Cleveland Lakes Reserve (Cotswold Water Park Trust)
Leaders: Ben Welbourn and Gareth Harris
up in thick fog to get to the site which includes two of the largest man-made lakes in
the Cotswold Water Park. Visibility soon improved to leave a day that was dull in
terms of weather but far from dull in terms of natural history interest.
Managed by the Cotswolds Water Park Trust, Cleveland Lakes is the most important
site for breeding and passage water birds in the Water Park and Bath Nats were
privileged in being allowed to visit areas of the reserve not yet open to the public as
quarrying activities are only just coming to an end on part of the site.
The party entered the reserve along the permissive footpath where a thick hedge of
native scrub species served to provide cover for the birds in the reed-beds beyond
and also provide excellent habitat for small birds. In places, the scrub had been
augmented to encourage breeding Nightingales which are thriving in the Cotswold
Water Park, in sharp contrast to their national decline. Rare native Barberry bushes
had been planted along one stretch to provide habitat for the even rarer Barberry
Carpet Moth (Pareulype berberata). It is to be hoped that the important populations
of Lesser Horseshoe Bat that use the reserve favour other moth species!
We stopped at several breaks in the cover to observe the birds on the lake that
included breeding populations of Herons, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes,
the latter being busily engaged in their courtship activities. . Excellent views of the
birds on the lake were also had from the attractively designed bird-hide that had
sadly suffered some serious vandalism. Large numbers of Wigeon were seen.
Reed Buntings flitted in and out of the reed-swamp and a Cetti’s Warbler could be
heard singing loudly in the scrub. At one point,
were clearly seen to contain the hard indigestible remains of the American Crayfish.
We then left the public area of the reserve to view the permanent shallow scrapes
where a sluice is used to manage water levels in late summer and autumn so as to
provide suitable conditions for feeding passage water birds and waders. A Hobby
was seen in the distance and a Ruff sat conveniently in our main field of vision
behind which were flocks of Lapwing and Gadwall. Several resident Herons patrolled
the area, putting up the other birds as they did so.
As we walked towards the active quarrying area (the site closed at lunchtime), an
invitation to walk through part of the reed-bed to flush up any Snipe present did not
produce results but some fine specimens of
were noted. Entering the quarry area, we stopped to view the ‘moonscape’ of a large
empty pit that had only recently been dug out, its un-restored steep sides making it
both a safety hazard and of little value to wildlife. Restoration would involve re-
profiling the edges of the pit with waste from development sites to provide the gently
sloping contours that favour vegetation growth and provide suitable habitat for birds.
Before leaving the active quarry area, we passed between two pits where soil bunds
-erected on either side to prevent vehicles falling into the water – had created ideal
conditions for a rich variety of plants that favour disturbed ground. These included
Small Toadflax (Chaenorhinum minus), Red Goosefoot (Chenopodium rubrum),
Weld (Reseda luteola) and Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea).
(Erigeron acer) was also seen as we joined the footpath back. A Bullfinch provided
some final interest before we turned into the car-park for a vote of thanks to the
leaders for a most interesting and varied meeting.