Why you should visit Wyver Lane Nature Reserve

Bar-tailed godwits and dunlin roosting Photo: David Tipling

Bar-tailed godwits and dunlin roosting Photo: David Tipling - Credit: Archant

A passionate conservationist, Nick Brown has worked for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for many years. Here he talks about his favourite Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve...

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) on grazing marsh Photo: Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) on grazing marsh Photo: Terry Whittaker/2020VISION - Credit: Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

My visits to Wyver Lane Nature Reserve near Belper go back some 20 years to when the Trust offices were in East Mill, Belper. The reserve was near enough for me to spend many enjoyable lunchtimes there.

It is approached along Wyver Lane which runs parallel with the River Derwent on its western side. While it is possible to drive there, car parking is severely limited so if you have time, it is best to park at the mill and walk up to the reserve. The lane runs close to the railway line for a while and then is separated from the river by fields.

It is the place where I would often hear my first chiffchaff and blackcap of the year, the former several weeks before the latter. One autumn I found a group of earthstar fungi growing by the side of the road. These are effectively puffballs, initially covered in a casing which splits open as the fruiting body develops, each split forming the arm of a star and pushing the central puffball upwards above any leaves among which the fungus is growing.

The lane opens out after a mile or so and you get a splendid view right up the Derwent Valley towards and beyond Ambergate. Immediately before and below you is a lake which is the centrepiece of the reserve.Situated between the lane and the river, it is the only sizeable water body right the way up the valley and so provides a convenient stopping off place for birds migrating north or south.

Bittern Photo: Jamie Hall

Bittern Photo: Jamie Hall - Credit: Jamie Hall

All manner of birds have been recorded there including ospreys, bitterns, great egrets and a variety of duck and wading birds.

In autumn and winter, gulls stop off for a bathe and a drink. In summer swallows and martins swoop above its surface hunting for emerging insects. It is the only place I’ve ever seen swifts mating on the wing – a feat few other species can manage.

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At times all manner of duck can be seen. Goosanders gather to roost there. Wigeon, once numbering up to 100 but now in smaller flocks, appear in autumn. Teal are often feeding at the water’s margins alongside mallard and shoveler. In winter the squealing calls of water rails can be heard even if these elusive birds fail to reveal themselves.

Barn and little owls occur and in summer hobbies sometimes visit, sending the swallows and martins into alarm mode.

Black cap Photo: Amy Lewis

Black cap Photo: Amy Lewis - Credit: Amy Lewis

Oystercatchers attempt to nest, snipe turn up in winter with the occasional jack snipe among them.

Otters have been recorded but tend to stay close to the river and out of sight.

If you are lucky you might glimpse a stonechat or even the much rarer whinchat on passage. Sedge warblers and whitethroats nest as do reed buntings.

A bird-watching hide is to be found among the lane-side trees and gives excellent views of the pool and also up the valley. Further north a viewing platform is a useful place with 360? vision, something you don’t get in the hide. What is remarkable is how relatively quiet and unspoiled this stretch of the Derwent Valley is. On a sunny day there are few Derbyshire reserves on which I’d rather be.

Nick Brown retired from the post of education manager with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in 2009. Subsequently he has helped in dealing with wildlife enquiries and running the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project, and run a project on the fast-declining swift.

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