Theale Area Bird Conservation Group.

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Pingewood Sites.

The Pingewood area is situated to the east of the Theale recording area and hosts a number of gravel pit's with the majority beingnorth of the M4. The key sites in the area being Burnthouse Lane, Searles Lane and Smallmead Pit. 

Some of the gravel pits in the area are still used for gravel extraction so are constantly changing, with the kind co-operation of the owners Hadleys, the TABCG help to protect breeding species at some of these key sites.

The mix of gravel pits, a landfill tip, dense scrub and well established hedgerows play a large part in the diverse selection of species that can be found here during the year, Wildfowl,Gulls & Warblers all thrive during their respected seasons and the Pingewood area plays a big part in the survival of Nightingale in Berkshire. This species relies heavily on dense scrubland which is abundant in this area, Nightingales can often be heard singing their powerful 'rich & fluty' song at the Searles Lane complex from mid-April until they find a suitable mate. Once you've heard one you will never forget the experience!

Pingewood can offer something at all times of the year but is most productive during passage migration when anything can turn up.

Spring brings passage migration with Grebes, Ducks, Waders, Wagtails,Wheatear & Warblers all arriving. Sand & House Martin, Swallow & Swift can all be seen in large numbers as they stop to fuel up before continuing their migration.

In summer the hedgerows, bushes and reedbeds are alive with activity, a good selection of Warblers can be found skulking amongst the undergrowth and there's a very good chance of seeing Hobbies as the hawk insects of the pits.

Autumn & Winter brings the possibility of something special as passage waders move south, Rarer Grebes and Ducks stop off and Gull numbers in the area rise as they congregate at the nearby Moatlands roost in the evenings.

During the daytime many Gulls from the roost can be found feeding around the Smallmead Tip area, here large numbers congregate to feed from the landfill site often returning to Searles Lane to preen and clean. Patient viewing from either of these site could turn up something special, perhaps another Laughing Gull!




Burnthouse Lane Pits - SU678684 K on map

From the Burghfield Road head east along Amners Farm Road taking the turning right along Burnthouse Lane towards the R.O.F Burghfield facility, a small lay-by can be found opposite the Burnthouse pit's and a path leads up the bank to the best viewing point of the gravel pits, becareful as you reach the top of the bank as it's easy to scare many of the birds that are on the pit's. From the bank near the road it is possible to scan the ever changing pit's.(Under No Circumstances View The R.O.F Facility As It Is A Sensitive Research Establishment-You Do So At Your Own Risk!) 

These are working gravel pits so are under contstant change, as areas are worked other become wildlife havens for other species. The pit's are regularly watched and can often turn up something special at all times of the year.
This site is probably best known for passage waders with spring and autumn being the best times to visit. During spring migration both Yellow & White Wagtail can sometimes be found along with Wheatear, Wader sightings may include Little & Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Common & Green Sandpiper along with Warblers and later on Hobby. Keep an eye out for Red Kite, Buzzard and Peregrine as they are all often seen passing over.
The Burnthouse Lane pits have hosted some very good birds over the years including Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe,  Spoonbill, Bean & White-fronted Goose, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Ring-necked Duck, Eider, Red-footed Falcon, Dotterel, Pectoral & Curlew Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull & Ring Ouzel.










Searles Lane - SU687702 B,C,D on map

Searles Lane can be accessed from Berry Lane and has a small layby which has enough room for a few cars. There is a small footpath that leads east and between the Searles Lane North and South pits, from this path there are a number of viewing points that look out on to the pits.

The pathways are lined with established scrub and thickets which offer suitable habitat for many different species of bird, in turn the gravel pits host many species of Wildfowl giving a chance to view a varried selction of birds at all times of year.

In spring and summer the bushes and thickets around the pits host many of the Warbler species returning to these shores to breed, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common & Lesser Whitethroat can often be seen and heard.

This is also another very important area for the Nightingale and males can be heard singing from early spring and until they mate, early morning or night being the best time to hear them in their full splendour.

Autumn and winter brings a good number of wildfowl which include Goldeneye and possible Black-necked Grebe, Scaup & Red-crested Pochard.

Little Egret and Bittern have become more regular sightings here and searching amongst the Gull flocks can turn-up Caspian, Yellow-legged & Mediterranean Gull. Keep an eye out for Kingfisher and an ear out for Cetti's Warbler as well.








Resident: Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Mallard,Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed & Herring Gull, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little & Tawny Owl, Kingfisher,Green&Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Pied & Grey Wagtail. Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song & Mistle Thrush, Common Tit & FinchSpecies, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.  

Spring: With Spring migration underway the Pingewood area can host a variety of species, Ducks include  Mandarin, Garganey and Red-crested Pochard. Possible Wader sightings include Oystercatcher, Little & Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Common & Green Sandpiper. Passage Terns may include Common & Arctic. Sand & House Martin, Swallow & Swift, Wagtails, Nightingale, Wheatear, Sedge & Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common & Lesser Whitethroat.
Summer:  By Summer most of the birds are engrossed in nesting or fledging activity and hedgerows and thickets are now occupied by Wrens, Dunnocks, Robins, Nightingales, Blackbirds & Thrushes,  Warblers & Finches. Hobbies have now arrived and can often be seen hawking insects or Martins over the gravel pits and there's always a chance of hearing the 'purring' of Turtle Dove.
Autumn: Towards the end of Autumn Wildfowl numbers start to build up, Gull numbers start to increase on the neighbouring pits with many of them visiting the Pingewood pits during the day before returning to the massive roost at the nearby Moatlands pit, there's always the possibilty of a rare Gull amongst them. Little Egret are becoming a more common sighting and especially at this time of the year, both Common & Jack Snipe are often present late Autumn and there's always the possibility of some of the less common waders including Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank & Green Sandpiper. 
Winter: As wildfowl numbers grow there's always a good possibilty of a rarer species turning up, Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard & Scaup have all been sighted in the Pingewood area and predomantly at the Searles Lane gravel pits. Large rafts of Coot can be found amongst Gadwall, Wigeon & Pochard, other possibilties are Pintail, Snipe & Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Caspian & Yellow-leggd Gull. Winter Finches include Siskin, Brambling and Redpoll which can often be found around the Searles Lane complex during the winter months. Winter Thrushes include Fieldfare & Redwing.
Rarities Include: Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Smew, Spoonbill, Bean & White-fronted Goose, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Ring-necked Duck, Scaup, Ferruginous Duck, Eider, Red-footed Falcon, Dotterel, Pectoral & Curlew Sandpiper, Laughing,Caspian & Ring-billed Gull, Ring Ouzel.

White-fronted Goose©Ashley Stow
Garganey©Marek Walford
Red-crested Pochard©Jerry O'Brien
Nightingale©Jerry O'Brien
Laughing Gull©Jerry O'Brien