Sunday, 23 March 2014

brief update

6 singing chiffchaff on Saturday morning between barleyfield and water bridge. The one at water bridge calling distinctly slower than others.
singing blackcap in hawthorn wood
3 redwing on barleyfield
male grey wagtail at waterbridge, different to the male I saw near meccano in early march. the latter was really well marked whereas the former was duller; does this mean it was a younger bird??
still very little evidence of nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker; both of these were very prominent a year ago in a very different spring.  could it be  that last year their food source was still on the tree because there were no flying insects and now even blue tits are flycatching hmmmmmm.
finally a belated early march report of collared dove on the canal at wightwick.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Hawthorn wood today had two male blackcap one in full song the other only managing desultory chatter. Also pairs of jays and sparrowhawk and singing chiffchaff at waterbridge.
The stadium had a redpoll and 4 siskin.
The rook estate now has 18 nests.
It was very noticeable how many song thrush were seen some carrying food suggesting mate's incubating.  It will be interesting to see if they are the first to produce young (even in last years cold I found two fully fledged young in a highland glen in mid may!) although one would expect the first visible young to be mallard or even moorhen whose reduction in numbers is probably down to sitting birds.



Long time no post, so a scan of the weeks which marked the end of one of our mildest-ever winters is perhaps in order.  Unlike the freezing winter of 2012/13 there've been no unusual mid-winter visitors to the canals, mixed finch flocks have been few and far between,  gull numbers have been down on playingfields and Dunstall Park, winter thrushes have hardly featured, and garden feeding stations have been unseasonably quiet.  On the quieter, sunnier days, however, there were birds to be found, and as Geoff and Ian have reported, last week's warm winds and sunshine brought the first passage birds back to the valley, at least three weeks earlier than last year when frozen ground and bitter weather stopped migration in its tracks.  Some species are already nesting, bumble bees and butterflies are on the wing, and celandine and coltsfoot are carpeting the canalbanks.  So, just a brief look back on some of the birds seen and heard as winter drew to a close.

Newbridge, Aldersley and Dunstall Park                     

It's the beginning of February, and a Tawny Owl calls from the edge of Newbridge playingfield at around midnight on 6th (one is heard at in the Aldersley stadium/Dunstall Water Bridge area at 10.15 in the morning on March 5th).  At least 20 Siskin chatter communally in trees by the old railway south of Hordern Road throughout the month, alongside a few Redpoll and at least one Bullfinch pair, and the largest Black-headed Gull flock of the winter numbering around 900 birds is on Dunstall Park on February 22nd with 30 Lesser Black-backed Gull.   Two pairs of Raven are seen together over Dunstall Park and Oxley on February 15th, the one pair's aerial display suggesting they may be the valley's nesting birds defending their territory, at least 10 Redwing forage along the canal boundary of the racecourse on February 22nd,  a Treecreeper feeds along a rotting fence by the old railway just north of Tettenhall Road on February 24th  (there is one in Newbridge wood on March 11th), and the month's star bird fishes on the canal just north of Dunstall Water Bridge on February 12th, a handsome male Goosander, very likely the bird seen more than once by Ian at the southern end of the valley in recent weeks.  A Rook pair were building a nest in the oak copse on the edge of the racecourse by the Water Bridge on February 24th, and despite an absence of birds at the site during January's tempestuous weather, by mid-March at least 15 nests have been completed at what is now the valley's only rookery.  At least 20 Jackdaw were seen in the same copse on March 3rd, a Green Woodpecker called from the site on March 15th, and a pair of Grey Wagtail foraged nearby at the Smestow brook culvert entrance by the Water Bridge on March 8th, and Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker have been heard and seen throughout the period in Newbridge wood.  The low chuntering sub-song of a wintering Blackcap came from an ivy-covered tree by the old railway north of Tettenhall Road on March 5th, and a male of the same species which had been a daily visitor to a garden next to Newbridge playingfield since January 6th was last seen on March 9th, a stay of nearly nine weeks.
At Dunstall Park lake, duck numbers have fallen, with just a pair of Teal (31 birds were present on January 19th) remaining, and two male and a female Shoveler and a Mallard pair seen on March 18th.  The Gadwall pair present on and off at the lake throughout the late winter were still there on March 16th and a pair of Little Grebe have been heard and occasionally seen in the last few weeks, raising hopes of another nesting attempt (the last successful breeding was 14 years ago).  At least five pairs of Coot are setting up breeding territories, two Moorhen pairs are disputing nesting sites and around six pairs of Canada Geese are in constant and noisy conflict along the shoreline.  Snipe numbers are always difficult to gauge, but at least 20 were counted on the island  on March 16th, around 30 Starling have been bathing at the lake in recent days, a pair of Stock Dove have been drinking there, and a male Reed Bunting was in shoreline bushes on March 18th.  Flocks of c.30 Crow, up to 25 Magpie and a pair of Mistle Thrush have been seen on the central grass area of the racecourse, and a dark-plumaged Buzzard has been seen regularly, either perched or flying low across the Valley Park School end of the site, much to the consternation of the nesting Rooks.
Elsewhere, at least one Jay has been seen and heard by the old railway at Aldersley stadium, eleven Greenfinch were in bushes by Newbridge canal wharf on February 10th, and single Goldcrest were by the towpath at Aldersley stadium on February 7th, in Newbridge wood on February 10th and by Newbridge playingfield on March 3rd in a conifer where the species nested two years ago.  Goldfinch sang at Dunstall Park, in Newbridge wood, the hawthorn wood north of Hordern Road, the Water Bridge and by Newbridge playingfield, Coal Tit were heard at Tettenhall Road bridge, by Newbridge playingfield and by the old railway south of Aldersley stadium, and Long-tailed Tit pairs fed in gardens and along the old railway anywhere from Newbridge to Oxley.  Song Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, Wren and Dunnock were in voice all along the valley, with garden visitors including Wood Pigeon, Blackbird and Collared Dove.  
NB.  Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

what a difference a year makes

Cannot help but reflect back on this time last year when any migrant foolish enough to arrive would be lucky to survive and we witnessed warblers feeding on the ground.
Today in the north of the valley there were three singing chiffchaff somewhat incongruously accompanied by a singing Redwing in hawthorn wood.
A little further north adjacent to the rifle range another warbler but this time the pale legs more attenuated form and longer supercilium indicated a Willow Warbler which fed extremely actively.
Postscript to yesterday was displaying lapwing and calling skylark at the southern end of the valley beyond castlecroft bridge.
Postscript to today was 3 buzzards soaring over my house in crowther rd.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Review of wintering species.
Little Grebe; they now seem to have left the canal, last sighting I had was 3 on 7th March
Fieldfare; none today flock of around 50 on farmland beyond pool hall last Saturday
Redwing small groups of 5/6 along valley up to yesterday
Goosander still in first few days of March possibly commuting between Poolhall and fishery off Wergs Hall lane.
Siskin; still the little group on Smestow behind coach depot.

Other news

Rooks; after a late start (often return to rookeries late January) our Rookery just north of water bridge has 15 nests twice as many as previously perhaps reflecting better survival rates in mild winter.
Finches; Goldfinches seem to be much the most numerous of this family in the valley. It is normal to encounter 50+ whilst Chaffinch seem scarce although did encounter flock of 150 on fields with above mentioned Fieldfare.
Goldcrest; several singing birds along railway line.
Buzzard; many sightings including 5 along tettenhall ridge
Chiffchaff; as per Geoff posting 2 singing either side barleyfield this morning

and finally again this morning a sand martin catching insects over the training pitches

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

first and last

It is that time of year when birders eagerly seek out spring arrivals and also note the last sighting of winter visitors.  So in response to Geoff's post all I can offer is that I have not yet heard a singing Chiffchaff in the valley (nor in a days birding today in Wyre forest).  But on 27th Feb I did see a Chiffy fly across Lloyd St and dive into the hedge just beyond the Summerhouse Pub. No I hadn't been in.  It was followed by a male Blackcap which then showed well in the adjacent tree.
With Blackcaps it is generally assumed that our wintering birds are different to our summer visitors but I am not sure if the same can be said for chiffchaff.
Otherwise a calling Tawny Owl daytime last week nightime mid Feb,.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

First migrants of spring, but are they coming or going

sun 9th march 2014                                 early morning                              mid section         

warm and sunny 1st spring morning

On arrival at the top of the Barleyfield I could hear the chiff - chaff song of a chiffchaff coming from the birch plantation, but is this a very early spring migrant or one of the growing number of British wintering chiffchaffs on its way to Northern Europe. If its the former its 5 to 10 days earlier that usual, another Chiffchaff was singing on the western border of the Barleyfield near the old oak tree, of note there was one at Belvide Reservoir yesterday and it will be interesting to see if Angus or Ian have any today.
 At last the muddy paths seem to be drying out.
Other birds of note included 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, the local pair of Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, 8+ Redwing, 2 Siskin, a bright male Lesser Redpoll, the Coot is still present just south of Tettenhall Rd, the usual singing birds Wren,Dunnock,Robin,Chaffinch and Blue / Great Tits,                

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Water Vole

1st March 2014                midday               mid section

Not the best time for birding,around midday,but i'll give it a go.

             Coot is not considered a winter visitor but its the nearest I can muster today as any sort of seasonal interloper.One was on the canal at Newbridge, possibly the one thats spent most of the last few months further north near the Wildlife Centre at Hordern Rd.

        Plenty of singing birds encountered including Goldfinch,Greenfinch,Chaffinch,Wren,Dunnock,Robin and Blue and Great Tits. A Great Spotted Woodpecker  was drumming on the Barleyfield but strangely no thrushes were vocal.Three  Buzzard soaring over Tettenhall Ridge with a pair very high and another much lower.
   The highlight of the day tho was undoubtedly
 a very obliging
 Water Vole eating the vegetation opposite the moored boats just north of Tettenhall Rd bridge.

Apologies for poor quality only had phone available