- Pond Areas
Church Pond, Tween Pond & Clifton Pond
In winter, Clifton Pond usually holds high densities of diving ducks such as tufted duck, pochard, and the less common Goldeneye and Goosander. Numbers reach a maximum in January and February, when colder weather to the North sometimes brings the rare smew and scaup to the reserve.
In late winter the herons, seen on the reserve all year round, are busy preparing for the breeding season, building and repairing nests in tall trees on the valley side across the river. By mid-March many are sitting on eggs and from the middle of June young birds can be seen learning how to catch fish and frogs, which make up a large part of their diet.
In spring, when most ducks have flown north to breed, migrant breeding birds begin to arrive. Along the river path you can see and hear Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. They breed in the scrubland bordering Clifton Pond, and in some years the reeling song of the much scarcer grasshopper warbler can be heard.
Flowers which can be seen along the river bank include meadow saxifrage, spiny restharrow (a member of the pea family), Crow Garlic with its distinctive onion smell, and the hay-scented lady's bedstraw, once used to freshen the smell of pillows and bed linen.
Delta Area, The Bund & Beeston Pond
The Delta Area was created by the silt washed from extracted gravel at the Works. A stream carrying the silt was guided to areas between islands, to create low-lying land that was colonised by reeds and willow. Now, the vegetation has matured to form woodland consisting mainly of crack willow, alder and osiers, which are coppiced and used to make wattle fencing panels. Silt from the works also forms the 'beach' that can be seen in Works Pond.
The reed-fringed shallow water around the edge of the Delta is favoured by dabbling ducks such as mallard, gadwall, shoveller and Britain's smallest duck, the teal. The reeds provide habitat for another summer visitor, the reed warbler, which builds its nest supported by the vertical reed stems. The reed warbler's nest is one of those favoured by the cuckoo, a bird that arrives in late April or early May, mates and lays single eggs in the nests of other birds. By mid-July, the adults are departing south to over-winter in Africa, whilst the young fledglings make their own way a few weeks later.
Many species of damselfly and dragonfly lay their eggs in still or slow-moving water, and can be seen flying or perched on vegetation. They spend most of their lives as predatory nymphs feeding in the water, but emerge during spring or summer as brightly coloured adults to mate and lay eggs. One of the earliest damselflies to emerge is the banded demoiselle, easily recognised by the purple patches on the male's wings. Other damselflies seen on the reserve include azure, blue-tailed, emerald and red-eyed damselfly which often bask on lily pads. The larger, more spectacular dragonflies include brown hawker, southern hawker and migrant hawker, which is often seen on sunny days through to the end of September.
Main & Works Ponds
In the past, common terns attempting to breed on low shingle islands suffered the loss of eggs or young when heavy rains caused water levels to rise. To solve this problem, a raised nesting platform has been constructed.
This is covered with gravel to simulate the tern's normal nesting habitat. Following the success of the platform in Main Pond, a second, smaller one was built in Church Pond. When the Terns fly south to over-winter off the African coast, the platforms become favoured roosting places for cormorants.
A striking water bird that is seen on all the ponds all year round is the Great Crested Grebe. Their preferred breeding sites are the island edges where they build nests amongst the overhanging trees and roots. Another member of the grebe family, the little grebe, breeds in small numbers but is more common in winter and is occasionally joined by the Scarcer Slavonian Grebe, Black-Necked grebe, Red-Necked Grebe.
Various species of butterfly occur around the reserve. Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock are found over the area. Where the grass is shorter look out for Small Copper and Common Blue. Two other easily seen butterflies are Comma and Speckled wood; the latter has increased in numbers as it has spread north over recent years.
In the narrow channel between the Village and the Bund, there is an interesting selection of water plants. Yellow Flag and Purple Loosestrife grow around the edges, whilst emerging from the water there are Arrowhead and White and Yellow Water Lilies.