It was only a quick 40 minutes recce but it was enough to form an extremely positive impression of this little gem.
The reserve straddles both sides of the Brearley to Snitterfield road, although I only had time to explore the north side. Damp clay soil below, a lush ground and field layer particularly rich in ferns, and a canopy above full of oak, maple and ash.
Birds were predictably hard to come by at lunchtime in such a heavily wooded environment. I heard the tap, tap of a great spotted woodpecker as I arrived, and some 15 minutes later got good views of him, or another like him, deep in the reserve. A large tit flock moved through, plenty of adults among the blue, great and long-tailed tit juveniles. I searched in vain for the oft-accompanying treecreeper, but did hear the explosive call of a nuthatch near by instead.
Fruit rich scrub was full of blackbirds and a couple of song thrushes, but no winter thrushes yet. A buzzard broke cover, plenty of jackdaws called overhead, and robins and wrens called all around. It was a lovely lunchtime walk, so no hardship at all to get slightly lost among the maze of paths.
After work I swung by Napton Reservoir to see if I could find the apparently elusive whinchat. It proved elusive, but I enjoyed a quiet stroll as the sun went down, with 6 wigeon and a couple of female shovellers having joined the throng since I was here on Sunday. The tufted duck count had also risen considerably to 28.
A couple of snipe took wing, a few quiet chiffchaff calls were heard, but most notable of all was undoubtedly the large flock of pied wagtails on the bridge as I arrived - well in excess of 20 here and around the reservoir, a highly mobile mix of adults and juveniles with the majority of them flying off to the west at sunset.