Stithians Reservoir is undoubtedly the best area of open water for birdwatching in the county, equalled arguably by some, only by Drift Reservoir. The highest numbers of birds in winter and during passage times. Most of the reservoir is pretty shallow and dabbling rather than diving ducks dominate with 100 each at least of Teal and Wigeon.
Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goldeneye are often present but in smaller numbers. Pretty much anything can drop in, with grey geese often taking a liking or the odd Bewick’s or Whooper Swan with luck. Breeding birds are surprisingly few but include Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen. The surrounding farmland holds Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and other farmland species. The autumn brings good numbers of waders depending on the level of the water which should ideally be low at this time of year. Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stint and Curlew sandpiper occur annually taking advantage of the exposed mud. Surprisingly Redshank are a bit of a rarity.
Most of the reservoir can be walked around but the most productive viewing points are at the northern causeway and southern causeway. There are hides at both ends and the Dam on the east side offers a good view. Be careful on the causeways as cars race along here too fast.
Past rarities are too numerous to mention all of them, but include: Ballion’s Crake, Pied-billed Grebe (1994), American Golden Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Baird’s, Semipalmated, Solitary and Pectoral Sandpipers (Pectoral being annual!), Crag Martin (Britain’s First in 1988), Black Duck (2002), Blue and Green-winged Teals, Black Kite (2004), Caspian Tern, and finally Wilson’s Phalarope (2006).
Easily reached by car – head towards the village and follow signs to the reservoir, best time of the day is in the morning as sailors and wind surfers arrive soon after and some birds move on. Parking is tricky but there is a car park at the dam and another in the ‘Golden Lion Pub’ next to the northern casueway which is worth stopping for a meal at too! At the southern causeway you just have to bank the car onto the grass verge so be careful here.
Site Guide by Henry Cook. Photos: JHJohns