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Bird watching in Rishton has always been a popular hobby, due in part to the large expanse of water forming the reservoir.

On Thursday 09 January 1997, BIRDWATCHERS flocked to see a rare duck dance across the ice.

To the delight of local twitchers the Mandarin duck, which originates in Asia and rarely seen in Britain, had decided to take a rest on Rishton reservoir.

Binoculars were honed on the tufted, multi-coloured beauty who joined a family of swans on the frozen lake and enjoyed a daily feed from nearby residents.

Sheila Heap, of nearby St Alban's Road, said: "I noticed the bird while I was walking in the park and when I got home I looked up its breed in a book. It looked exactly like a Mandarin duck but I was very surprised because it is native to Asia."


Dan Crawley, Blackburn and District Bird Club chairman, said: "Mandarin ducks were imported by the Victorians and some of them escaped. As a result there are a small number of them breeding in Britain. They are beautiful birds and birdwatchers would jump at the chance to see it." Citizen photographer Kevin Walsh tried to catch the duck on film but was foiled after it flew the coop. "I reckon it was a wild goose chase," he said.

Meanwhile in April the same year (1997), a Lesser Black Backed Gull was seen. The assumption is that the bird was probably migrating from Portugal to its breeding grounds at Walney Island. Why Walney Island you may ask? (If you are interested in birds that is).

Many hundreds of Lesser Black Backed Gulls are seen over winter in Lancashire and do not migrate at all. While some Lesser Black Backed Gulls do migrate to Portugal, huge numbers cross the Mediterranean at the Strait of Gibraltar, going nowhere near Portugal, and over winter in North West Africa.

A lot of Lesser Black Backed Gulls breed at Walney Island, but it would be very unwise to presume that all Lesser Black Backed Gulls seen in Lancashire go there.

Sluices to canal

The British Trust compiles figures from ringing returns for Ornithology, and it is from this data that the assumption is made. This was a summary of these figures. It is true to say that occasionally the birds do over winter in Britain. All this information is based on a scientific paper produced by this eminent society which has been publishing research on bird ringing since 1930.

Four days later, a similar story on Lesser Black Backed Gulls appeared in The Times.

This next section is taken from the Lancashire Evening telegraph which was first published on Wednesday 5th November1997:

Autumn gold: Reservoir provides 'service station' for hungry birds

Nature Watch, with Ron Freethy

The last week in October was a delight, with cold frosty mornings making way for glorious sunshine.

These are the days when the autumn colours of deciduous trees look their best. This is also the time when bird watching can be exciting.

I love Rishton reservoir at this time of the year. It is always a triumph to see how the wildlife lives in harmony with modern transport. The water is sandwiched between the railway line and the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, which extracts water from it in order to operate the locks through Blackburn. Almost on the banks of the reservoir is the road between Rishton and Blackburn and nearby there is a children's playground with seats for folk like me, beyond the first flush of youth, to enjoy their butties.

Rishton Reseroir in December 2002.

The walk to the reservoir is fringed with an assortment of trees including oak, which this year bear a rich crop of acorns. My attention, however, was directed away from the oaks towards a flock of long-tailed tits which were heading to a clump of alder trees.

Long-tailed tits need all the food they can get in cold autumn days and alder seeds are rich in fat.

For the benefit of those people who get depressed when the clocks go back, the alder tree should remind them of spring.

This is because the spring catkins are already forming. The male catkins are long and purple whilst the female cones are round and green.

The mute swans which use the canal as a motorway use Rishton reservoir in the same way that we use service stations.

Swans, coots, moorhens, mallards and tufted ducks were all taking advantage of the bread which visitors were providing in abundance.

The overflows

I felt really guilty when I arrived close to the swans because I had just eaten all my butties, although I shared a few crumbs with a flock of chaffinches and house sparrows.

There is only one thing wrong with autumn days - they are too short.

A train clattered over the track and blended in with the hoot of a tawny owl waking up from its roost and preparing to go hunting. The owl was roosting among the oaks and alders but it was given one more burst of bright sunlight which illuminated the shining berries of the guelder rose.

The berries certainly look beautiful but they are not good to eat and the crafty birds know that. The soft red fruit is therefore usually left and adds sparkle to the late autumn and early winter hedgerows.

This little ramble around Rishton is just one more example of how wildlife thrives around the towns and villages of East Lancashire.

Mention should be made to the Parsonage Reservoir, which is partly in Rishton and partly in Blackburn. This is found on the way to Wilpshire after passing the new inns public house, in the valley bottom. The road to Wilpshire splits the reservoir into two sections (much the same as the railway does with the reservoir on Blackburn Road).

Bird Watching on the Reservoir.

(taken from the link in the references section of this page)

A brief ornithological history of the site.

Rishton Reservoir has been well watched during two periods over the years; in the 1970's, by the now long defunct 'Rishton Ornithologists Club' and from 1991 - 1995, by a few local birders. At other times, the reservoir has been rather criminally under-watched. Indeed, this applies to the present day, with the reservoir begging for daily coverage by a dedicated observer.

A few tips for any future Rishton Reservoir regulars.

Rishton Reservoir from Festival of Britain Guide 1951.

Unfortunately, due to the development of the large housing estate in the past, coupled with the fact that it is a popular fishing venue (see above) and is also the home of the East Lancashire Sailing Club, Rishton Reservoir is prone to being heavily disturbed by 'the non-birding fraternity'.

I cannot stress enough the fact that any birders considering covering the site on a regular basis in the future, must be prepared to 'beat the disturbance' by checking the reservoir during the first few hours of light, before any potentially interesting birds, i.e. waders, may be flushed by the Fishermen. Also, make the most of any 'non-birding fraternity' weather, i.e. wet and windy weather at any time of year that is good for keeping non-birders indoors, is often the type of weather that may produce a good bird on the local patch! And finally by checking the reservoir a few times during the course of the day, particularly during  weather conditions that are considered good for the possible appearance of an interesting 'local-patch' bird; e.g. during periods of SE winds during early May, for Black Terns, or,  when it is apparent from the bird information services that there has been an influx of, for example, Little Gulls, or, passage waders, during good autumns for species such as Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper etc.

Reservoir in 1904

The birding year at the Reservoir.

One good feature of the reservoir, is that it is not the 'concrete-bowl' type of water that is totally unappealing to Waders when the water levels are high. The western shoreline of the main reservoir has a gently sloping field, which runs down to the waters edge. This gives the birder some hope, that in years when water levels are high generally, there is always the chance that there may be something of interest on the 'field-side' of 'big-Rishton' - providing no recent disturbance has taken place  - see under the 'a few tips..' section of this article.

The eastern side of the reservoir, is quite well vegetated, which is where the migrant warblers etc are seen. It is also the side which suffers the most disturbance.

The main features of both winter periods are the Gulls. Rishton has a regular field-feeding flock of Black-headed Gulls which are well worth scrutinizing for scarcer species. The same applies for the larger Gull species, as from early afternoon, variable numbers of both larger and smaller Gulls drop in for a pre-roost wash and preen whilst commuting between Whinney Hill Tip and Fishmoor Reservoir.

From February, the first Oystercatcher, Curlew and perhaps the first Ringed Plover, begin to appear on the western shoreline of the main reservoir, as they begin the return migration to breeding sites inland.

Mid-march sees the chance of a Little-ringed Plover, Sand Martin or Chiffchaff occurring.

From mid-April till the end of May, there is always the chance of any of 5 species of Tern occurring. Small numbers of Dunlin, with perhaps a scarcer wader such as a Turnstone or Sanderling. Swallow and House Martin should be present in reasonable numbers by the end of April, with Common Swifts by the first week of May. Days with low murky cloud can see large numbers of mixed Hirundine and Swift feeding low over the water.

 Autumn migration begins as early as the middle of June (continuing right through until mid-end of November) with the first failed breeding Lapwing beginning to appear in small flocks. Interesting Waders and Terns can, and do occasionally occur, from the last week of June - early October, particularly on days of wet and windy weather, and from my experience, particularly when the wind is from the westerly sector. Shelduck begin their overland migration to the German bight at this time (See Shelduck section below). During August to October, the bushes around the edge of the reservoir and Cut Wood are always worth checking for passerine migrants with species such as Spotted Flycatcher and a few species of Warbler likely to be seen.

From the end of August-November, a few species of Wildfowl pass through in small numbers including Teal and Wigeon, with perhaps a few Shoveler and Pintail, as well as a few Pochard, Tufted Duck and from October Goldeneye, with always with the chance of something more unexpected such as a Ruddy Duck or Greater Scaup. There is also usually a fairly strong passage of Mute Swan through the site in September to October.

The following list of records of rare/scarce birds, plus selected migrants, are drawn from Bill Aspin's observations, between November 1991 to 1995 and also from the following documents/publications; 'The birds of the Hyndburn district' (Jackson, 1989), ELOC bird reports and the Lancashire Bird reports. Included are a few historical records for added interest.

Key to observers where initials are used: Bill Aspin (WCA), John Metcalfe (JM), Tony Disley (ASD), John Wright (JW), David Jackson (DJ), Dave Bickerton (DB)

Black Throated Diver by Bill Aspin

Great Northern Diver; An historical record, extracted from the Accrington Naturalists Souvenir, 1905, by D. J. Jackson, as mentioned in his 1989 document 'The birds of the Hyndburn district', which reads; "James Hatcroft of Rishton is said to have procured a specimen, at Rishton Reservoir, some time around 1865."

Black-throated Diver; A juv/1stw arrived during easterlies and associated murky weather, and present from 1st - 6th November 1993 (WCA).

Slavonian Grebe; One in partial summer plumage from 14-20th March 1979 (D Jackson).

Little Egret - Photo by Bill Aspin 2000.

Little Egret; An adult present from 13th to the 16th August 2000 (DB). The bird often gave excellent views on the smaller reservoir, close to the road, during it's stay.

Bewick Swan; Just one documented record; an adult briefly on 05.03.95 (WCA).

Whooper Swan; I did not record any during the period Nov 1991-1995. Two adults on 29.03.98 (JM), is the only documented record that I am aware of.

Common Shelduck; This species over flies East Lancashire in an easterly direction on moult migration, from the Ribble Estuary, en-route to mudflats off the German coast in Late June / July. Rishton Reservoir is well situated to watch and count these birds as they move over the area. Optimum conditions are a clear evening, with good visibility and a light westerly breeze. The best method to maximize your chances of seeing any flocks is to sit at the eastern side of the reservoir and scan the sky to the West, remembering to also check the sky to the South and North. Flocks move over the area at a range of distances and heights, and not necessarily directly over the reservoir. Numbers do vary however from year to year, and seemingly perfect evenings often disappoint. During evenings when conditions were not considered perfect, i.e. hazy conditions, the occasional flocks could be seen tracking back to the Lancashire coast, having presumably decided to abort an overland crossing, after seeing less than favourable conditions ahead, as they approach the Pennines.

The highest number that I recorded over the Reservoir in a single evening was 528 in 11 flocks, ranging in size from 11 - 119, between 20.45 - 22.05 hours on the 19th July 1992. In subsequent years during the period 1993 - 95 (also recorded 200 flying East over the site, quite by chance, whilst fishing, one evening in July 1988).

At other times of year, a few birds pass through in Spring and Autumn, with the occasional record in late autumn / 2nd winter period winter, presumably relating to birds returning from moult migration.

Gadwall, Shoveler and Pintail; Scarce birds at the reservoir, with perhaps 1 or 2 records in most years. Most Shoveler records have occurred in Autumn, the peak count being 6 on the 15th August 2001.

Ring-necked Duck; the regular East Lancashire drake which visited various waters in the area from 1984-1995, graced the reservoir for just one day, 27th Feb 1994 (WCA).

Greater Scaup; 2 females on 28.11.93 (WCA). A 1stw drake on 18.01.94 (JM) and a female on 18-30.10.96 (JM).

Long-tailed Duck; One said to have been shot in the winter of 1855, by W. Naylor (Mitchell p.176 per Jackson, 1989)

Eider; A fem/imm was actually seen to fly in from the NE, whilst Tony Disley, John Metcalfe and Bill Aspin were watching the Black-throated Diver on 01.11.1993. The bird was still present next morning, but had departed by mid-day. It was interesting to see how quickly the Eider adapted to it's new surroundings, as after only 10 minutes, it was happily feeding on freshwater Mussels. Later the same evening, we discovered that the Eider was just one of an unprecedented influx of the species on inland waters to northern/midland counties of England.

Common Scoter; 1993; 4 drakes on 04.07 (WCA), 1 drake on 29.07 (WCA, JM). 1997; 9 on 16.10 (A.S.D). 2001; 1 drake on 29-30.07 (JM).

Smew; An adult female present from 12-14th December 1995 (WCA).

Red-breasted Merganser; Just one documented record; a female which alternated between Rishton and Parsonage Res, 8-12th March 1993 (WCA).

Goosander; A regular visitor in the winter months, usually in single figures.

Ruddy Duck; 1992; 1 drake on 02.10. (WCA). 1994; 1 fem/imm on 02.10. (WCA). 1996; 1 on 30.09. (per Lancs bird report). It is interesting to note that all three records in the nineties fell with a four day period in the calendar.

Marsh Harrier; Just to the south of the site, a female was seen by A. Wilson, being mobbed by Lapwings at Cowhill, Rishton on 26.05.1975.

Common Buzzard; 1995; One, which flew east-west on 05.09, was the only record during the period Nov 1991-1995 (WCA). 2000; 1 seen on 13.08 (JW, DB).

Osprey; 1 flew SW at 09.00hrs on 23.09.92 (WCA).

Merlin; Several records in the period 1991-1995, mainly in Autumn.

Hobby; Several records for the site between 1992-2002. All have been seen  between July-Sept. Observers include WCA, ASD and JM.

Peregrine; A fairly frequent visitor to the reservoir. The pylons on the western side of the reservoir are worthy of checking for any perched birds.

Grey Partridge; Although not a migrant, this declining species is worthy of mention. During the period 1991-1995, This species could be occasionally encountered in Norden Valley, adjacent to the reservoir, with coveys of up to 14 seen in autumn. I am unsure of the current status of the bird in the immediate vicinity, as of 2002.

Quail; 1 in a field along Cut Lane, just over the canal bridge, in Norden Valley on 25.05.1992 (ASD, JW).

Water Rail; One seen in flight over the A678 by the upper reservoir (DB), is the only record for the site that I am aware of.

Little-ringed Plover; Jackson (1989) commented that "singles have been recorded at Rishton Reservoir" - an indication of how uncommon this species was in the seventies. Indeed, the first proven breeding record for Hyndburn occurred in 1978. How things have changed! From Nov 1991-95 to 2002, the species was a guaranteed double passage migrant through the site, numbers peaking in July, with counts of up to 14 recorded. Breeding attempts can be expected to occur during years when the water level is low. Earliest Spring record; 16th March 1993. Latest date; 15th Sept. 1993.

Ringed Plover; A double passage migrant, usually in single figures.

Golden Plover; Usually only seen occasionally, in low single figures at the reservoir, though the occasional larger flock sometimes occurred i.e. 67 on 5th Nov 1995.

Grey Plover; A juvenile seen briefly at 08.05hrs on 2nd October 1995, was the sole record during the period Nov '91-'95 (WCA).

Knot; 1973; 2 on 22.09.73 (E. Kwater). 1993; 1 on 25-28.07.93 (JM, WCA). 1994; 1 on 29.03. and 1 on 18.08. (WCA).

Sanderling; 1972; 1 on 27.05. 1975; 1 on 04.10. 1993; A single on 15.05. was the only  record during the period  '92 -'95 (WCA). No subsequent records.

Little Stint; 1972; 2 on 17.08 (N. McNeil). 1978; 1 on 12-13.09 (DJ).  1993 - 1 juv on 25th August (WCA), 1 juv on 10th Sept. (JW). 1995 - 2 juvs 12-14.09. (JM).

Pectoral Sandpiper; A fabulous discovery by John Metcalfe, was East Lancs 2nd record of this species, a juvenile, present on the west shoreline of the main reservoir on the afternoon of 18th Sept. 1999. The bird showed well for up to a dozen East Lancs birders until dusk.

Curlew sandpiper; 3 confiding juveniles present from 12-15.09.95 (JM). On the latter date, I was able photograph the birds whilst walking alongside them at a distance of no more than 20ft (WCA).

Dunlin; The 'bread and butter' Calidrid for inland patch birders. A double passage migrant through the site, usually in single figures. Autumn 1993 produced a total of 51 birds thru the site.

Ruff; Jackson (1989), does not mention any records for the site. 1993; Up to 5 present in Sept.  1994 - 1 on 19-21.08., 5 flew west on 25.08. and singles on 12th and 21st Sept. (JM, WCA). 1999; 1 on 31.08 (JM). 2000; 2 on 13-16th August (ELOC report).

Jack Snipe; During 1996, low water levels promoted the growth of vegetation along the western edge of the main reservoir and the overflow. Up to 5 birds were present between 19-28th October of that year (JM, WCA).

Common Snipe; Occasional flocks are seen on the western shoreline of the main reservoir, sometimes a reasonable number, e.g. 40 on 22.09.95 (WCA). Otherwise, it is possible to flush a few birds from the marshy field at the NW end of the dam wall.

Black-tailed Godwit; 1993 - 9 flew west on 03.07 (JM). 1994 - 3 on 29.06 and 4 on 15.07. 2000; 1 on 23.08 (ELOC).

Bar-tailed Godwit; 1973; 2 on 03.09 (D. Jackson). 1994; A stunning male in full summer plumage present on 05.07. (WCA). 1995; 1 on 06.01. (WCA).

Whimbrel; Recorded occasionally in both passage periods, usually in low single figures over flying the reservoir, often located by call. A flock of 30 that flew NE on 11.05.93 was by far the largest flock recorded (WCA).

Greenshank; "Recorded almost annually on Autumn passage" (The Birds of Hyndburn District, Jackson, 1989). Under 10 individuals recorded during the period 1991-95, but this did include 2 spring records (WCA). 4 were seen in July 2001 (JM).

Green Sandpiper; several records, all in Autumn, during the period Nov '91-'95, max count; 3 on 23.08.94

Turnstone; 1972; 1 on 27.05. (DJ). Two-three records (in May and August) of 3 birds in the early-mid nineties, but dates not currently available (WCA).

Arctic Skua; A tame juvenile was watched at close range, by several observers, on the bank of the main reservoir, before flying west, on 02.09.1973 (D. Jackson, N. McNeil et al).

Glaucous Gull; A 1stw on 20.12.2000. (WCA). Also, one or two sightings on dates in the mid-nineties.

Iceland Gull; An adult was seen on 28.12.94 (WCA, ASD). There have also been at least 2 sightings of this species subsequently, but no dates to currently to hand.

Mediterranean Gull; The first documented record for the site was a 1stw on 14-15.01.95 and again on 05.02.95 (JW, WCA). I have seen this species on at least 4 occasions subsequently, between 1995-2002. Given the upsurge of records in East Lancs of this species since 1995, and the number of B.H. Gulls, 100+ regular flock, using the site in the autumn/winter months, this species is surely annual at the site.

Little Gull; 1972; 1 on 30.05. 1973; An immature on 05-06.10 (Jackson, 1989). 1993; A 1stw on 31.01 (JM). 1995; 6 adults in summer plumage arrived from the east at 21.25hrs on 21.07, dropping low over the reservoir briefly, before flying SW (WCA, JM). 2000; An adult summer seen on 31.07 (ASD). 2002; A 1st summer bird from 30.04-05.05 (WCA).

Black-legged Kittiwake; 2 adults on 06.04.94 and single adults on 23.02.95 and 08.03.95 (WCA).

Terns; An excellent track record for Terns, probably for 2 reasons; 1) The reservoir lies in a good location within the Blackburn-Burnley syncline and 2) The Leeds - Liverpool canal runs adjacent to the reservoir. The 5 species of Tern which one could realistically hope to record all occurring during my time (1992 -'95). Both passage periods usually produce Terns of some description at the site. A strong SW-West wind in both seasons proved to be the best conditions for Terns occurring at the reservoir, in my experience. Also, East/SE winds always make the reservoir worth checking for Black Tern in late April-May.

Common Tern; As one would expect, the most frequently recorded Tern species at the site. Common Tern is the only species that one can usually guarantee at some point during both passage periods, usually in single figures. The max day count however was 34 on 11.09.92, an excellent count, particularly in Autumn.

Arctic Tern; 1991; 14 on 18th Sept. (per Lancs Bird report). 1992; During the Autumn, at least 28 birds were recorded, max. day count being 6 on 21.08. (WCA). 1993; Adult on 19.06 (WCA), singles on 19th and 31.07 (JM), 3 on 09.08 and 1, 12-13.09 (WCA). 1998; 1 adult on 2907 (JM). 2002; 1 on 29.04 (JM).

Black Tern; 1973; 8 on 17.09. 1974; 14 on 16.05. (DJ). 1992;  8 on 22.08. (WCA). 1995; 1 on 17.05. was the sole record for the year in East Lancs (WCA). 2001; A juvenile on 12-13.10. (DB).

Little Tern; 1972; 1 on 27.05. and 1 on 04.09 (DJ, N. McNeil). 1974; 1 adult "watched at very close quarters" on the west shoreline of the main reservoir, on 25.06 (DJ). 1993; 1 on 21.04. (WCA). 1996; 1 on 20.04 (JW), 1 on 03.06 (JM).

Sandwich Tern; 1972; 2 on 31.05 (DJ). 1977; 1 "watched at very close quarters" on 29.04. (DJ). 1994; 2, an adult and juvenile spent 50 minutes at the reservoir before flying west on the evening of 15.09.94. The juvenile was seen begging for food from the adult on the west shoreline of the main reservoir (WCA). 2001; A single was present for 10 minutes only on 10.07. (JM).

Turtle Dove; Two records, both in Cut Wood; the first seen "on a date in the early 1970's" (G.G. per Jackson, 1989), and, 1 present with the local Collared Doves, around the children's playground area from 04-11.09.1993 (JM). Poor record photographs of this latter record were obtained by Bill Aspin.

Tree Pipit; 1 on 12.08.94 appears to be the only documented site record (WCA).

Rock Pipit; John Metcalfe has recorded birds as follows; 1 on 03.10.95; 2 on 20.10.96; 1 on 17.10.97; 1 on 17.10.99; 2 on 21.10.99 and 1 on 04.11.01.

Yellow Wagtail; Jackson (1989) in 'The birds of Hyndburn District' referred to this species as being "Tolerably common in damp pastures, especially in fields alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal." Experience of this species during the period 1992-1995, was of a double passage migrant in small numbers. Since the mid-nineties however, the continued decline of this species both within the county and nationally as a whole, would suggest that this species is now possibly nothing more than a scarce, but still annual, passage migrant through the site. A 'Flava' wagtail considered by the observer to be a female 'Blue-headed' was seen on 10.05.1993 (ASD).

White Wagtail; 1 on 21.04.94. is the only documented record that I could find. (WCA).

Waxwing; 1972; 1 present in a garden opposite the upper reservoir (overflow) on 09.12 (D. Rawcliffe, D. Jackson) 1992; 5 seen in trees between the football pitch and the Sailing Club driveway on 06.03.92, with 1 seen next day (WCA).

Nightingale; Jackson (1989) includes a record as follows; "A few years before the publication of the 1905 journal, a Nightingale was reported singing in Cut Wood, Rishton. The story goes that the wood was rung by small lights, in order to catch a view, and seating was even hired from Blackburn for people to sit and hear the "Rishton Nightingale". - A very nice story, and, if authentic, the only record."

Whinchat and Stonechat; The line of fencing, below the farm buildings in the NE corner of the reservoir, which runs along the sluice from Cut Lane towards the Dam wall is a good place to look for either species during Autumn, with, on occasion, double figure counts of Whinchat. Stonechat only usually occur as singles or a pair and occasionally remain faithful to the area in mild winters.

Northern Wheatear; A double passage migrant through the site in the period 1992-1995. The highest counts occasionally reach double figures in Spring. The favoured areas being the Dam Wall and fields to the west of the reservoir, in my experience (WCA). Jackson (1989) cites "Breeding also recorded on a few occasions near Rishton Reservoir in the last 10 years".

Sedge Warbler; Does not breed on-site, but this species is annual, mainly in Autumn, in bank-side vegetation around both the upper and main reservoirs.

Reed Warbler; One record; 25.08.94, in vegetation adjacent to the promenade (WCA).

Lesser Whitethroat; Recorded this species with some regularity in both Autumn 1994 and '95. There is no reason to suppose that this species is not an annual migrant through the site, mainly in autumn. Just the one Spring record (Nov '91-'95), of a singing male in May 1993.

Common Whitethroat; Only a handful of records during the period 1992-1995, involving autumn migrants in bank-side vegetation and in the nettle banking below the farm buildings in the NE corner of the reservoir.

Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff; These three species are usually encountered in both passage periods.

Pied Flycatcher - During the nineties, just 2 records. One briefly in bank-side vegetation on 17.08.95 (WCA), and a male in Cut Wood on an April date in the late nineties (JW).

Spotted Flycatcher; Has previously bred in Cut Wood. During my time (1991-1995), occurred only as an autumn migrant, when one could sometimes see up to 4 birds in Cut Wood.

Great-Grey Shrike; One was at the "Rishton Reservoir Plantation" on 06.03.1977 (D. Jackson).

Wood Warbler; A very occasional migrant with only 2 records, both in May, involving singing males in Cut Wood. The first of the two records occurring on 08.05.88 (D.Bickerton).

Brambling; occasionally, in good influx years, this species can be seen in Cut Wood, e.g. 25 on 30.10.95.

Siskin; An annual passage migrant, mainly in autumn. The earliest autumn record was of 1 on 1st July 1994.  A flock of 100 flew SW on a date in October 1993 (WCA).

Twite; A flock of c.30 on 12.12.95, with 17 remaining to the year end (WCA, JM). The birds frequented the western shoreline of the main reservoir during their stay.

Redpoll species; Lesser Redpoll; A handful of records each year, during the period Nov 1991-1995, usually involving singles on visible migration, with  occasionally a small double-figure flock. Common (Meally) Redpoll; A flock of c.20 Redpoll, feeding in trees adj to the promenade in January 1996, contained several individuals of this recently split species.

Common Crossbill; One record of a party of 4 birds seen on 17th Sept. 1997, which circled the promenade, calling repeatedly, before flying north over the Beech trees at the Dam end (WCA). 1997 was one of three outstanding irruption years for this species in the UK in the past 12 years. 1990 and 2002 being the other two years.

During the period Nov 1991-1995, recorded 146 species - not a bad total for a small reservoir on the outskirts of Blackburn.

Bill Aspin (8th December 2002).

Birds of Cut Wood and Rishton Reservoir

Cut Wood Park in Rishton along with the Dunkenhalgh Estate are one of the few places in the borough where there is a higher than average density of mature broadleaved trees for the area. Though the tract of woodland is rather small, it does attract plenty of birdlife. The leaf litter provides a lot of foraging space for thrushes and the mature trees, especially the oaks, maintain good populations of insects that in turn provide food for the birds.

The margins of the park are well vegetated providing more foraging and nesting places for several species whilst the adjacent reservoir attracts a variety of wildfowl, gulls and waders.

Resident Breeding Birds of Cut Wood

Blue Tit

A common bird of woodland and gardens finds plenty of natural nesting places in the mature trees.

Great Tit

Probably commoner than Blue Tit, its “Teacher! Teacher!” song can be heard throughout the late winter and spring months.

Coal Tit

Less obtrusive than its more well known cousins, this bird has a higher pitched call and song and prefers coniferous and mixed woodland. Garden conifers also attract this small tit.

Long-tailed Tit

This small bird is regularly found in large noisy family parties from June to March. It becomes a little more secretive during its breeding season.


One or two pairs nest in the park but this bird can be very difficult to see. As its name suggests, this species creeps, mouse-like up the tree trunk in its search for insects in the bark. Its very high-pitched song is given early in the morning and the nest is usually in a fissure in the bark of a mature tree.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

One, possible two pairs breed. An old nest hole from 2008 is particularly prominent next to the path through the wood. These birds can be heard drumming throughout the spring from late February onwards. Look out for their undulating flight and their loud “pic” call.


A common sight and sound of the woods. This large pigeon with prominent white patches on its neck and wings nests in the canopy.

Collared Dove

A very common bird in parks and gardens. Their coo-coooo-cu song is regularly heard along Cut Lane.


One of our commonest birds with one of the most beautiful songs of any British bird. Several pairs breed around the park in the hedgerows and denser cover. They can be seen at all times of the year tossing leaves aside in their search for food – worms a speciality!

Song Thrush

The loud repetitive song of the Song Thrush can be heard during the spring and early summer. This snail-eating thrush has suffered set-backs in recent years but the population around Cut Wood seems to be fairly stable.

Mistle Thrush

The largest of the thrushes, this species can be seen regularly on the football pitch as it bounds around the open spaces before diving back into the canopy with its rasping football-rattle-like call. An early breeding species that sings its loud, short phrases from January onwards.


Everyone knows the Robin but not everyone realises was a lovely song it has. Often the last to finish singing in the evening, you’re bound to be serenaded by the melancholy tune if you pay a late visit to the park. Scrubby areas and dense vegetation are needed for Robins to nest securely – they seem to especially favour the stands of Holly.


This tiny bird has a big voice. Commonly found in the denser parts of the wood feeding on insects and never flying too far. Its complicated, fast-paced song, once learnt, is never forgotten.


Another skulking bird found close to dense cover and often out of sight but in spring, they sit on top of bushes and sing their strident but uninspiring song.

Carrion Crow

Regularly nest high in the canopy.


Another common bird that occasionally builds its domed nest high up in the trees.


A native of woodlands, this species tends to nest in houses these days and comes to the football field to feed.

House Sparrow

What? In the park. Yes, the Sparrows love the hedges that border Cut Lane and breed under the eaves of nearby houses. This species has suffered in recent years due to us tidying up our houses too much!


The commonest British bird is also common around Cut Wood. There used to be a large wintering flock at the western end of the wood but that hasn’t materialised in the last few years. The chirpy song of the Chaffinch is a common sound of the park.


Regularly encountered on the woodland edge and in amongst the new plantation, the wheezing song of the Greenfinch advertises its presence.


This striking species can often be found singing at the entrance to the park and around the fringe woodland. Flocks of up to twenty birds in summer and autumn are not unusual and what was once just a summer visitor to East Lancashire, can now be found throughout the year due to the take up of seed at garden feeders.

Lesser Redpoll

One pair of this diminutive finch is regularly in the vicinity, the giveaway being the male’s song flight around the territory.


A couple of pairs nest in the area. This bird likes to eat the fresh buds off trees and can normally be seen and heard around the fringes of the park.

Reed Bunting

Present all year round, this species can be regularly found around the reservoir with the male giving his rather monotonous chirping song from the top of a bush.

Summer visitors

Willow Warbler

The descending song of the Willow Warbler is one of the first migrant songs to be heard. Arriving in mid-April and leaving in August, it prefers the scrub between the play area and the reservoir.


Occasionally, Blackcaps overwinter but at Cut Wood they arrive in April to breed in the denser vegetated areas. They have a beautifully complicated rich warbling song and a loud ‘tack’ call.


A bird of open scrubby areas, they arrive in May and breed near the reservoir , along the railway line and occasionally in the park.


Rishton Reservoir

Great Crested Grebe

This beautiful bird is totally dependent on water. It builds its floating nest amongst the waterside willows and is extremely susceptible to large fluctuations in the water level. Up to three pairs have attempted to nest on this small body of water and the bird’s courtship ritual can be seen from the promenade in March and April.


A regular visitor seen fishing the reservoir or resting on the western bank.

Grey Heron

One or two are regularly seen around the reservoir.

Canada Goose

A common sight here and along the canal.


Instantly recognisable as our most common duck and regularly comes to be fed. They breed around the reservoir and on farmland under hedgerows.


Irregular visitor to the rushy/shallow areas of the reservoir in winter.

Tufted Duck

A occasional visitor during the winter. Other duck species such as Wigeon, Goldeneye, Shoveler, Common Scoter, etc  occasionally drop in but rarely stay more than a couple of days.


A regular winter visitor, normally found fishing close to the dam wall.


This bird of prey can be regularly seen in the area and often perches on the pylons to the west of the reservoir.


A daily visitor to the reservoir edge, woods and hedgerows looking to pick off the unwary bird.


The white fronted Coot is resident around the reservoir and regularly comes to food.


Similar to the Coot but much more shy, this species keeps to the reedy margins of the reservoir.


The ‘Peewit’ was once a common sight and sound across much of England but has suffered greatly in recent years. However, Rishton still holds a good population and their display flight and characteristic call can be seen over the fields surrounding the reservoir.


An occasional visitor to the western shore. Once bred in the vicinity.

Common Sandpiper

A summer visitor and occasional breeder.  Can often be seen along the very edge of the water feeding with its characteristic bobbing motion.

Little Ringed Plover

A rare summer visitor that occasionally breeds on the western bank when there is enough sand exposed.


Keeps itself hidden in the rushy edges of the small reservoir much of the time.


A summer visitor that nests in the fields around Rishton.

Black-headed Gull

Present all year round but scarcer during April – June when they’re at their breeding colonies. This is the commonest Gull species on the reservoir but at least ten other gull species have been seen during the winter months and migration periods.

Herring Gull

During the winter, especially, large numbers of gulls use the reservoir as a place to drink and bathe, especially after feeding on local fields and tips. Herring Gull is the most common of the larger gulls but, especially during the autumn months, large numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls can be present.


A sign of summer, this much-loved species nests in nearby farms and outbuildings and comes to the reservoir to feed on insects.

House Martin

A bird that nests on several houses along Blackburn Road and elsewhere, it can also be seen feeding above the trees and over the reservoir.

Sand Martin

The first migrant to arrive back in March, the nearest nesting colony is on the Dunkenhalgh Estate but they come to the reservoir in sometimes large numbers to feed on  insects, especially on cool evenings in the summer.

Meadow Pipit

A common migrant and summer visitor on the fields around the reservoir.

Pied Wagtail

This black and white bird is commonly seen on the western shore and around neighbouring farmyards. It is present all year round.

Grey Wagtail

This species is also present all year round but, unlike its name suggests, is quite a handsome bird with a bright yellow undertail. Not to be confused with Yellow Wagtail that is now a rare migrant visitor.


Occasionally seen darting across the reservoir – it tends to perch out of sight in the waterside willows.


A pair is regularly seen flying over the park and have attempted to nest on the pylons. 

Dave Bickerton

February 2011



Lancashire evening telegraph

A Chronology of Accrington and Men of Mark, by R. S. Crossley, Published 1924.

Rishton on Record, the Festival of Britain 1951.

East Lancashire Bird Watching web site. (No longer working http://www.eastlancsbirding.co.uk/main/rishtonres.htm)

Cotton town website