BATTLE OF THE BLUE TITS @ CROMWELL BOTTOM NATURE RESERVE

August 16, 2018

On Thursday I visited Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve which is located between Brighouse and Elland at the bottom of an industrial estate off Elland Road (A6025).  It is an independently run reserve bordered on the south by a railway line and the Calder & Hebble Navigation canal in the north with the River Calder winding its way through the reserve.  The reserve opened in 2003 and has one hide / viewing area with feeders and entry is free with a cafe open on Sundays or during special events.

 

It was a warm but cloudy day when I arrived and from the car park I headed over the canal moving slightly left and through the gate to enter the reserve.  The path takes you through the trees and along the banks of the River Calder until you arrive at the first of two Bailey Bridges.  A Bailey Bridge is a type of portable and pre-fabricated truss bridge and it was developed by the British Army during World War 2 and saw extensive use by the British, Canadian & American military engineering units.

 

I walked over the Bailey Bridge and turned right before turning left through a gate and walking uphill through some trees onto a large hay meadow.  As I reached the top of the hill the path turned round to the left where I saw a Magpie and a Wren amongst the bushes.  The path now dropped down the hill back towards the main path and when I reached it, over to my left, there was a viewing screen with several feeders in front of it.

I sat down at the viewing screen where the nearest feeder was being mobbed by wave after wave of Blue Tits.  Over to the left, on the top of a log was a trio of Long Tailed Tits and to the right a pair of Robins were extracting food from another log.  A lot of the Blue Tits visiting the feeders were juveniles and there was now a juvenile Robin visiting the feeders as the first of three male Bullfinches flew in and landed on the ground below the logs.

 

After a few minutes I saw a juvenile as well as a female Bullfinch on the ground in front of the hide.  A Nuthatch flew down from the trees and landed on a tree stump in the middle of the logs.  The Nuthatch moved over to a log placed between two tree stumps and proceeded to work its way along the underside of the log looking for food, hanging from the log as it went and making sure no other birds were around. 

In between the Blue Tits visiting there were also several Great Tits vying for position on the feeders.  I now left the viewing screen and headed north east along the path towards where the River Calder cuts through the reserve.  I crossed the river again using the second of the two Bailey Bridges and turned right following the banks of the river.  As I walked along the path there were blackberry bushes all the way along as well as a few stalks of Himalayan Balsam.

 

The path now split in two where the path straight on continued along the banks of the river and the path to the left, which I took, takes you up some steps and along the eastern side of the lagoon.  As I walked along the path I could see the lagoon and the water level was very low due to all the recent dry weather with just a single coot visible on the mud.  The path eventually reached the Calder & Hebble Navigation Canal and here I turned left along the northern border of the reserve with the canal just to my right. 

 

As I walked along the path I saw a couple of Gadwalls and Mallards on the canal to my right and after a few hundred yards the path returned to the second Bailey Bridge.  I walked across the bridge and followed the path back down to the viewing screen where there were now four Bullfinches and on one of the logs a pair of Coal Tits were battling with the numerous Blue Tits to get at the feeders.

There were now four Robins over to the left and the Nuthatch returned, briefly perching on the side of a tree stump.  It now flew over to the feeder being besieged by the Blue Tits knocking them from the feeder and striking any that came near the feeder with its beak.  Once the Nuthatch had enough from the feeder it flew off and the Blue Tits, Great Tits and the pair of Coal Tits returned.

 

A rather dishevelled looking male Bullfinch now landed on one of the logs and after spending a few seconds looking right at me it was chased off by another male Bullfinch.  I left the viewing screen again and headed south east along the path which leads round the large hay meadow and towards the pond dipping platforms.  After a couple of hundred yards the path turns to the right and follows the southern border of the reserve.

 

As I continued along the path and headed towards the River Calder again I saw a few Dragonflies flying over yet more blackberry bushes.  After a few more minutes walking I reached the river and turned to the right heading back towards the first Bailey Bridge.  After a short distance I arrived at the weir where above it were Mallards and Gadwalls.  A little way down river there was a single female Goosander amongst shallow water.

 

It suddenly rose up and paddled fast along the surface of the water towards the weir before turning to the right and heading across to the far bank.  Here it joined four more female Goosanders and a couple more Mallards. As I continued along the path I saw a Moorhen scurry across the shallow water and onto an island in the middle of the river. 

 

I now made my way back across the first Bailey Bridge as a Cormorant flew overhead and headed back to my car.  This was my first visit to Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve and I will certainly return as there are a variety of habitats that attract a wide variety of birds.

 

I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve.

 

 

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