Birdwatching at the lagoons is never dull with plenty going on to occupy most visits. Below are just a few of the highlights.
On almost any visit the Green Woodpecker will be either heard or seen. The call is a loud ‘Klu – klu – klu’, or a longer laughing ‘Kyu – kyu – kyu – kyu – kyu – kyu’. As the bird flies away from you the most noticeable thing is its bright yellow rump. The birds often cling to the tops of the posts around the top of the Deep Pit, in between bouts of feeding from the abundant ant nests on the inner slopes. In a good view the green back and bright red cap are arresting features, as is the pale, manic, eye. Both sexes have a dark moustache, but the male’s has a red centre. The young birds have dark fringes to the breast feathers and pale fringes to those on their backs and can be seen in family groups for the first few weeks after they fledge.
The best places to see the Kingfisher are probably along the Ouse Dyke in the winter, or nearer the river when they are breeding. It normally announces itself with a loud whistled ‘kit – sii’ as it darts past you. On the river they normally fly fast and low over the water’s surface, in a very direct line like an electric blue streak. With a bit of luck they can be watched as they dive into the water to come out again with a fish, which they then bash on a branch to stun it before swallowing it head first. When sitting still they can be surprisingly difficult to see.
From mid-April to early July the Cuckoo can be heard around the reserve. The males particularly like the posts around the top of the Deep Pit, from which they often call and then drop down into the grass to catch their favourite hairy caterpillars. The male and female are very similar in plumage, but the female has some brown on the sides of the breast and some rusty barring on the throat. Her call is quite unlike the male’s, being a bubbling, trilling sound. They parasitise the warblers that breed on the site and sometimes two or three are seen together.
This warbler is steadily colonising the country from the south and arrived at the lagoons quite recently. It is much more often heard than seen as the male has an extremely loud, explosive song which it nearly always gives from deep cover. The song can be heard though most of the year, with a pause in late summer, probably when it is moulting.
Another skulker, although your chances of seeing the ‘Gropper’ are probably better than with Cetti’s. The males arrive in mid April and immediately start defining their territories with their monotonous, insect-like, reeling song. As the bird turns its head it sounds like it is in one bush, and then in another as the sound changes. When you do manage to spot him you can see his whole body shaking, right down to the tip of his tail, as he stakes his claim to his patch of brambles. The reserve is one of the best sites in Nottinghamshire to look for a Grasshopper Warbler as up to twelve males have been counted singing on the slopes of the lagoons. Unfortunately once the females are settled in most of the males do not sing so frequently and so the birds can be difficult to find.
The national Willow Tit population has massively declined in the last decade, but it is still regularly recorded on the reserve. The loud ‘Eez – eez ‘ contact call can often be heard along the Lower Path and most years at least one pair breeds, though, in the past, up to three pairs bred at the Lagoons. The female likes to excavate her own nest hole in a rotten stump and sometimes they are evicted by a more aggressive Great Tit. By this time her eggs are ready to be laid but she does not have time to excavate another hole, so the eggs are lost.