Run by the Rockingham Forest Trust and East Northamptonshire Council, the lakes are former gravel pits in the Nene valley and have been made into a country park and nature reserve with visitor centre. I had last visited early on a May morning in 2012 with bird expert Mark Avery and have a lovely memory of that sunlit walk around the lakes, and the list of 44 birds (many of which I would not have seen or heard without Mark’s help).
My visit in March was very different, the end of a damp, grey day, with little light. The site has changed quite a bit, with gravel tracks used by runners around and between the lakes.
While pochard and wigeon scuffled and swam on the lakes, small groups of starlings were swooping around and settling in the trees.
Fieldfares chattered noisily.
My lucky bird-moment came towards the end of my visit. The light was going and I came to a hide looking out over a lake. People coming out of it pronounced gleefully that there were four ruff as well as redshank, dunlin and snipe. Fortunately there was a man ensconced behind the screen with a telescope as I would otherwise not have seen these birds. With the aid of the scope I could find the ruff, hunkered down among the rushes, and even see the white ring around their beaks. Then I lit on the redshank, dunlin and snipe. A memorable siting. I have only once before seen ruff, at Rutland Water.
As I walked back in the twilight a Cetti’s warbler suddenly burst into song beside the path, another memorable moment.