Click on Map for a full size version
Sat-Nav postcode: Eakring Flash nearest Postcode - NG22 ODE. Penny Pasture Common and Red Hill nearest Postcode - NG22 ODF.
Access: Eakring Flash is situated at SK 675627, just north of Eakring village. Limited off-road parking spaces only. Viewing is only available from the Public footpath which runs alongside The Beck up the western side of Eakring Flash.
Eakring is best reached via the A614 heading north from Nottingham or west along the A616 from Newark. Parking difficulties and tresspassing by visiting birders have been experienced here in the past. Please follow available guidelines if visiting the area. Park in a safe position off the road as much as possible, remembering not to block any gateways or other field access points. Allow plenty of room for farm machinery to pass and keep to public footpaths at all times.
Penny Pasture Common (part of the Eakring Meadows Nature Reserve) is situated two thirds of the way between Eakring and Kersall villages.
Access from Nottingham or Mansfield, is by the A614, taking the Eakring turn-off, driving for 2 miles through the village and then continuing for a further 1.5 miles past Tug Bridge Farm, parking sensibly on available roadside verges around Eakring Field Farm.
Access from Newark, is by taking the A617 towards Ollerton, turning left and through Kersall village, down to the minor road junction. Turn right here and Eakring Meadows Nature Reserve begins on the right hand side of the road after some 300 yards. Park on the left hand verge and walk to view. Please park carefully, remembering not to block any gateways or other field access points. This stretch of road is frequently used by large HGV vehicles.
There are plenty of viewing opportunities available at the roadside. Direct access to the main reserve is for Notts Wildlife Trust members only, but a public footpath does allow access to Penny Pasture Common.
Habitat: Eakring Flash was Formed virtually overnight by mining subsidence in 1997, Eakring Flash represents the largest body of water within the recording boundaries. The occurrence of the female Spotted Crake, ensured that the site became physically known to a much greater number of birdwatchers than it had previously. It stands on what was agricultural farmland. The original meadows that were once here, have long since fallen under the plough.
Now that the area is undisturbed, several species which once flowered in profusion, have begun recolonising the site. Cowslip, Ragged Robin and Common Fleabane, can now be found flowering once again, among the various mix of Rushes and Sedges which cover much of the site. Previously small areas of Bulrush, have now totally circumferenced the southern end and a section of the western side.
The growth of copious amounts of Willow and Sallow scrub, help provide much needed cover and feeding areas for tired migrants. It has however, become rather too invasive in recent times and is in need of some selective thinning work. Sedge Warbler is a regular breeder here. Up until 1998, breeding Sedge Warblers were restricted to just two pairs at Penny Pasture Common and occasional breeding attempts elsewhere. Nowadays, Eakring Flash regularly holds around seven pairs. Whitethroats have also benefited in recent breeding seasons, finding the large Nettle-beds ideal habitat now that many of the hedgerows have disappeared. Lack of any permanent shoreline since 1998 was caused by both the healthy growth of marginal plants and a slight rise in water levels, possibly due to a narrowing and some restricting plant growth along The Beck at a point just north-east of Eakring Flash. Greater Willowherb spread so quickly along the shoreline, that thinning work was carried out the following year, to try and relieve the situation. Only at the southern end, is the water level regularly low enough to create any suitable wader habitat.
Completing the site are two hedgerows (known as the old and new hedges) Running alongside The Beck, the old hedge regularly attracts good numbers of passage birds. Consisting mainly of Hawthorn, Elder and occasional Oak and Ash trees, it is little suprise that migrant warblers find it particularly attractive, especially during the Autumn. Interestingly, all the area's Reed Warbler records have come from the old hedge, with birds showing a particular fondness for Elders. The new hedge was planted in 1998, the Hawthorn rapidly becoming established and after just two years was providing additional nesting habitat for several species. It's also regularly used by Whichats and more recently by migrant Stonechats.
Eakring Flash is of considerable importance locally, representing the largest body of water in the area, with surrounding rank vegetation habitat.
Eakring Meadows Nature Reserve. The whole of the reserve lies from the southern outskirts of Kersall village, stretching west to an area north of Eakring Field Farm. Bordered on most parts by a series of very old hedges, sections of which are maintained by using the traditional "Laying" method. Over many years these hedges have become dense in places, creating habitat for a varied range of wildlife. Hedges break up the reserve into a series of varying sized meadows, many of which differ distinctly in the amount and variety of flora. Eakring Meadows is bordered on it's northern edge by The Beck which runs from west-east through the reserve. Several copses of mainly Willow and Hawthorn exsist, these helping to enhance the reserve's attraction to birds.
At the western-most end of Eakring Meadows, lies an area of "common" land. Known as Penny Pasture Common, this is the most attractive part of the reserve for birds and is an important site locally for species such as Snipe and regular migrants like Redstart and Whinchat.
The small water area within the Common, held the only breeding Sedge Warbler in the area, until the formation of Eakring Flash in 1997. A later grazing (and far less continuous) of Penny Pasture Common, would allow more time for late ground-nesting birds to complete incubation and rearing of young and also aid the recent colonisation attempt by the Brown Argus butterfly. This would certainly help breeding attempts by Snipe and Grasshopper Warbler (Penny Pasture Common holds singing male Grasshopper Warblers each year) Quail have also been present in 1998 and more recently in 2001. Any nesting attempts would most likely have failed, due to the considerable disturbance by livestock. Recent over-grazing and damage by cattle, has reduced the amount of vegetation around the pool. This has seen a reduction in breeding Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting, but encouraged much higher numbers of over-wintering Teal, Snipe and Jack Snipe.
Penny Pasture Common is undoubtably more attractive when comparisons are made to the rest of the reserve. The scattered Hawthorn scrub (a vital aspect to maintain in future years) is favoured by many migrants during the Autumn. The north-east corner creates a warm sun-trap, where scattered Elder bushes along the old hedgerow, attract Warblers and newly arrived Winter Thrushes, more-so than perhaps other hedgerow plants. Migrating birds can be tracked moving from east to west throughout the reserve, but often make prolonged stays here.
The dividing hedgerow between Penny Pasture Common and the adjacent meadow has remained uncut for many years and appears to be dense mature Hawthorn scrub rather than actual hedgerow. This of course creates plenty of cover which many birds prefer.
Eakring Meadows is of considerable Nottinghamshire importance, representing one of few remaining areas of neutral grassland in the county.
Red Hill is the highest point of the area and used primarily for visible migration watches in both Spring and Autumn because of it's extensive views, Red Hill stretches from Eakring village north and past Lound Wood towards Wellow, giving superb views in all directions.
Two areas of cover are provided by a mature Hawthorn copse and small numbers of mature Oak and Sycamore trees. That left today, is just a fraction of that which once stood here until the 1970's, when a large section along the western-side was covered by dense Hawthorn scrubland. Today's remaining hedges are used as a migration route by a variety of birds. Rarities have included Red Kite, Honey Buzzard, Kittiwake and Twite. It is often used as a stop-off point for migrant Redstarts, but more especially Wheatears in the Autumn.
Birds: The entire bird watching conducted here, is not geared towards rarity searching. It cannot be, because that would generally be fruitless. Rarities do occur, but only against a back-drop of more routine species. A minimum of a 1000 hours are put in annually. These in turn have produced the following four, true county rarities: Richard's Pipit, Spotted Crake, Common Crane and Firecrest.
There is often no typical or standard daily routine here. Much of the day's bird watching being planned the night before by watching the weather forecast, looking for the correct or certain conditions and then judging the most likely routine for the next day. Previous experience in the field certainly helps in the decision making, where years of learning what could turn up, where and in what conditions, frequently pays dividends when such species are looked for.
Much also depends upon time of year. During the peak migration months, much of the work is based doing visible migration watches from Red Hill. This particularly applies to Autumn, more than Spring.
Spring - Visible migration in Spring is generally very quiet from mid-April onwards and concentration is then geared towards monitoring the overnight arrival of warblers and checking open fields for Wheatears. Prior to this, from early March, visible migration watches take up a great deal of time to monitor species like Meadow Pipit and Linnet. Peak dates for many passerines are usually quite predictable, but do rely on the right weather. This is also a good time for migrant raptors, so a good vantage point is essential.
If conditions are right for terns and waders, then activity is centred around Eakring Flash for much of the time, but the whole area is covered almost daily. As a general rule, if it rains from the last week of April until mid-May, then Eakring Flash recieves most daily coverage in order to add typically brief waders to the annual year list. Keeping such a list acts as an incentive, encouraging more hours in the field in order to help beat previous totals. By mid-May, much of Spring migration is over and the area becomes much quieter. May can be a dull month, with long periods of little or nothing, but late warblers continue to arrive and these continue to be recorded and territories mapped.
Summer - The generally quieter Summer months are spent monitoring the area's breeding birds and listening for Quail. Three years out of five having produced calling birds now, including an unprecidented influx into the area during 2001. These "quieter" months can often produce some unexpected records, but the last week of June, sees the start of return passage by a number of waders, Sand Martins and a few early warblers. As July progresses, the pace of Autumn migration begins to quicken and visits become longer and more frequent and the first visible migration watches start.
Autumn - Visible migration watches reach a peak during September and October (often continuing well into November) Counting passerines in this way, will often also produce raptor records. Keeping an "eye on the sky" has resulted in almost annual records of species like Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite and Honey Buzzard here. Autumn is prime-time birdwatching. Its far more productive than Spring can ever be, counts of regular migrants are vastly higher than during the early part of the year and there is also far more variety. Late September onwards can be so busy, with flock after flock of birds passing through needing to be identified, sorted and then counted. Things can get hectic on good days, but the whole experience is phenominally exciting. Watching for coastal migrant arrivals will (in most instances) reap rewards within a few days, usually with species like Redstart and Whinchat. These are the kind of birds I personally aim for. During the early part of the Autumn, many hours are spent systematically working the favoured haunts of chats and warblers, by working certain hedgerows and within Eakring village itself. Time allocated to visible migration watching is less. Sometimes it can take well over an hour to work a particular stretch of hedge or a site like Penny Pasture Common.
First stop-off point from mid-September is Red Hill, to assess the general "feel" of the morning. If birds are noted passing through almost instantly, then much of the morning/day can be spent there, checking other sites in the area when lulls in movements occur or cease. The whole aspect of visible migration watching has accounted for some of the area's best records, such as the Richard's Pipit in 1998 and two Woodlark in 2001. Both would have been missed had it not been obvious that a wide variety of species were on the move on those days, allowing coverage to be increased. Its also worth noting that certain species frequently associate with others and being aware of this helps in their discovery. Its basically all about the amount of coverage that can be devoted to any given area. The more is put in, the more is taken out. The rewards are there at any site, if one is prepared to work at it continuously.
Winter - After the excitement of October/November's migrant thrush arrivals, migration peaks and the area becomes quiet again and more hours have to be put in to obtain any rewards. Cold weather movements are rare in these days of warmer Winters and snow even more so. Unless such weather does materialise, most of the birdwatching is undertaken from several roadside viewpoints or at Eakring Flash. Weekly checks are made for species like Jack Snipe and Woodcock at traditional locations.
Trevor Pendleton July 2016