help them make it through.

Andy Smith 10/02/2021

White fronted geese – photograph courtesy of Andy Smith – (copyright applies)
Fieldfare – photograph courtesy of Andy Smith (copyright applies)
Goosander – photograph courtesy of Andy smith (copyright applies)
A deceit of lapwings visited the reservoir on 3rd Feb 2021 – Photograph courtesy of Gill Tapping (copyright applies)
Mandarin duck spotted at the reservoir on 3rd Feb 2021 – photograph courtesy of Gill Tapping (copyright applies)
Tufted duck – Photograph courtesy of Gill Tapping (copyright applies)
Cormorant drying their wings on the dam – Photograph courtesy of Gill Tapping (copyright applies)

Mid-Winter Sightings (by resident Andy Smith)

Large numbers of Canada and Greylag Geese have been using the reservoir, so it was very pleasing to find a new species for the site in their company. This was on December 12th in the form of a Russian White-fronted Goose. There has been an influx of this species this winter and it is the first record for Thornton.

The December Webs count took place on the 13th. Totals included 165 Mallard, 84 Coot, 66 Tufted Duck, 10 Teal, and 9 Gadwall. On the 15th I recorded some good flocks of various species at the Top End. This included 100+ Chaffinch, 300 Redwing, 30 Linnet, 30 Siskin and 10 Lesser Redpoll. Also on this date two Red Legged Partridge and a Kingfisher were seen.

Kingfisher – photograph courtesy of Ann Barwell (copyright applies).

Mild weather on the 19th had a male and female Blackcap feeding near the Church and a flock of 53 Lapwing on the dam.

As 2020 drew to a close other sightings included Peregrine, Goldeneye and a male Goosander.

My final Thornton species list for 2020 ended on 120.

Highlights were four new site species. This included Ring-necked Duck, Shag, White- fronted Goose and of course the magnificent Bearded Vulture. Other treats included Long- tailed Duck, Rock Pipit, and Whimbrel. Six Marsh Harrier sightings was also a record.

Russian white fronted goose – photograph courtesy of Andy Smith (copyright applies).

The New Year was marked by cold and frosty conditions. A respectable total of 55 species on January 1st included a skein of 200+ Pink-footed geese moving west. A second smaller skein of 32 Pinkfeets was seen on January 2nd. The White – front was also recorded on Jan. 1st but not since.

Pochard numbers have also been increasing with a maximum of 30 on Jan 7th. Other highlights of early January have included Goldeneye, Goosander, Water Rail, Little Egret and Red Kite.

With a national ‘lockdown’ once again in force we are all restricted. Providing food and water for birds will be rewarded with some great sightings from home. Apples cut in half and stuck on shrubs will attract Redwing and Fieldfare. Feeders can also draw in Siskins, Redpoll and Brambling.

If we need to escape further there is also the night sky, of which I know almost nothing. Fortunately my son gave me a guide for Christmas that will help. The Collins 2021 Guide to the Night Sky, Dunlop and Tirion (Royal Observatory Greenwich, £6.99) Why not wrap up warm, and with a pair of binoculars, escape the ‘lockdown’ to a distant Constellation.

Andy Smith 10/01/2021

Damselfly – Thornton Reservoir – July 2020 – photograph courtesy of Gillatphotography – (copyright applies)
African goose – Thornton reservoir resident – photograph courtesy Gillatphotography – (copyright applies)
Siskin – Thornton Reservoir – Jan 2020 – photograph courtesy of Colin Harris – (copyright applies)