Sunday, 25 January 2015

Bosley Reservoir

With a couple of hours to spare earlier in the week I headed over to Bosley Reservoir with the camera, the forecast was mixed but initially the sun was shining, with some snow and ice still remaining it was cold, but a crisp, beautifully still day. Bosley Reservoir is managed by the Canal and River Trust, another location in East Cheshire popular with birdwatchers, anglers and walkers. It is a large reservoir on the outskirts of the Peak District, fed by the surrounding hills, and originally created to feed the Macclesfield Canal Network, particularly the well-known Bosley locks – a flight of 12 locks which lower (or raise, depending on how you look at it) the canal by 120 feet over the course of just over one mile.
Bosley Reservoir, from Western side, looking Southeast towards the Peak District

Heading through to the reservoir from the village of Bosley, moving further away from the houses, the chirrups of House Sparrows and the whistles, buzzes and squeaks of Starlings gave way to the sounds of woodland alive with birds, Robins sang as did Blue and Great Tits,  safely tucked away in huge Hawthorn trees. Blackbirds scolded, informing anything that hadn’t already noticed that an intruder – me – was in their midst. 
Telling me off - a tiny Wren
Wrens scolded also - their loud churring alarm call, like their song, belying their tiny size. Hearing the familiar call of ‘Chiswick’ I knew that Pied Wagtails were present, and after a little more listening and searching, sure enough scuttling to and fro on the ice at the water’s edge, in between submerged roots, tail wagging, was a Pied Wagtail.

What I could see of the huge reservoir of water initially looked fairly quiet, three Tufted Ducks – a female flanked by two males swam out towards the centre, and Mallards could be seen hugging the ice-free edges on the far side of the reservoir. 

Female Goosander (taken by Nick Stacey)
My attention was drawn to the distant sound of the flapping and splashing that precedes take off as two male Goosanders took to the air. I have seen these beautiful birds at several reservoirs but always at a considerable distance away. They are a diving duck, one of the three species of 'sawbill' seen in the UK, (the other sawbills being the Red-breasted Merganser and the rare Smew), so called because of their long serrated bill which allows them to catch and keep hold of their fish prey. Many thanks to Nick Stacey for letting me use his lovely photo of a female Goosander showing those wonderful 'teeth'.  

The sharp calls of a Coot pierced the cold air while the bird kept out of sight this time, whilst a Great Crested Grebe, still in winter plumage, dived in the centre of the reservoir.

Still very much alive - tree rooted in icy water
A partially submerged tree with its roots in the ice I thought might make an interesting subject to photograph - whether alive or not in its icy habitat I wasn't sure at first, though looking more closely, what I presumed to be flower buds were starting to grow. (I will check back in a few weeks to see what is it, my ID skills of leafless trees in winter being sorely lacking!)  

Walking on ice - a Meadow Pipit
Small brown birds with flashes of white in their wings and tail feathers in flight were Meadow Pipits. Trying my best not to end up in the icy water as I made my way through the tussocky grass and brambles (nature's trip-wires!) I tried to get within photographing distance of the Meadow Pipit (reminding myself of the instructions given to the kids doing the Big School's Birdwatch on safely using binoculars last week - i.e. to not walk whilst holding them up to their eyes, applied just as much to me with a camera). 

Often dismissively referred to as one of several 'little brown jobs', viewed closely they are beautifully patterned little birds, and whilst pipit identification can seem like the stuff of nightmares, in the winter in the UK, there are only really two pipits likely to be seen - Meadow and Rock. (Of our other two regularly seen pipits, the Tree Pipit is a summer visitor, the Water Pipit is a very uncommon winter visitor (only 100-200 individuals) generally seen in East Anglia and Southern England.) Rock Pipits tend to keep to rocky coastal areas and have dark grey (rock) coloured legs, and a greyer appearance overall, Meadow Pipits have warmer colouring, with pinkish legs and a pale bill. At this point the light was quite dull, and being in the shade made getting a reasonable photo that much harder, but the one above at least gives enough detail to show the features that identify the bird as a Meadow Pipit.

Playing spot the difference again - a Common Gull amongst the Black-headeds

Mute Swan
I went back again later in the week to see if I could get better photos of a Meadow Pipit, however although I heard them and saw the flashes of white, it wasn't to be. Instead I settled for playing spot the difference again with the gulls that were much more apparent this time - I had arrived much later in the day, and the gulls were getting ready to settle and roost on the water. Two Swans I hadn't seen previously swam gracefully past by the water's edge, aware of but unconcerned by my presence. 

Swan Mussel
Being about 50 miles from the nearest coast, a bivalve shell was an unexpected find - I had heard of freshwater mussels and clams, but have never found one. I also posted the photo to my Flickr account to try to find an ID, having had no luck myself, and have since been informed that this is a Swan Mussel (Anodonta cygnea), a large species of freshwater mussel.
As I was leaving, a Robin singing his heart out silhouetted against a colourful sunset was a great reminder that spring is just around the corner and a lovely way to finish my visit to this reservoir.
Singing into the sunset - a Robin


  1. Stunning!!! Wonderful!! Love it!! :)

    1. Thanks very much - I'm looking forward to going there with the macro lens when it warms up a little and seeing what bugs I can find in the meadows! :)