The last weeks of August have been some of my favourite wildlife watching moments on the reserve so far this year! It has meant that we have taken longer to do jobs out on site, as things like spotted redshanks, ospreys and spotted flycatchers are very distracting!

Seven species of raptor were on site last week. Adding to the resident kestrels, sparrowhawks and buzzards were a juvenile peregrine, which thought it was a good idea to chase the Canada geese (it quickly decided it wasn’t a smart thing to do). Hobbys have been hawking around munching on the hawkers. The marsh harriers are lingering in the valley, but aren’t seen every day on the reserve. We’ve had some good views of them on the work parties over the north pit and jubilee. My raptor highlight last week was the osprey that drifted through on Tuesday. Initially thinking it was the marsh harrier, on raising my binoculars I did a series of excited expletives and shouted to Miriam ‘OSPREY!’ It was being pursued by lapwings over the north pit and then flew over to Dosthill where it hovered for a bit. Then it drifted right over our heads and went south. Such a fantastic end to the day.

Osprey over North pit by Lisa Williams (taken in April)

The (very distracting) spotted redshank was still on the reserve up to the 24th. It wasn’t seen the next day – getting fed up of being the centre of attention maybe! A steady trickle of wood sandpipers have been a welcome thing this autumn, with Tom of the tame valley blog reckoning there’s been 8 so far this autumn. Yesterday’s curlew sandpiper was another distracting distraction to the work party. A juvenile was on the east scrape (also known as river scrape), with ringed and little-ringed plovers. Luckily us working near by didn’t bother it and was happily feeding away.

Wood sandpiper + spotted redshank by Moocher

Curlew sandpiper on the east scrape by Steve Atkinson

With waders the focus for many at this time of year, the other species seen this week have been:- Ruff, greenshank, snipe, black-tailed godwits, dunlin, common + green sandpiper, redshank, lots of lapwing and 2 early (for us at least) golden plover.Not a bad haul! With most of those using the west scrape on jubilee. Plus 4 garganeys using the wetlands – another sought after migrant.

Garganey (possibly a male?) on jubilee by Steve Pick

More migration in action last week with 4 tree pipits flying over on Osprey Tuesday (for ever to be known as that!) with the next day a bumper spotted flycatcher day. At least 3, possibly 4 seen between the farm and the canal. There is one hanging around the farm + car park area and they can be pretty obvious as they like obvious tree limbs to catch insects from. Wheatear and whinchats have been making use of the fence and screens as posts to watch from, with a very nice wheatear soaking up the rays on the west screen yesterday. The hedges and scrub between the west screen and the canal are a good place to look for small birds in the morning as the sun warms here first and there is often a lot of insect activity. This morning there were small flocks of all sorts – mainly linnet, goldfinch, reed bunting, whitethroat, sedge warblers and willow warbler but mixed in with them was a lesser whitethroat and our volunteer warden, Martin, saw a young siskin.

Both of our blue butterflies – Holly and common – have been on the wing well into the last days of august. I’m told holly blues have had a ‘boom’ year this year owing to a lack of parasitic wasps which usually use them. I’m also told that this may mean next year is a ‘bust’ year as that often follows a boom. There seems to have been a small flush of small tortoishells too. Whilst working on the north pit last week we watched them feeding on the water mint and purple loosestrife. Butterfly conservation are wanting your sightings as this once widespread butterfly is on the downward trend. There have been more painted lady and red admiral sightings across the reserve too.


Holly blue by Richard Clague

Lots of dragonflies and damselflies about too – which has attracted the hobbys. The southern and brown hawkers have been making use of the cleared silt pond area by the feeders. They couldn’t wait to lay their eggs on the flotsam in the water and even whilst the clearance was going on they would land right in front of us! Clearing the reed mace also means you can see the water and edge, making it easier to see grass snakes, water rails and the great-crested newts. The newts squiggle up to the surface, take what looks like is a breath and then wiggle their way down. Once one does it others seem to follow – it’s a funny sight!

Before and after photos from the boardwalk opposite the feeders.

August has been a good one for the people engagement team. The trailer has been open at the weekends providing a warm welcome and the wild Wednesday activities have been a big hit. As was the scarecrow day on bank holiday Monday. There are still some groovy scarecrows guarding the car park – they are quite an eerie sight when arriving on a misty morning! Yesterday was the last wild Wednesday of the summer holidays, the next one will be in the October half term. These events are run by the Tame Valley wetlands team and to see what other cool things they have planned check out their website:- Check out the tame valley website for more activities and events going on in the tame valley.

Middletons scarecrow guardians

We will endeavour to keep this blog updated, but to keep your finger on the Middleton Lakes pulse follow us on Twitter @RSPBMiddleton and check out our RSPB Birmingham, Black Country and Warwickshire facebook. If you enjoy taking photos, we would love for you to add them to our Community page. To keep up to date with Middleton and other sightings in the valley check out the tame valley birding blog