Striving to record, monitor and conserve birds & wildlife found on the Sutton & Lound GP's SSSI (Idle Valley NR) since 1990.

Idle Valley NR (Sutton & Lound Gravel Pits SSSI) - A new site guide written by Gary Hobson

The following article (including site maps) has recently been published on the Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers website and is used here with permission from their website builder Mr Robert Hoare. Here is the link to their new series of County Guides where you can find lots more information on other Nottinghamshire Birdwatching locations.

Gary Hobson (updated 9th November 2016)

Idle Valley NR (Sutton & Lound GP) - North Map pdf.

Idle Valley NR (Sutton & Lound GP) - South Map pdf. 

Key Species: Over-wintering and breeding wildfowl, wetland birds, woodland birds, passage and breeding waders and passage migrants. The Turtle Dove is still present and breeds in good numbers despite declines throughout the rest of the UK. The site still holds nationally significant numbers of wintering Coots and Gadwall and was designated a SSSI for this and other reasons in 2002.

Sat-Nav postcode: Please enter DN22 8SG for directions to the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre and reserve car parking.

Access: The Idle Valley Nature Reserve is found just north of Retford beginning at Bellmoor Lake and stretching for approximately three miles northward along the River Idle valley ending at Neatholme Pit. Following the A638 for ½ mile north of Retford turning right at the brown sign for the Idle Valley Nature Reserve which then leads you along a short tarmac road with the reserve entrance through a wooden gate on your right. Follow this road around a tight bend to an extensive car park (with a voluntary parking charge) and the centre building is on your left overlooking Bellmoor Lake. From here you can walk along various marked circular trails (see the reserve leaflet) to access Bellmoor Lake and the River Idle, the Bunker Wood/Bellmoor Pits and Tiln Wood/Tiln Pits areas.

Northern parts of this huge reserve can also be accessed by car (parking sensibly) from Chainbridge Lane which runs east from Lound village crossroads, on foot from Neatholme Lane running north east from Lound Village and also by car from off the Hayton to Clayworth road crossing farmland heading west along Chainbridge Lane (track) to the River Idle Bridge. Suggested parking areas are along Chainbridge Lane by the horse paddocks close to Lound village Crossroads, at Chainbridge Scrape viewing screen, at Chainbridge Bridge on the eastern bank of the river or at Neatholme Footbridge having driven north along the eastern riverbank track from Chainbridge Lane.

Facilities: The Rural Learning Centre is open from 10am - 4pm 7 days a week, including the Café and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (NWT) Shop. The Centre includes toilet facilities, a reception desk for information and enquiries, membership, activities and course bookings. There is also a fully equipped viewing area with telescopes and binoculars. The Wildlife Trust Bookshop stocks bird feeders, bird food, ID guides, firewood, hedgehog food, Opticron binoculars and a wide range of gifts for all ages. Situated within the heart of our stunning nature reserve, the Idle Valley Cafe offers fantastic views within a beautiful setting. All purchases support Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and local wildlife. For the children there is a bronze rubbing trail around the site, a natural outdoor Play Space to explore, which includes a picnic area, a musical bridge and various sculptures to enjoy, designed and built by local community groups. Also for children, there are Discovery Packs to hire for £1.50 per day which have monthly themes and come complete with everything you need to explore the site (including binoculars). Visitors to Idle Valley are invited to enjoy the many footpaths and bridleways, together with seven viewing screens and a viewing platform. Our Bellmoor Lake walk is wheelchair accessible with the use of Radar NKS keys. There are four designated walks of varying lengths so whether you would like a quick stroll or a longer hike, there’s something to suit everyone.


History: The Idle Valley Nature Reserve is part of the Idle Valley Project area, managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. Originally the area was the site for sand and gravel extraction which commenced soon after the Second World War and the final extractions were completed by Tarmac Ltd in 2012.

 ©Tarmac (Image used with permission)

After over half a century of aggregate extraction the area is now being managed by NWT to improve the area for wildlife. In 1989 Tarmac sold a small piece of the former gravel quarry to NWT and from then on a small committee of trust representatives, members of the former Chainbridge Nature Reserve Management Committee and Lound Bird Club began the slow process that finally led to the designation of 317 hectares of the quarry into a SSSI in April 2002. The Sutton & Lound Gravel Pits SSSI which is now known as the Idle Valley Nature Reserve was born but it took a further period to begin to introduce infrastructure which included several birdwatching screens, footpaths and finally a visitor centre which was built in conjunction with North Nottinghamshire College on land bought and owned by NWT in 2006. The Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre building was finally completed in 2008. In 2009 the land which was until now under the Tarmac ‘aftercare’ agreement was handed over to the trust. Further acquisitions from Hanson and EDF took this spectacular wetland site to in excess of 450 hectares (the size of 600 football pitches) and is one of the largest sites for nature conservation in the East Midlands.  

Habitat: The reserve consists mainly of former Tarmac/Hanson gravel quarry and abandoned EDF (formerly CEGB) settling lagoons which vary in size and age. Four distinctive quarry areas are still known within the reserve and these include Hallcroft & Bellmoor Gravel Quarry, Sutton & Lound Gravel Quarry, Blaco Quarry and finally Tiln South & North Quarry. Small areas of the EDF site are now within the boundary of the reserve but the major parts of this former industrial PFA disposal site were put back to farmland after it was abandoned in the early mid 90’s. In addition to the above, several more habitat types can be found within or adjoining the reserve including farmland, open water, woodland, reedbed, wetland, marsh, dry grassland, hedgerows, bare ground and scrub. The diversity of habit types along this huge linier reserve along the River Idle valley has been key to attracting the huge number of Fauna and Flora that have been recorded over the site. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust manage this site with the help of a small number of paid staff and the kindness and generosity of many local individuals who donate their time and effort towards the reserve. Volunteers are always welcomed so if you want to help local wildlife please contact staff at the Rural Learning Centre.

Birds: Numerous species have been recorded here since 1951 and with the reserve and the local recording area now boasts a bird list of some 257 species with Glossy Ibis (2016) being the most recent confirmed addition.

The recording area has attracted many current and former national rarities including the following: - White-spotted Bluethroat (1979), Killdeer (1981), Ferruginous Duck (1981 and 2011), American Wigeon (1986/87, 1998 and 2011), Lesser Scaup (1990 the 3rd UK record and 2013), Green-winged Teal (1990, 1995, 1997, 2009, 2015 and 2016 (Two sightings), White-winged Black Tern (1992 (two birds) and 1994), Arctic Redpoll (1996), Long-billed Dowitcher (1996), Rough-legged Buzzard (1996, 2007 and 2012), American Golden Plover (1998), Baird’s Sandpiper (1998 and 2010), Collared Pratincole (1999), Red-footed Falcon (2000), Blue-winged Teal (2000 and 2014), Whiskered Tern (2003), Gull-billed Tern (2006 and 2015), Cattle Egret (2008 and 2016), Southern ‘Steppe’ Grey Shrike (2009) and Broad-billed Sandpiper (2011).

County rarities have included the following: - Pectoral Sandpiper (1963, 1983, 1991, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015), Corncrake (1970), Wryneck (1972, 2005 and 2013), Great Grey Shrike (1974, 1987, 1992, 2008 and 2009), Golden Oriole (1975 (or 76), 1992 and 2012), Common Crane (1979, 1994, 2011, 2013 and 2015), Grey Phalarope (1983 and 2014), Red-necked Phalarope (1983 and 1991), Purple Sandpiper (1983, 1996 and 2003), Manx Shearwater (1985), Gannet (1985, 2001 (two birds), 2011 (four birds), 2012 and 2013), Slavonian Grebe (1985, 1987, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2006 and 2014), Shorelark (1986/87), Black-throated Diver (1987), Ring-billed Gull (1990), Richard’s Pipit (1990, 1996 and 2016), Razorbill (1992), Spoonbill (1992, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011 and 2013), Caspian Tern (1993 and 1998), Eider Duck (1993) (taken into care), Great Skua (1993, 2005 and 2012), Great Northern Diver (1993 and 1996), Red-backed Shrike (1994), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1995), Fulmar (1995 and 2006), Shag (1996), Lapland Bunting (1997 and 2010). Ring-necked Duck (2001), Roseate Tern (2004), Yellow-browed Warbler (2004, 2012 and 2016), White Stork (2005 and 2007), Great White Egret (2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016), Ferruginous Duck (2011), Melodious Warbler (2013), Bearded Tit (2013 and 2016), Cetti’s Warbler (2014, 2015 and 2016) and Glossy Ibis (2016).

Other notable county species that were of unknown origin include the following: - Falcated Duck (1985), Ruddy Shelduck (1988 and 1996) and Greater Flamingo (1993).

Key Sites: There are certainly many key birdwatching sites over the whole Idle Valley NR complex. Here is a short guide to each of the more popular sites below.

Bellmoor Lake (IVNR) – Access via a large well-used circular footpath leading to and from the Rural Learning Centre. Viewing screens and platforms are present at key locations and excellent views of the lake can also be made in the comfort of the Rural Learning Centre building itself. There are two main islands, holding breeding Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and waders including Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover are present. Passage waders can often include, Avocet, Ruff, Greenshank, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Self-established reed beds around the lake are home to Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting in summer and home to several Water Rails and occasionally to Chiffchaff in winter months. In autumn and winter very large numbers of roosting gulls are present and in excess of 100 Snipe are often recorded on the islands. The lake itself attracts a sizeable group of wintering waterfowl including Goosander. Some small ‘strip’ islands in the southern section hold good numbers of duck especially in winter and a regular autumn gathering of Great Crested Grebe can be found here. Rarities have included Great Skua (1993), American Golden Plover (1998), Caspian Tern (1998), Whiskered Tern (2003), White Stork (2005), Rough-legged Buzzard (1996 and 2011) and Cattle Egret (2016) with scare species including Red-breasted Merganser, Garganey, Gannet, Kittiwake, Caspian Gull and Black-necked Grebe noted. 

Bellmoor Ponds, Bunker & Tiln Wood (IVNR) – This quiet and still fairly under watched area of the whole Idle Valley NR has a huge range of habitat types which in themselves attract a wider variety of species. The pines at Bellmoor are home to Goldcrest and Coal Tit. The Bunker Woodland nearby houses a good selection of wintering finches including good numbers of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll that feed on Alder and Beech. In summer the area is home to Bullfinch and warblers with Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler noted here amongst more commonly seen species. An array of former gravel pits is still present here but some have now almost disappeared into belts of woodland that have established here with no actual active habitat management done for up to thirty years. Even so, this area still has a good selection of birds that are present throughout the year and there is always something of interest if you look carefully. The River Idle and its immediate neighbouring habitats are favoured by birdwatchers who can roam freely around many marked trails here. Rarities have included Great Grey Shrike (1987), Golden Oriole (1992), Yellow-browed Warbler (2004), Wryneck (2005) and more recently scarce local birds including Common Redstart, Nuthatch, Common Crossbill, Pied Flycatcher and Siberian Chiffchaff.  

Doughty’s Pit (Private) – Access via the public footpath from Lound Low Road running south along its eastern shore and also from along the private farm track on the western side again running south from Lound Low Road. Over its long lifetime this private trout fishing lake has been a magnet for many birds including ducks, geese, passage waders and terns and is a key site to find resident Little Grebe and Red-crested Pochard. In winter months several hundred Wigeon and many geese can often be found grazing the banks. The steep scrubby bank and young plantation on the eastern fence line holds breeding Linnet and Long-tailed Tit and a good selection of other resident and summer passerines. Sheep fields to the west of the lake and beside Doughty’s Farm hold good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing in winter months and Little Owl can sometimes be found on fallen Willows in this area. Rarities here have included Killdeer (1981), Grey Phalarope (1983), Pectoral Sandpiper (1983), Slavonian Grebe (1985) and more recently Whiskered Tern (2003) and Gull-billed Tern (2015).

Sheep Fields (Private) & Walters Lane – Formerly the site of an extensive ‘furrowed’ gravel quarry that was developed into a series of PFA disposal lagoons managed by the former CEGB now EDF Energy based at Cottam Power Station but now fully restored back to farmland. Just a couple of remnants remain of this once extensive industrial site which in its day attracted many hundreds and sometimes several thousand birds daily to the warm waters that were continuously being pumped into the large settling lagoons here. For birders who knew and remember this site it may well have been the best birding they have ever known locally. Currently this whole site is now a managed grassland with the local farmer breeding a variety of sheep for both wool and meat. The sheep fields themselves are home to Lapwing and Oystercatchers which breed here in small numbers and excellent feeding habitat for many bird species including corvids, thrushes, Starling and Woodpigeon. More interestingly, passage waders including Ruff, Curlew, Whimbrel and godwits can often gather here in good numbers around the many pools that occur after long periods of rainfall. Other passage migrants that use this site include Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and in winter good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing can also be found here. Walters Lane is an avenue of Oak trees which can hold key local species including Mistle Thrush, Little Owl, Tawny Owl and a good selection of passerines throughout the year. Rarities in the past have included White-spotted Bluethroat (1979) in the Tiln area, Falcated Teal (1985) and also on the Wetlands Reserve, Shorelark (1986-87), Black-throated Diver (1987), Ring-billed Gull (1990), Lesser Scaup (1990), Razorbill (1992), Caspian Tern (1993), Great Skua (1993), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1995), Great Northern Diver (1996), Richard’s Pipit (1996) and Arctic Redpoll (1996). Scare species in recent years have included Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Short-eared Owl and Long-eared Owl.

Chainbridge Pit (IVNR) – Access from a style next to Chainbridge Lane Bridge with marked footpaths running south along the western bank of the river Idle (this can take you all the way to Bellmoor Lake) and along the northern fence line running alongside Chainbridge Lane. Being one of the deepest waters over the reserve this restored gravel pit houses good numbers of duck with Goosander, Goldeneye and Smew often noted in winter months. Good numbers of roosting gulls in winter are not uncommon with spring and autumn passage regularly attracting terns which have included Arctic, Black, Little and Sandwich. Cormorants can often be found fishing/roosting here and Kingfisher are often seen speeding past.  Breeding waders include Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover and passage has brought several scarce species including Turnstone, Greenshank, Ruff, Whimbrel, both godwits and Spotted Redshank. The whole area is now surrounded by self-established reeds which houses high numbers of Reed Warbler. Rarities have included American Wigeon (1986-87), Richard’s Pipit (1990), White-winged Black Tern (1992 & 1994), Long-billed Dowitcher (1996) and Baird’s Sandpiper (1998) plus scarce species including Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck to name a few.

Tiln North (Tarmac/IVNR) – Access on footpaths along the River Idle eastern bank track from the wooden gate by Chainbridge Lane Bridge and along the sites eastern fence line through the metal kissing gate from Chainbridge Lane track running south along the deep ditch. The main island here is home to breeding waders, geese, ducks and Little Grebe with Shelduck, Tufted Duck and Gadwall also having bred here on a few occasions. Waders including Avocet, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover have all bred amongst the dense wetland vegetation here which also houses excellent numbers of breeding Lapwing. Spring and autumn migration brings in waders and terns to this site and Whimbrel are regularly seen here with Curlew, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and godwits. Winter sees regular sightings of owls and Hen Harrier has been noted more recently. The vegetation around the lake is mixed grasses and weeds and is mowed and grazed by cattle. This management has helped the site stay fairly free of scrub which has helped to attract migrants including Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat and Yellow Wagtails. Both Meadow Pipit and Skylark breed here alongside Reed Bunting and a small but increasing population of Reed Warbler in the establishing reeds around the site. Every visit will find a fresh set of birds but the best time to visit (as is generally the norm for the whole site) would be on a general light easterly wind after light rain in the morning. These conditions often produce the goods for the keen birdwatchers. Rarities have included Red-footed Falcon (2000), Great Skua (2012), Blue-winged Teal (2014) and Cattle Egret (2016) with regular sightings of scare species including Temminck’s Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, Red Kite, Peregrine and Merlin noted. 

Chainbridge Wood NR (IVNR) – Access from Chainbridge Lane through the metal five bar gate just to the left of Chainbridge Lane Bridge. Walk north along the riverside track to the wood entrance in the NE corner. Here you can (with care) follow a fairly rough single track through the wood, over a wooden bridge and up a steep bank to drop down to two birdwatching hides (now sadly not in very good condition) one of which overlooks Chainbridge NR Scrape. This site is sadly lacking in management and is quickly losing its appeal to visitors to the reserve. This former gravel pit now with an established mixed woodland is still an important breeding and wintering site within the whole reserve and was itself the only part of the area owned by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust until the SSSI designation and subsequent purchase of the larger Idle Valley NR we have today. There is a nest box scheme running within the wood similar to other areas and good results are recorded from them. Rarities have included Yellow-browed Warbler (2012 and 2016), a couple of Firecrest and Glassy Ibis over here (2016). Some notable scarce species here have included Nuthatch, Common Redstart, Twite, Red Kite, Waxwing and more recently Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.    

Chainbridge Nature Reserve Scrape East & West (IVNR) – Access onto this site is not allowed as this is a wildlife trust managed sensitive grazing area with breeding cattle and sheep present for most of the year. Viewing the area however is very good with two raised viewing screens found off both Chainbridge Lane and Hawthorn Lane by the Windsurf Pool plus there are many gaps in the hedgerows especially along the south and west boundary fence line. The area itself is split in two (East & West) with the Eastern section comprising a former furrowed gravel quarry that was restored to what you see today. Grazing and scrub management have kept this area in fairly good condition but naturally fluctuating water levels are a constant problem for managing this site. When conditions are right, good numbers of passage waders can be present with excellent views available for the lucky observer. The raised screen off Chainbridge Lane is also a useful ‘Visual Migration’ spot and affords the observer an almost 360-degree field of view right bang in the centre point of the Idle Valley Nature Reserve itself. Just standing here all day long could easily get you 60-70 bird species. Breeding birds here include Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler with Chaffinch and Bullfinch in the Hawthorn hedgerow nearby. The Western section is deeper water with a single overgrown island and attracts many diving duck species with Goldeneye, Pochard and Tufted Duck found feeding here in winter. Winter in fact produces a huge gathering of ducks and geese of many species with the locally wintering Whooper & Bewick’s Swans often found night roosting here to avoid the local foxes. There are now several large areas of established reed around this site which has attracted Bittern to winter more regularly in recent years. Little Egrets also favour this site with numbers often reaching 15+ birds. In spring and summer, the woodland bordering the NW corner and along Cross Lane track at the northern boundary are good areas to witness and hear the ‘purring’ call of the now nationally rare Turtle Dove. Rarities here have included White-winged Black Tern (1992 and 1994), Caspian Tern (1993 and 1998), Roseate Tern (2004), Cattle Egret (2008), Great White Egret (2007 to 2014 and 2016), Collared Pratincole (1999), Baird’s Sandpiper (2010), Broad-billed Sandpiper (2011) and Glossy Ibis (2016). Numerous scarce species noted have included Bearded Tit, Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Stint, Caspian Gull, Bittern, Marsh Harrier (regularly seen here), Hobby (best place to see these), Spotted Redshank, Arctic Tern and Little Gull to name but a few.    

Clayworth & Hayton Commons (Private) – Clayworth Common is found to the north of Chainbridge Lane track and Hayton Common to the south of here. These two hugely important habitats are areas of private farmland with fairly limited access via existing rights of way only. Birding can be distant but the whole area is open and is viewable from the river bank track and from the Clayworth to Hayton road on its eastern boundary. Each year, dependent of how crops are sown, the site can produce different birds in different locations. Spring can be very productive with migrant Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat notable amongst local resident breeding species including Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting. Migrant waders can drop in amongst the gathering Lapwings with Ruff Whimbrel and Grey Plover notable species. Summer sees lots of breeding activity with Barn Owl, Hobby, Buzzard and Kestrel noted hunting here with Marsh Harrier and Little Egret also noted frequently. Autumn sees more migrating birds including good movements of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, as well as wintering thrushes from late September onwards. Winter is often the best months with several raptors noted including Peregrine, Merlin, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier and even Marsh Harrier. Winter can often produce a few wintering Stonechat and finch flocks can sometimes be impressive. Passerine numbers are generally limited depending on weather at the time but Linnet, Goldfinch and Skylark can sometimes be numerous. For many years a huge gathering of Mute Swan has grazed this area with counts of 200+ not out of the ordinary. Both Whooper Swan (fairly common) and Bewick’s Swan (now very scarce) can be found amongst the Mute Swan herds and with other wintering wildfowl though these birds often move onto the reserve in the evening to night roost. Rarities have included Rough-legged Buzzard (2007) and scare birds have included Honey Buzzard, Common Crane, Gannet, Brent Goose, Twite, Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting.

The Willows or Clayworth Copse (Private) – This area can be a very productive location away from the main reserve. Limited access via an existing right of way from Neatholme footbridge leading NE through the Copse and eventually leading over farmland to Clayworth village. There are many Hawthorn and Blackthorn hedges found here along the main track, some wide open grassland to the north and south with Willow and Oak surrounding the whole area. The hedgerows can at times produce lots of migrant warblers including Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart especially in early autumn. Breeding birds include Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Willow Tit amongst more common species like Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Blackbird and Song Thrush. Winter can be productive with numerous winter thrush flocks often found feeding here and Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier can be found hunting. The eastern boundary has a wide water filled ditch which often produces sightings of Kingfisher, Green Sandpiper (even in winter) and Little Egret. The farmland surrounding this site is often very good birding to. Rarities have included Great Grey Shrike (2009) with scares birds including Richard's Pipit (2016) Honey Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Twite.  

Cross Lane Marsh (IVNR) – This former gravel quarry is only viewable from the river bank track with no public access from Cross Lane track itself. Little Egrets can often be seen roosting in the woodland strip to the west of this area. The area itself is now scrubbing over and needs managing but has previously been good for breeding waders including Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Redshank and migrant waders often dropped in here as it is fairly secluded. Common wildfowl breed successfully here and Garganey has been noted here many times. In winter Stonechat can be found feeding here and the areas first confirmed Cetti’s Warbler was recorded here along the riverbank in 2014. Rarities have included Red-backed Shrike (1994) and Great White Egret (2007).  

Neatholme Scrape (IVNR) – Access limited to two viewing screens along the western boundary fence, from a bench overlooking the scrape from Neatholme Lane and at several points along the River Idle eastern flood bank track. Former gravel quarry now fully restored. The grazing of cattle and sheep on this area helps to keep vegetation down but willow and birch regrowth needs to be kept in check. The scrape is fairly large, deep in places with lots of shallow margins and plenty of established reed pockets. Breeding wetland birds include Avocet, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Red-crested Pochard, Shoveler, Wigeon and Common Tern. The scrub and grassland surrounding the scrape holds breeding Reed Bunting, Grasshopper Warbler, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. Raptors can be seen here throughout the year with Hobby and Marsh Harrier often hunting here in spring and summer with regular Peregrine sightings in winter. Winter also finds very large numbers of wildfowl present plus roosting Whooper Swans, gulls and geese. Short-eared Owl, Bittern, Stonechat and Hen Harrier have often been recorded during winter months. Spring and autumn migration sees good numbers of passage terns, gulls and waders, most notably Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Little Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Turnstone and Temminck’s Stint. Rarities have included Ring-billed Gull (1990), Red-necked Phalarope (1991), Razorbill (1992), Caspian Tern (1998), Gull-billed Tern (2006 and 2015), Lesser Scaup (2013), American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Great White Egret (2016). Scarce species have included Garganey, Black-necked Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Tundra Bean Goose, Pectoral Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Shag and more recently Cetti's Warbler and Bearded Tit (2016).

Neatholme Pit (IVNR) – Viewable from Neatholme Lane only but there is a viewing mound and two benches to be found overlooking both ‘arms’ of this pit. This former gravel pit is fairly deep and does hold good numbers of wildfowl throughout the year and has produced several rarities over its lifetime. Winter can be very good with Goldeneye seen in large flocks amongst other more common waterfowl. Little and Great Crested Grebes can be found breeding here with other rare grebes noted regularly. The shallow shoreline to the northern edge often produces waders on passage. There is a large scrub covered island dividing two areas of open water which is good habitat for scrubland birds including Linnet, Common Whitethroat and Long-tailed Tit etc. Blackbird and Song Thrush also favour this area to nest. Rarities have included Green-winged Teal (1990), Greater Flamingo (1993), Blue-winged Teal (2000), Ring-necked Duck (2001), Fulmar (2006) and Ferruginous Duck (2011) and Great White Egret (2016). Scarce species have included Tundra Bean Goose, Black-necked Grebe, Great Grey Shrike, Gannet, Long-tailed Duck and more recently Bearded Tit (2016).

Neatholme Fen (IVNR) – Access via a circular path that runs from Neatholme Lane between the Fen and Neatholme Pit around to Linghurst Wood plus a viewing screen that overlooks the main water body and from several viewing points along Neatholme Lane. This former gravel pit was restored with the intension of creating a wetland ‘fen’ type habitat but after several attempts at establishing a reedbed here we now arrive at what you see today. A mix of shallow scrapes with deeper areas and surrounded by scrub and pockets of reed. However, this area has certainly become one of the best birding sites over the reserve and is currently the main focus for wader and gull watchers. Spring through to Autumn is the best time to visit especially as it attracts good numbers of passage migrants including waders, terns and gulls. Breeding birds here are also numerous including Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Common Tern, Shelduck, Gadwall, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and Kingfisher plus Green Woodpecker, Willow Tit and Turtle Dove along the lane by the fen. Breeding passerines in the margins here include, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler plus Blackbird, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Linnet and Long-tailed Tit in the nearby scrub. The area has also recently attracted increasing numbers of Little Egret which often roost in the trees along the edge of Linghurst Wood. Winter gatherings of wildfowl are impressive with Goosander, Goldeneye and Smew regularly seen plus this site has some excellent winter gull roosts. Rarities have included Great Northern Diver (1993), Great White Egret (2015 and 2016) and Green-winged Teal (2016). Scarce species have included Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Grey Plover, Osprey, Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Avocet and Black-necked Grebe to name a few.

Water Ski Pit (Private) – No public access but this site is viewable from a few points along the surrounding tracks and footpaths. Very good for diving duck in winter plus it is especially good for Great Crested Grebe, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Terns regularly use this site for fishing and the area also attracts large numbers of hirundines especially Swift in spring and summer. The surrounding broad woodland fringes have in the past held Nightingale but these have since disappeared. This habitat holds many species of passerine with notable birds being Willow Tit, Bullfinch, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. Rarities have included White-winged Black Tern (1992 and 1994). Scarce species have included Great Skua, Greater Scaup, White-fronted Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, Smew and Slavonian Grebe.

Linghurst Wood (Private) & Linghurst Pool (IVNR) – Linghurst Wood (part of the larger Parish Park) is private but birdwatchers are invited to use this area for birdlife study with permission from the Parish Council. However, there are some public rights of way here including the reserve track which runs from Neatholme Lane around the eastern edge of the wood circling the western side of Linghurst Pool and then continues along the northern edge towards the rear of the Fen and Wildgoose Farm. Linghurst Wood is a mix of mature woodland and young plantation and holds good numbers of breeding birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Willow Tit (now scarce) and Blue and Great Tit in good numbers. Nightingale has bred here in recent years but this small pocket population has since died out with no sightings in past couple of years. Winter can see good numbers of finches including Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch and Siskin plus Redwing and other thrushes. The rather secluded Linghurst Pool holds good numbers of waterfowl including Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler and Little Egret also feed and roost here. The nearby Lound Sewage Works attracts Grey Wagtail throughout the year and wintering Chiffchaff and Water Rail. Scarce species have included Cetti’s Warbler, Nightingale, Marsh Tit, Common Redpoll and Siberian Chiffchaff.

Parish Park (Private) – This area is managed by the Lound village parish council for the benefit of residents of the village. Access to study birdlife is strictly by invitation only from Lound Parish Council. The lakes here hold breeding Little Grebe, Wigeon and Red-crested Pochard plus more common species such as Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Passerines here include Great Crested Grebe, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler. Turtle Dove are sometimes found here and probably breed in suitable nearby hedgerows. Rarities have included Golden Oriole, Wryneck and Honey Buzzard. Scarce species have included Nightjar, Common Redpoll and Nightingale.

Wildgoose Farm & Blaco Pits (Private) – Access to this private farmland and fishery is from the metalled track leading north from Neatholme Fen through Wildgoose Farm then turning right at the junction and heading east along the Oak lined track towards the River Idle. The farmland here is managed well for wildlife and the pits here attract many species of bird throughout the year. Breeding birds around Blaco Pits include Oystercatcher, Redshank, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow. Spring and Autumn passage sees good numbers of waders and passerines noted nearby including Turnstone, Whimbrel, Curlew and godwits. Winter brings with it large numbers of gulls, swans, geese and duck plus Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier are also seen occasionally. Rarities have included Southern ‘Steppe’ Grey Shrike (2008). Scarce species have included Raven, Woodlark, Hen Harrier, Tundra Bean Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Smew and Red-necked Grebe.  

Windsurf Pool (Private) – This former windsurfing lake has now established itself as an important reedbed habitat where Reed Warbler thrive in summer and is a regular winter home to both Bittern and Water Rail. The pool is fairly shallow especially in mid-summer and can often attract herons, egrets and waders. The surrounding willow & hawthorn woodland can house good numbers of passerines and the small grass field to the south has recorded Stonechat in winter. In summer Hobby can often be seen here in good numbers feeding on insects alongside hirundines who also occasionally become its prey. Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Great Crested Grebe are noted here regularly. Rarities have included Great White Egret (2007 and 2016). Scarce species have included, Bittern, Greater Scaup,

Bittern Pools (IVNR) – This area is very secluded with no access other than tracks around the edge but many are not official paths or rights of way other than Hawthorn Lane track on its eastern edge. It would be nice to open this area up in future and allow visitors some access into this unspoiled former gravel quarry. As its name suggests this area has held wintering Bittern on quite a number of occasions but many other birds reside here throughout the year including Green Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler and Willow Tit. Scarce species have included Bittern and Nightingale.   

Other Wildlife: Idle Valley Nature Reserve is of great county importance for all its flora and fauna and has recorded 28 species of Butterflies, 600 species of Moths and 19 species of Dragonflies.

Visiting:  If you visit the site please remember to respect both the wildlife and the landowners and to park sensibly and safely especially in the northern areas. Do not park your vehicle in Lound village as this has previously led to disruption to bus services through the tight road network found within the village. Enjoy the birding and please submit your sightings to either Lound Bird Club or Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers.

Gary Hobson

Article first written on 27th August 2016.

Edited & Updated to include new bird sightings on 13th December 2016.