Birding the Leicestershire Round
Section 1 – Newtown Linford to Mountsorrel Saturday 26th March 2022
Participants: Jim, Sue, Josh, Peter & Pablo the dog.
A warm and sunny morning greeted us as we met up at the iron gates of Bradgate Park, Newtown Linford entrance. Our route through the Park took us along the main carriageway, up beside the Ruins of Bradgate House, climbing through the centre of the Estate past Little Oaks plantation to the top of Old John before descending and exiting through Hunts Hill. This picturesque route traversed a number of habitats, from the valley of the River Lin, through acid grassland onto the upper heath areas, punctuated with wooded plantations and rocky outcrops.
Pablo was eager to get going, straining at the leash and barking excitedly while we got ourselves organised. Our progress was predictably slow through the Park, as we clocked up an impressive list of birds ranging from the ubiquitous Jackdaw, Robin, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Green Woodpecker, Mallard and Little Egret to Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, displaying Raven and Buzzard. Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies were much in evidence, taking advantage of the warm, still conditions, as were the freshly emerged Ashy Mining Bees, prospecting Buff-tailed Bumble Bees and the Dark-edged Bee-fly. Lesser Celandines and Dog Violets were beginning to bloom along the various ditches and the first Bluebells were also noted amongst the short grasses as we walked across the heathland.
Our route continued through Rough Hill Wood, Lingdale Golf Course to Woodhouse Eaves. The woodland, originally created as part of the National Forest Tender Scheme, was electric with birdsong. Blue, Great and Coal Tits competed for top position with Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. The Golf Course ponds played host to Moorhen and Canada Goose whilst overhead we had our first good views of Red Kite flying low over the greens. Two significant sized Rookeries, two large flocks of 50+ Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Jay and Dunnock were added to our growing list as we approached Woodhouse Eaves. Pablo had settled down nicely at this point and there was hardly a peep out of him despite passing a myriad of dogs en route. Amazing what a few treats will do! On approaching the main road into Woodhouse Eaves however, his little world was suddenly disturbed by of a couple of motorcyclists growling their way towards the village. A flurry of barks spelt out his utter distaste for them, but even he couldn’t compete with their overwhelming noise as they raced by.
The next stage of our walk followed the footpath across Rushey Fields Farm – a challenging stretch for the nose and underfoot on account of the fields having just been sprayed with liquid manure for the first part, followed by a fish-based fertilizer for the second! We emerged with a slightly unpleasant taste at the back of our throats but managed to add a few more species to our list, including Magpie, Red-legged Partridge, House Sparrow and a male Peregrine carrying prey that was not heading in the direction we thought it should have been. Green-veined White butterfly and flowering Germander Speedwell were also found on this site.
By now, the hunger pangs were getting harder and harder to ignore, so we resolved to stop for lunch on Swithland Reservoir dam. As we did so, a further two Peregrines flew over Swithland Hall fields. A good variety of wildfowl were identified on the water, including Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Goldeneye, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Cormorant and a pair of Mandarin Duck in the overflow area. A close pair of Great Crested Grebe performed their reed dance and a single Grey Wagtail picked its way along the dam wall.
Following the wooded road between Buddon Hill and Swithland Reservoir afforded stunning views across the water in the afternoon sunshine and also provided us with our first sighting of Treecreeper flitting between the oaks and birches bordering the water.
Our final stretch took us through wet woodland and along the margins of Mountsorrel Quarry, where we saw yet another Peregrine, another male, perched on one of the many pylons in this area. The chequered fields and wooded areas added Long-tailed Tit, Starling and wheezing Greenfinch to our list together with close views of newly emerged Comma butterflies and more Small Tortoiseshells.
We wove our way to the top of Mountsorrel Mound and surveyed the broad expanse of the Soar Valley in the hope of finding an odd raptor or two. By this time however, the sun was beginning to set and most birds had retired for the evening. Descending once more, we rounded off this first section at the old Buttercross in Mountsorrel followed by welcome refreshments, some more good-boy treats for Pablo and a meal at the Waterside Inn. A great start, with only 92 miles to go, 65 species of birds under the belt amounting to an estimated total of 1061 birds!