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Leicestershire & Rutland Ornithological Society
Sence Valley Forest Park

Sence Valley Forest Park © Jim Graham

Grid ref: SK 400 115 (OS Landranger 128 & 129)

Prior to 1995, Sence Valley Forest Park was a large hole in the ground, inhabited by nothing more than workmen in hard hats and heavy machinery. However, the last few years have seen the transformation from opencast mine to an area of rough grassland, recently planted trees (the site is managed as part of the National Forest), pools and a wader scrape.

About ten miles north-west of Leicester and two miles south-west of Coalville, the area is off the A447 between Ibstock and Ravenstone. The car park is signed from the A447, 200 metres north of Ibstock. Gates are locked at dusk. Valuables should not be left in vehicles following recent break-ins. There are toilets, an information board and a recent sightings board in the main car park. A hide overlooks the Stonebridge Pool and wader scrape. Paths around the area are generally good.

Good all year, although the area really comes into its own during the winter months. Stonechats are regular winter visitors, with double figures recorded on occasions. They can, however, be extremely mobile, and may be encountered anywhere, although the area between the main car park and Horseshoe Lake is often a good place. A wintering finch/bunting flock can often be found, and may contain Corn Buntings. More recently, with the continued growth of the many planted trees, small

  Stonebridge Pool © Jim Graham

flocks of Lesser Redpolls have been found. Short-eared Owls have wintered in reasonable numbers, and a vantage position near the main car park gives a good all-round view to look for this species. Raptors such as Merlin, Peregrine and Buzzard are recorded occasionally. Although the site is not generally noted for wildfowl, reasonable numbers of Goosander and Wigeon occur.

During the spring and autumn, the site is the best in the county for Wheatears and Whinchats. Both species can occur anywhere, and can be frequently found on the paths or adjacent fenceposts. Redstarts are also found regularly, especially in the spring. The wader scrape attracts Common and Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers and Redshanks, with other species such as Dunlin and Greenshank being less frequent. Wood Sandpiper and Grey Plover have both been recorded, and spring mornings are also a good time to hear or see the local Curlews. The healthy populations of otherwise declining species, such as Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet, are augmented by summer visitors such as Yellow Wagtail and various warblers. Quails have often been heard singing during the late spring, and passage Marsh Harriers are being noted with increasing regularity.

For such a 'new' site, the list of local rarities recorded is quite impressive, and includes Smew, Scaup, Hen Harrier, Mealy Redpoll, Great Skua, Blue-headed Wagtail and Temminck's Stint.

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