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Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society
Aylestone Meadows



Grid ref: SK 573 015 (OS Landranger 140)

Location/Access
Aylestone Meadows, Leicester's most prominent 'green wedge', is located along the Soar Valley a couple of miles south-west of the city centre. From Freemen's Weir, next to the new Leicester City football stadium, to Soar Valley Way near Glen Parva, this area of pasture, riverside scrub and small pools is criss-crossed by many footpaths, and the Great Central Way runs through the site. The best access points are two car parks: one just off Aylestone Road, between the feral goose enclosure and Big City Tyres, and the second about a mile further south-west, off Canal Street.

Birds
The scrub and pasture areas hold the common resident species, including good numbers of Bullfinches. Willow Tits can be found in several areas, one of the most favoured being the railway embankment near Freemen's Weir, whilst a couple of pairs of Little Owls are resident at the southern end of the site. Sparrowhawks and Kestrels are regular, with Peregrine becoming more frequent (and occasionally seen roosting on the gas towers). The pools and river have resident Coots, Moorhens and Mallards, and in the winter there is a good chance of seeing Water Rails along any stretch of water. During particularly hard weather, this species will often be forced into the open much more than usual, with Freemen's Weir being a good spot to look. Also during this weather, the open water beneath Freemen's Weir can attract displaced wildfowl, with Tufted Duck, Pochard, Little Grebe and Teal being frequent, whilst scarcer species such as Ruddy Duck, Pintail, Goldeneye, Scaup and Smew have all been recorded. Waders such as Jack Snipe, Snipe and Redshank are also occasionally encountered during harsh weather.

Spring is probably the best time at Aylestone Meadows, with good numbers of warblers returning to breed. Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat are common, and a few pairs of Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warbler can usually be found. Grasshopper Warblers appear most years, often in the scrubby areas near the gas towers. Wheatears and Whinchats are both regular passage migrants and can be found almost anywhere, but both generally favour the southern section of the site. Ring Ouzels used to appear most springs in the horse paddocks, often with late flocks of Fieldfares, and perhaps increased observer coverage would reveal this species again. The northern part of the site, around St Mary's Mills and Freemen's Weir, is a traditional area for Black Redstart - whilst never guaranteed, there is still a good chance that a singing male could be encountered on a quiet spring morning.

The area is generally underwatched during the autumn, but it is often a good place to find late migrants such as Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher. Stonechats appear most years in October and November, often around King's Lock at the northern end of the site, where Green Sandpipers frequently take up residence.

The site has produced a few local rarities over the years, with Night Heron, Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting being some of the more unusual visitors to the area, whilst a Little Egret visited Freemen's Weir in June 2001.

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