Stithians Reservoir Workparty 23rd November

Stithians Reservoir Workparty 23rd November 2019 – CBWPS Cornwall Birds and Ecosoc (Penryn University Student Ecology Society), with SWLT.

The morning of the 23rd November saw our first workparty of the season at Stithians dawn wet and damp. By 9:30am however it was dry, if grey, as we made our way from the Watersports Centre towards the area we were going to be working in.

Attacking the gorse en masse. One of our volunteers even came fully dressed to attract in any vagrant hummingbirds or bumblebees that happened to be passing on the lookout for an unexpected nectar source.

The task in hand was clearing an open area of Molinia (Purple Moor Grass), Heather and Devil’s-Bit-Scabious of invading Gorse and willows. This was a great task for a reasonably large volunteer group and using the various loppers, bow saws, scythes and rakes which Beth, the South West Lakes Trust warden had provided, we were able to make some great progress in the main clearing, hopefully to the benefit of the plantlife and adders which are to be found around the lake in this habitat.

With a few birders in the group, we were able to maintain an ongoing day list as we went and reached a respectable total of 45 for the day. The weather on the day turned out better than forecast – light drizzle at times, with a heavier spell or two which didn’t dampen our spirits too much as we attacked the vegetation and tidied up the site.

The best birds around the work area were 11 or so Curlew giving their distinctive and evocative cries as they moved between local feeding fields, flyover Grey Wagtail and Little Egret, Redwings and Fieldfares passing over and some Long-tailed Tits and a Chiffchaff, with a lucky few also disturbing a Kingfisher and seeing a flock of a dozen or so Dunlin fly over. The latter an unusual record this late in the year; presumably just passing by, given the high water levels at Stithians after the touch or two of rain we’ve enjoyed (almost continuously, or so it seems) over the last few months …

Another highlight of the day was a brief burst of sunshine – the wan winter sun even more warming than our wet gorse bonfire (apologies to any dog walkers hoping for a pleasant smoke-free Saturday afternoon stroll around the reservoir). The afore-mentioned fire did however come in useful in terms of toasting marsh mallows and destroying some of the evidence that the gorse had once existed (it will return …)

Habitat now minus small gorse. We also dealt with some willow scrub and scythed and raked some patches to help regenerate fresh growth.

After our hard work on the day most of us treated ourselves to some birding at the hides at the southern end of the Reservoir. First stop was the Stuart Hutchings Hide where we picked up the first winter female Lesser Scaup with a Tufted Duck. Probably the rarest bird at Stithians for a few years at least. Scrutinising the gulls didn’t result in anything out of the ordinary, but some roosting Cormorants on the low branches of the indundated willows were nice. We then moved on across the road to the Southern Cutoff Hide where we enjoyed great views of the Chaffinches and Coal Tits on the feeders, a fly in female Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Goldcrest and even a House Sparrow, with the final birds just as we were leaving a fairly distant flock of 70+ Lapwing in flight. A calling Firecrest unfortunately gave only the briefest of almost-untickable views as it flitted at speed through the treetops. Mammalian highlight (indeed, only mammal of the day) was a cute little Bank Vole briefly beneath the feeders.

Anyway, a great effort by all involved, we only got a little soggy (except for those without wellies perhaps), some nice birds, and an enjoyable day outside. Thanks to all who came along. We will be having more practical work parties in the New Year … do please join us. Hopefully an educational and fun experience, with the added benefit of working towards improving the local environment for wildlife.

We rewarded the volunteers with some marshmallows on bits of twig around a damp fire. Highlight of their university careers so far?

Ecosoc President having far too much fun. Best kept well away from most sources of ignition and pointy objects henceforth?

Bird Species List –

Canada Goose, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Lesser Scaup, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Stonechat, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Blue Tit Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Bank Vole aka cutie pie

Great Tit

D Chaney, Nov 2019

Photo credits – Kate Fox (people and scenes), Leela Channer (birds, vole & twitter image)



(Actually the fire did get a bit more exciting occasionally … )

Toasting marshmallows etc – L Channer

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