My first and only previous visit to Whitacre Heath was not a success. Having eventually located this small Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve, and negotiated both the carpark lock and a distinctly misleading map, I discovered that a) the site was largely flooded; and b) my wellingtons were in the porch at home. I left sadly, vowing one day to return.
I'm pleased to report that today was that day, and it was an altogether more successful trip. The reserve itself is very near to the Ladywalk reserve on the outskirts of Coleshill in north Warwickshire. It forms part of the Middle Tame Valley, a renowned birding hotspot in these parts. Although small, it is (please excluse the cliche) perfectly formed, with a scrape, a few pools, five hides and some splendid woodland. Its record for birds isn't perhaps quite as strong as nearby Ladywalk, but its close proximity makes it a near contender.
But perhaps it real claim to fame is its appeal for photographers. The birders who visit regularly are to be much praised for the work they put in, not only on working parties and the like, but also for the huge variety of feeders which they have brought to the site and the regular feed they provide.
The upshot is that both the carpark and the 'feeder' hide are excellent spots for bird photography, giving you close access to a number of common (and not so common) woodland birds. As a result there seem to be as many photographers there as birders, with huge 400 / 500mm telephoto lenses and £1,000+ DSLR cameras. My little FZ20 looked like a toy in comparison, but I had huge fun nevertheless, and will be back for more photography, and of course for the birding.
Sadly the famed Whitacre Lesser Spotted Woodpecker did not appear. I'll be back for him too.