LATEST 'LOCKDOWN LIST' ADDITIONS : GADWALL, TEAL, GREY HERON (TOTAL 63)

LOCAL PATCH

Napton Reservoir is a much smaller reservoir than the nearby Draycote Water and is located just opposite the canal junction from our mooring. This is a deep water reservoir that feeds the canal system and so is useful for finding diving ducks and grebes. It has also been known to attract a good range of passage birds and some fine rarities over the years. A Ring-Necked Duck in early 2006 for example and Bearded Tits the following year and again most years thereafter! The most recent visitors have been Black-necked Grebe, Spotted Crake, Ring Ouzel and two Grey Phalarope which spent 8 days in autumn 2016. In 2016 I managed to video a Sabines Gull, which literally dropped in for a matter of minutes.

Napton Reservoir at dusk
Alongside the deep water the reservoirs other attraction is a large reedbed ~ this means that the reservoir plays summer host to Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers. In the winter months, large murmurations of Starling can be seen with the occasional Sparrowhawk dropping in! In early 2017 I was fortunate enough to see a rare Bittern flying across the reeds.

Unfortunately over the past few years, the habitat has been poorly managed with most of the surrounding willow and dead trees extracted by the Canal Trust. One nearby field, once a great place to find spring passage migrants such as Whinchat and Tree Pipit has been flattened by the owners and turned into a horse paddock. The reservoir is now leased by Leamington Angling Club who have erected an 'Otter Fence' around the entire perimeter to prevent predation of fish stocks. In over 10 years of birding and living on the water here, I've never seen an Otter!!

Napton Hill as seen from Napton locks
Napton Village is derived from the Old English cnaepp meaning 'hilltop' and tun meaning 'settlement' in the Old English language. In 1086 the doomsday book recorded the village as Neptone.

The hill on which the village is built is just over 500 feet above sea level and is renown for small falls of migrant birds during the spring and autumn, it has thrown up the occasional gem over the years such as Firecrest, Ring Ouzel, Snow Bunting, Icterine Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler. Autumn is a great time to find Spotted Flycatchers, which breed here and passage Common Redstarts. Winter can often hold Brambling in the churchyard.

Only a short drive from the marina I occasionally arrive just after sunrise and make my way from the churchyard to the windmill. When the visibility is good you can get some spectacular views across several counties including Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

'Quidditch' alongside her mooring
The Cruise Option is what makes my way of life even more rewarding. Apart from the wildlife in my immediate vicinity, a Yellow-browed Warbler in 2017, I also get the option to pop out for the odd weekend or overnight cruise and take a look at what's on offer slightly further afield.

My favourite stretch of canal is the section that runs from Napton Junction through to Braunston. This passes through open countryside with a backdrop of hills. The land is agricultural, with just a few houses in sight. There are initially no locks, no villages and the bridges are well spaced, making a very pleasant rural stretch of canal. There's also a good section of the disused LNWR railway line which ran from Marton Junction to Weedon to explore, the line closed to passenger traffic in 1963.

The cruise from the marina to Braunston takes around 90 minutes and has in the past thrown up some good moments. For example, it was on this stretch that I watched a pair of boxing Hare's and also spotted my first invasive American Mink. On one particular trip, I spotted no less than 4 individual Kingfishers on a cruise to Braunston and back but sadly not in more recent times due to the massive increase in traffic along this stretch!