AMAZING WATER RAIL @ YWT STAVELEY
On Wednesday I visited Staveley Nature Reserve which is located a few miles west of Boroughbridge at the village of Staveley. There are three hides at the reserve with two overlooking the East Lagoon and one the West Lagoon with the River Tutt serving as the reserves northern border.
It had rained during my journey to the reserve but by the time I arrived at the car park it had stopped and the sun had come out. I walked through the field to the reserve's main path and as I turned westwards along the path I saw Greylag Geese, Crows and a lone Pheasant in the field to my right. As I neared a small woodland area where the path turns northwards I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year. Once I reached the wooded area I saw the Chiffchaff moving through the tops of the trees, pausing occasionally to sing.
As I walked through the woods a Willow Tit flew from one side of the path to the other and up above me a Blue Tit was inching along a branch looking for food. As I emerged from the woodland I was left with a choice as the path splits in two with the left path taking you to the West Lagoon and the right path along the edge of the East Lagoon to two hides. I decided to take the right path and headed towards the members hide which you need to obtain a key from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to access.
I had a look through the viewing screen located just to the left of the hide which was quiet apart from a couple of Chaffinches and Reed Buntings. I continued on towards the Public Hide as a pair of Canada Geese swam round the edge of the lagoon following me as I walked round. When I arrived at the Public Hide there were several Reed Buntings and Chaffinches as well as a couple of Great Tits, Blue Tits and a single Coal Tit gathered round the feeders to the left of the hide.
Out on the water beyond the reeds there were Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls and Mallards as well as a trio of Greylag Geese chasing each other and arguing loudly. As I looked back to the left of the hide at the feeders the rain started to come down again, but this did not put off the birds. Once the rain stopped the number of birds at the feeders increased and there were now more than a dozen Reed Buntings in the reeds and on the feeders.
At the bottom of the reeds a Water Rail started to creep out to probe the now soaked mud. The Water Rail was easily disturbed scurrying back into the reeds when any other bird came near it before very slowly coming back out of the reeds. After a few trips out of the reeds the Water Rail disappeared back to the reeds and out of site for quite a while. I moved round to the front of the hide where just in front there is an area of reeds that has been cut down and there were a few more Reed Buntings moving along the ground.
Back round at the feeders the other birds had now been joined by Tree Sparrows, Robins and Dunnocks. Mallards and Moorhens now pecked at the scraps dropped from the feeders and a very large Rat kept creeping out and fed on the scraps as well before disappearing back into the undergrowth. The rain started to fall yet again, this time a bit heavier and the birds all disappeared from view.
Once the rain had stopped the Reed Buntings returned in force with nearly twenty of them either in the reeds or on the feeders. The Water Rail returned again, but this time being a little braver, venturing further out from the reeds and spending longer probing for food in the mud. A group of Long Tailed Tits now descended on the feeders battling with the Blue Tits and Great Tits for access.
I left the hide and headed back down the path past the Members Hide to the edge of the woods and this time followed the path to the left towards the West Lagoon. As I walked along the path I saw a couple of Blackbirds, Magpies and Wood Pigeons and as I arrived at the hide overlooking the West Lagoon it started to rain yet again. Through the rain I could see a trio of Shelducks out on the lagoon as well as several Wigeons.
On the far side of the lagoon at the water's edge I saw Lapwings, Black Headed Gulls, Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls, Coots and a pair of Great Crested Grebes preparing a nest amongst the tall grass. Once the rain had stopped I headed back down the path and I was about to head back through the woods when I heard the distinctive call of the Skylark emanating from near the Members Hide. I decided to move closer trying to spot the Skylark and as the singing stopped I saw it drop into the grass and I didn't see it again.
I had a quick look through the viewing screen at the side of the Members Hide, spotting a lone Yellowhammer on the ground which quickly flew off when it saw me. I headed back along the path, through the woods and back to the car as it was threatening to rain once again and as I drove out of the car park it did rain again.
I have added a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Staveley Nature Reserve.