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Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society
Swithland Reservoir

The southern section, from the bridge © Andy Mackay

Grid ref: SK 558 140 (OS Landranger 129)

The reservoir lies just south of Quorn, and is about a mile long by half a mile wide. The Great Central Railway divides the reservoir into two; the northern section is the larger. There is no access to the reservoir margins, but both sections are easily viewed from public roads. The southern (inflow) end can be watched from the minor road running between Swithland and Rothley: park on the bridge at SK 562 132. To reach the north side from here, head towards Rothley for half a mile, then turn left at the crossroads. Follow this road for a further three quarters of a mile, then turn left onto Kinchley Lane. This follows the eastern shore of the reservoir and eventually comes out on the dam. Drive carefully along the lane, as it is winding and narrow, and frequented by walkers and horse riders.

After several poor years, winter wildfowl numbers seem to have picked up again, and reasonable numbers of most of the common duck species may be seen: Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler, with occasional Goosander, Pintail or Smew. Garganey are occasionally found on the small 'lagoon' at the inflow in spring and autumn. Sea-ducks such as Scaup, scoters, Long-tailed Duck and Red-breasted Merganser have all been recorded, as have all three divers. The three scarcer grebes are also a possibility, Black-necked being the most common, usually in late summer/autumn. In fact the reservoir is one of the best places in the county to see Black-necked, but Slavonian is for some reason extremely rare here, with only a handful of records.


The gull roost has also increased in size again recently, following a slump in numbers after the nearby Mountsorrel Tip closed in the mid 90s. Mediterranean Gulls are annual, along with Yellow-legged, Caspian and occasional Glaucous and Iceland Gulls. The roost is not as well watched as it used to be, and undoubtedly more would be found with greater coverage. If visiting for the gull roost, overcast evenings are better, as the best watch point, half way along Kinchley Lane, faces west into the setting sun.

  North section © Jim Graham

Swithland Reservoir is the most reliable place in the county to see Peregrines in the winter: most days one or two sit in a prominent oak tree on the skyline of Buddon Wood for an hour or two before dusk, and can easily be seen from the dam. Calm, clear days seem to be more productive than in poor weather. Sparrowhawks are regular over Buddon Wood, and this is also a good site for Hobby in late summer/autumn.

Wader passage has been almost non-existent in recent years, as the water level has been kept constantly high, but odd birds such as Common Sandpipers may drop in and rest on the dam. Water Rails are sometimes seen, the best spots being the inflow and the reedy area by the railings along Kinchley Lane.

Common Terns breed on the rafts on the north side, and Arctic and Black Terns pass through on migration. Little Gulls may also be associated with these movements, especially during easterly winds in spring.

All three woodpeckers may be seen around the reservoir, especially along Kinchley Lane, which is bounded on one side by what remains of Buddon Wood. Kingfishers are regular - a particularly good spot for them is behind the dam, where they fish in the old settling pools of the waterworks. Grey Wagtails are regular on the dam and along the overflow channel. Both Marsh and Willow Tits are scarce these days, but may still be encountered in Buddon Wood, which also occasionally has small flocks of Redpolls and Siskins. Bramblings are regular in spring, the trees behind the dam being particularly favoured.

Swithland has amassed a good list of rarities over the years due to being well-watched. Recent highlights have included: Red-rumped Swallow (twice), Crag Martin, White-winged Black Tern, Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes, Great and Arctic Skuas, Ring-billed Gull, Spoonbill, Bittern, Little Egret, Avocet, Ferruginous Duck and Firecrest.

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