HEATON PARK RESERVOIR
by Pete Berry
Heaton Park Reservoir is owned by United Utilities and a permit MUST be obtained due to the restricted access to the site. There is a hide on site from which all of the reservoir can be viewed. Permits and keys for access and for the hide can be obtained free of charge from:-
Ed Lawrance, UU Bottoms Office, Woodhead Road, Tintwistle, Glossop SK13 1HS. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .Telephone: 01457 851087.
As Heaton Park Reservoir is now designated a 'secure site', access is not possible without a permit and two sets of keys (supplied to permit holders) but unfortunately permits are being restricted in number and it appears that a waiting list already exists.
Above: Heaton Park Reservoir (Photo by Ian McKerchar)
This is a granite sided reservoir with water levels that can vary and sometimes produce "good edges" for passing waders. The water is attractive to wintering wildfowl, with Tufted Duck, Goldeneye(100+), Goosander and Teal being the most numerous. The main attraction however is the large winter gull roost, which benefits from a nearby landfill site, and is undoubtedly the best site in the county for seeing large gulls, several thousand can roost some evenings. Yellow Legged Gulls are seen most visits and the first record of Caspian Gull for the County was found here in winter 2005/2006. White Wingers turn up each winter (mainly Iceland gulls these days) and two Kumlien's Gulls have been identified here. For some reason, perhaps the lack of gull scaring at weekends on the nearby landfill site, Saturday and Sunday usually hold the largest numbers of roosting birds with numbers tailing off as the week passes. There is also a roost of a couple of thousand Black Headed Gulls but Med. Gulls are rarely recorded.
Past rarities include Lesser Scaup (present for several weeks summer 2005 and 2006), Ring Necked Duck, Slavonian and Black Necked Grebe, Long Tailed Duck, Leach's Petrel and Honey Buzzard but as the reservoir is grossly underwatched lots of good birds probably go unseen.
Due to the access problems it is a condition of the permit that any rare birds are not put out to the pager or birdline services, and this condition must be strictly adhered to otherwise all future access could be refused.
Above: The gull roost very late evening, with the masses of various gulls just visible in a large 'raft' stretching across the water (Photo by Ian McKerchar)
Access to the reservoir is off St. Margarets Road, Prestwich and access to the hide is suitable for wheelchair users.