Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve covers 73 ha of wetlands and was the first example of a gravel pit site in the UK being developed for nature conservation. It lies immediately north of Sevenoaks in Kent. Over two thousand species have been identified at the reserve, which is made up of five lakes and a mixed habitat of ponds, flooded pools, reedbeds, and woodland.
The water levels in the lakes are managed so that, in spring and summer, specially created islands and shallows are exposed. This creates feeding and nesting areas for a variety of waders and waterfowl such as moorhens, coots, and great crested grebes. The winter months see wildfowl such as greylag geese and tufted ducks regularly using the open water on the lakes and occasional exotic visitors such as snow geese. There are numerous bird hides throughout the reserve, which are all free to use and located next to the walking trails. Check out the kingfisher hide to look out for kingfishers darting into the water in a flash of blue!
Average rating: 2.9 (average)
Average cost: free!
Best time to visit: all year round, with common wildfowl species being abundant in winter. The reserve and nature trails are open daily, from dawn until dusk.
How to get there: there is free parking available on site. The nearest rail stations are Sevenoaks, Dunton Green, and Bat & Ball – all of which have regular services and are an easy walk away.
Typical activities: bird watching, walking
Number of reports: 7
WILDLIFE IN sevenoaks
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Great Crested Grebe – 86% OF WildSide Users (6/7) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The great crested grebe is an elegant waterbird with distinctive chestnut and black head plumes (in summer) which are raised during courtship. During this courtship display, they rise out of the water and shake their heads. Young grebes, which are striped black and white (like humbugs!), are often seen riding on their parents’ backs. Grebes are known to readily adopt flooded gravel workings and move to large lakes and reservoirs in the autumn. Making the reserve a perfect place to spot them.
Greylag Goose – 100% OF WildSide Users (7/7) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The greylag goose, which is the ancestor of most domestic geese, is the largest of the geese which are native to the UK. Flocks are typically found around gravel pits and lakes, like those at the reserve. They are often seen alongside Canada geese (which are also found in abundance here!). They are a greyish-brown colour with pink legs, and their large bill is orange, with a white tip. As with most geese, they can often be seen flying in “V’s” above the reserve. These geese are on the amber list in the UK.
Kingfisher – 0% OF WildSide Users (0/7) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Kingfishers are known for their bright blue and orange feathers. They are typically found near slow-moving water, such as the lakes and ponds at the reserve. They are around the same size as a house sparrow with a large head and dagger-like bill. Their distinctive call (a shrill “chreee” or “chee-kee”) usually provides the best clue to their presence. It’s thought that there are 3,800 to 6,400 breeding pairs in the UK. Although they are also on the amber list due to their unfavourable conservation status in Europe.
Snow goose – 0% OF WildSide Users (0/7) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Breeding in Siberia, Alaska, and Arctic Canada, small numbers of snow geese join other migrant geese and arrive in the UK in winter. Snow geese are usually seen in Scotland but have been seen in areas of South East England. Snow geese occur in two colour morphs – one is all white with black wingtips. The other is white-headed with a blue-grey body and wings. These birds may turn up in flocks of barnacle, brent, and white-fronted geese and can often be found in open fields and bodies of water. Keep an eye out at Sevenoaks and you might get lucky with a sighting of these beautiful visitors!
Great cormorant – 86% OF WildSide Users (6/7) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Great cormorants are usually found around the UK’s rocky coastline, but are becoming more common on lakes and rivers inland, especially in winter. If you want to see them at the reserve, they can sometimes be found on the West Lake. However, they are more regularly seen in larger numbers on the East Lake, in front of the Tyler Hide. They are the size of a large goose (80 – 100 cm), with a large body, and long thick neck. Adults are black, with white on their faces and thighs, while juveniles are usually dark brown with pale underparts. The chief threat to cormorants comes from human persecution – conflict with anglers continues, and they can now be shot under licence.
Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White