The secret of Middleton Lakes’ success

Middleton Lakes, the RSPB’s newest reserve (it opens on May 14), is a perfect example of how manmade landscapes can make great places for birding.

Transformed from former gravel pits, it’s part of a complex of such sites in the Tame Valley and along the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border, including Kingsbury Water Park. The nearby motorways (the M42, M6 and M6 Toll are all nearby) created a need for such pits, and now that their working life is over, they provide some ideal bird habitats.

For a start, of course, there’s plenty of water, making them important wintering sites for wildfowl and some waders, and they also have plenty of the sort of scruffy, messy-looking meadows and grassland that probably dismays town planners but delights all manner of birds, including under-pressure species such as Lapwing, Sky Lark and Snipe.

Often overlooked, too, is the fact that such sites can be great places to birdwatch precisely BECAUSE they are next to major roads and a sizeable river. Studies have shown that, while migrating birds may use things such as the earth’s magnetic field, the stars and the sun for navigation over long distances, visual landmarks are important when they get close to their destination. For that reason, the likes of Middleton can be great places to find migrating species such as Black or Arctic Terns – get out there and start looking.

Lapwings are one species that could benefit from Middleton Lakes

Sky Larks are another under-pressure species that could flourish here