The River Idle Washlands have been attracting some good birds this year, having remained wet throughout the year with standing water attracting egrets and wildfowl, and muddy edges attracting waders. I’ve written this short site guide because different names have been used for the same site and the same name for different sites, causing confusion and as the sites straddle the Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire a concern for county listers.
For site names, I have gone with names used by local birders that I’ve spoken with when visiting the area and which get used on the excellent Doncaster Birding website -
http://www.doncasterbirding.co.uk/wordpress/ I suggest the Nottinghamshire birdwatchers adopt these names to ensure consistency of recording areas and accurate county records.
Some of the areas mentioned are part of the Idle Washlands SSSI, a site I cover as part of my RSPB work and I carry out the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts for the SSSI. For more information on the SSSI see http://www.sssi.naturalengland.org.uk/Special/sssi/sssi_details.cfm?sssi_id=1001749
The OS Explorer map 279 covers the area.
Listing the sites downstream from Bawtry:
Bawtry Road Bridge
The A631 road crosses the River Idle just east of Bawtry and there are large lay-bys for parking. The SSSI washland (Unit 1) is downstream (north) of the bridge, and west of the river (in South Yorkshire); the pasture farmland to the east of the river north of the bridge is in Nottinghamshire. South of the bridge (upstream) is mainly pasture farmland (in Nottinghamshire). When water levels are high in the River Idle areas either side of the bridge are liable to flooding. This area has had a Pectoral Sandpiper in the past, but can be birdless when dry.
Bawtry Washlands/Newington Flash (South Yorkshire)
This is the largest area of washlands (part of SSSI Unit 1) and the best area for birds, all in South Yorkshire unfortunately for the Notts lister. Local birders refer to the often flooded area from Bawtry to Newington as Newington Flash. (It’s called Bawtry Carr on the OS Map.)
There is a public footpath out onto the site starting at the end of Wharf Street, grid reference SK 653 930. The area can also be viewed from a farm gateway west of The Ship Inn, Newington.
This area floods, mainly in winter, creating a body of water, referred to as Newington Flash. In the last couple of years, flooding has been more regular with standing water this year throughout the spring and summer (so far). At passage times, this site is less attractive to waders after periods of rain. After a few dry days, the water levels usually start to recede revealing large areas of mud. It can be an excellent area for waders with Pectoral, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers occurring last year along with Spotted Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits and commoner waders. In late autumn duck numbers start to build, with notable counts of both Teal and Wigeon, and 200 Snipe last autumn. Pintail are often present in small numbers and Whooper Swans sometimes use the site.
Hagg Lane Flash (Notts)
Leaving Bawtry on the A614 Thorne Road, turn right onto Newington Road where the road bends sharply left. Go past The Ship Inn and then take the right turn onto an unmade track. This track is a bit bumpy in places but driveable with care. The eastern end of SSSI Unit 1 is on the right. This area is in Notts (the line of old willows at the back is the county boundary). I used to call this Newington Flash, but local and Doncaster birders refer to it as Hagg Lane Flash. Again, when the River Idle is high the site is a pool, but can completely dry out and become a field dominated by docks. When wet with receding water levels it is good for waders. In the past I’ve seen a Grey Phalarope and Water Pipits here.
Slaynes Lane (Notts)
Carrying on along Hagg Lane it becomes Slaynes Lane after the left turn. All along the lane up to Misson village can be good for birds. To the north of the lane the Newington North Quarry (sometimes called Misson Quarry) is being restored to a nature reserve of wet grassland and pools. To the south there is the active Newington South Quarry, which will also be restored to a nature reserve.
This area can be good for wildfowl and waders, depending on how much water there is. It also currently quite good for some farmland species, with Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge, Yellow Wagtail, Skylark, Linnet and Yellowhammer all breeding. In winter the areas attracts flocks of finches, especially Linnets, and these in turn can attract Hen Harriers and Merlins. It is usually a good area for one or two wintering Stonechats.