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Cotswold Water Park
The Cotswold Water Park (CWP) is an area of 40 square miles of the upper Thames valley on the borders of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire , mostly comprising large areas of mixed farmland. For the past 50 years or more, sand and gravel extraction has been ongoing, resulting in the production of habitats not normally associated with farmland in the upper Thames, for example, the active quarrying produces shallow wetlands, expanses of gravel, sandy cliffs, reed beds and willow carr, whilst the post-extraction restoration process has produced over 140 (to date) lakes of varying sizes, reed beds, duck marsh and wader scrapes.
These new habitats have attracted a whole range of wetland birds not normally associated with farmland. The CWP supports in excess of 20,000 wintering waterbirds and holds nationally important numbers of Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Coot, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Smew and Shoveler.
Breeding waterbirds are important here, with good numbers of Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Mute Swan with increasing numbers of Gadwall and Red Crested Pochard, plus the occasional Pochard, Teal and Shoveler!
There are birds of interest throughout the year and there are now several nature reserves in the area.
The CWP supports a locally important population of breeding Little Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Black Headed Gull, Common Tern and Nightingale. Lapwings breed in increasing numbers.
Liaison and partnership working between the Cotswold Water Park Trust and the local mineral operators enables Sand Martin colonies and Little Ringed Plover nests to be safeguarded each year, drastically increasing their breeding success in the CWP.
 Notable Species
The Cotswold Water Park holds most ornithological interest during the winter months and numbers of Common Pochard and Eurasian Coot are particularly good with Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck also well represented. The Water Park is becoming nationally important for its wintering Smew population. A large population of feral Red-crested Pochard can be found throughout the area. Also present in winter are Gadwall, Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler, Common Goldeneye and Goosander.
Grey Heron, Great Cormorant, Little Egret and Water Rail are present all year but tend to occur in greater numbers in winter and Great Bittern has become more regular in recent years. In severe winters the lakes may be visited by seaduck, the scarcer grebes and even the occasional diver. Flocks of Greater White-fronted Goose and Bewick's Swan may also appear in hard weather. Lesser Redpoll and Siskin can often be seen in alders along the river and winter thrushes occur in good numbers. Peregrine Falcon is becoming increasingly regular out of the breeding season.
Passage periods bring terns, including Common Tern and regular Black Tern and a good selection of waders including Ruff, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. Scarcer migrants include regular Garganey in spring and Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper in autumn. Migrant passerines include Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail, various warblers, flycatchers and chats.
The less disturbed parts of this area are becoming increasingly important for breeding birds with both Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe, as well as a few waterfowl including Mallard, Tufted Duck and feral Canada Goose and Greylag Goose. Also breeding ferally are a few Red-crested Pochard.
Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler nest where reedbeds are established and in local scrub and woodland there are various other warblers such as both Common Whitethroat, and Lesser Whitethroat. Blackcap and Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and Common Chiffchaff.
Rarities have frequently appeared at the Cotswold Water Park and have included Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Squacco Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron and Eurasian Spoonbill, Red-footed Falcon, Gull-billed Tern and White-winged Tern, Kentish Plover, Alpine Swift and European Bee-eater. In March 2003 a Kumlien's Gull was recorded.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Great Cormorant, Great Bittern, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Bewick's Swan, Mute Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye, Smew, Goosander, Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Northern Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Water Rail, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Eurasian or European Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Sanderling, Red Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Feral Pigeon, Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Common Swift, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, White-throated Dipper, Common Wren, Dunnock, Common Nightingale, European Robin, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Magpie, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting
 Other Wildlife
Botanists will find much of interest in the park with old meadows with Snakeshead Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris and orchids such as Bee Ophrys apifera, Common Spotted Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Early Marsh Dactylorhiza incarnata, Burnt Orchis ustulata, Early Purple Orchis mascula and Green-winged Orchis morio.
 Site Information
 History and Use
 Areas of Interest
To the east one of the better areas is Whelford Pools, a reserve of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, near Fairford and reached on the minor road to Whelford off the A417 east of Cirencester.
There are two hides overlooking one small and two larger pits where waterfowl can be seen in winter and Common Kingfisher nests. This area is also of interest to entomologists with 11 species of dragonfly and damselfly to be seen including the large Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator and the rather local Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas.
 Access and Facilities
Although many of the lakes throughout the area can be good for birds the best are generally at the western end. A network of public footpaths covers much of the area and Lake 34 in Keynes Country Park has a wheelchair-accessible hide with leaflets and a useful logbook detailing the latest sightings.
The walk around this area, beginning at the nature reserve car-park at Spratsgate Lane, off Spine Road, usually produces a good range of the birds to be seen and nearby Lake 77 is good for passage waders. The western lakes of the park can be reached off the A419 Swindon to Cirencester road.
 Nearby Sites
Coke's Pit is another Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve with wintering waterfowl including Red-crested Pochard as is the Edward Richardson reserve. This small reserve has two pits and a nature trail with a hide and can be reached from Lechlade taking the A361 northwards for 0.8km then turning left for Rough Grounds Farm.
 Contact Details
 External Links
Content and images originally posted by Steve (Updated by Bob Philpott 2011)