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2018.05 Birding at Adel Dam

Following an after-lunch talk by volunteer warder Dave Johnston in December 2017, a walk in the Adel Dam Nature Reserve was arranged for Tues 29th May 2018. It was dry but considerably cooler than the previous couple of days when the first group met at 9.00am at the Reserve. The first surprise was how many volunteers had been drafted in to accompany us – a ratio of 2:1, nine visitors and I think five guides for the first group, (eight & four for the second). I enjoyed my first visit so much I went around again (and noticed different things too on that tour!).

We were introduced to the reserve with a little of its history – this dam was the first built in this area to provide water for Adel Mill. Later Blackhill dam (Golden Acre) was built and a third was surveyed the other side of Adel Dam, but left on the drawing board as steam power super-ceded water. It then became a Pleasure Garden for the Eddison family shortly after 1851 when the family purchased most of Adel from the Arthington family. They planted some specimen trees – the beech date from then plus rhododendrons – which volunteers have spent a few years grubbing up so that it now looks much more “open” than previously. It would appear, judging by the amount of dead wood (ideal for the insects the birds feed on), that some trees have been thinned – certainly we stopped near where a large beech had been felled, making a lovely open glade.  Examples of the Roman (road, fort etc) and industrial history were pointed out as we went on our tour.

At the entrance we spotted a blue tit entering and leaving its box and saw three bat boxes (slits at the bottom). The only reason there is a bird box here is that a tit was seen desperately trying to enter the bat box, so a volunteer fixed a more suitable home on the same tree and the tit showed his appreciation by adopting it as his home! The reserve is home to a number of species of bats (bat walks are conducted by Yorkshire Wildlife trust ( and other mammals – we saw grey squirrels, but an otter, stoats, water voles, rabbits are present/visit.

At one of the hides

Our first hide was the marsh hide. The feeding station had been stocked that morning and although birds were now feeding predominately from “natural” sources, it was still quite busy with sightings of tits – great, blue, coal, woodpecker – greater spotted male & female, nuthatch and jay as well as a moorhen on the ground. The volunteers hope at some stage to replace the hide with a larger one as it was now very well used, the kingfishers (which had not been seen for quite some time) making it a nationally-known reserve. We moved from the marsh hide, along the path to the lake hide, noting the change in vegetation from water-marginal plants, to dry woodland species. We encountered the planting of Corsican pines – now majestic trees and the yew glade. Nearby a goldcrest was heard, but not seen – and later we heard wrens (the most common bird in the reserve), and a chiff-chaff. We did see a robin (heard many more- the second most common species), a blackbird and the first group were delighted to see a tree-creeper. The second group had a sighting of a less welcome sight – two youths, rather high after smoking in the lake den….which I for one, found quite threatening – their shouting was in contrast to the loveliness of the bird-song which enveloped the first group.

The second group were treated to a trio of male mandarin ducks swimming at some distance, and the pair of tufted ducks (late breeders) did a swim past the hide. The first group though had a magical swim past of two female mallards and a crèche of numerous ducklings – an absolute delight. A pair of black-headed gulls were seen by both groups.  We then moved on to complete our walk along the path, having various items pointed out to us – a ransacked nest (possibly woodpecker or squirrels), various fungi – many different species to be found, the scots pines, the trees which tree-creepers favoured, a new (and possibly abandoned) woodpecker nest. We noticed too how much work had been done to make the Reserve accessible all year around – the paths were excellent. We looked for (and saw) sticklebacks and were told of the pond-life to be found both in the streams and in the lake. It was obvious what an effective volunteer group supported this Reserve.

As Chris Walbank wrote:

“Marion and I thought that the visit was one of the best trips we have ever been on. So much knowledge, so effortlessly shared and all the birds performing”.

As part of their 50th year anniversary, the volunteers including one of the founders, Peter Larner, have written and produced a very good booklet on the reserve – available for a donation (£2). These will be available on their Guide in the Hide events which take place every third Sunday of the month.

More information on the reserve can be found at their website


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