Finches & Buntings (15 species)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
In the late 1980's Autumn and Winter counts were in the 100's with the arrival of continental birds swelling numbers. With the exception of 200+ in a mixed flock at Wightwick Fields in December 2002, numbers have failed to reach these numbers since. Dawn watches have produced up to 100 birds overhead, but as an indicator, the largest flock recorded in 2010 was c20 at The Barleyfield. Pairs do of course continue to breed across the valley.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Recorded most years especially when Northern European tree fruits fail. The influx of Brambling that brought 40+ between Oxley and Newbridge in 1987 also served to bring the founders of what was to become The Smestow Valley Bird Group together!!!! Aside from influx years in 1992, 1993, 2005 and 2008, annual sightings have remained in single figures since then. In 2010, a female was at the Barleyfield on 16/10 and dawn watches at Castlecroft canal bridge produced single sightings on 18/10, 2/11 and 10/11.

Linnet (Carduelis spinus)
This species last successfully bred in the valley in 1991 (two pairs nested in 1992, but there was no proof of breeding and in 2012 a pair were seen at the top of the Barleyfield for almost a month, including collecting nesting material, without any proof of success). In 1988 around 60 were at Aldersley in January and around 100 at Dunstall Park (Private land) in September. By 1996, Winter Racecourse number were down to 50. By 2010 numbers were failing to even reach double figures in the valley.

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret)
A former resident breeding bird that was last bred in 1989. Summer sightings had faded by 1993, and the species is now a Winter visitor, mainly from October to early April. Winter numbers are variable, with c60 at Aldersley in March 2000 and November 2002, being the largest groups recorded. In 2010, 20 at Dunstall Park (private land) was a more typical maxima.

Common (Mealy) Redpoll
This scarce finch has been recorded in 2002 and 2006-2010, in small numbers. In 2010 a female was at the Dunstall Park feeding station (private land) on 14/3.

Goldfinch ( Carduelis carduelis)
Small numbers breed across the valley, with numbers apparently increasing in recent years. Post-breeding and Winter flocks vary widely. 100+ at The Barleyfield in November 2006, is the largest recorded flock, with numbers more typically being around the 30 mark. similar numbers have been recorded at Wightwick Fields, Turners Field and Dunstall Park over the years.

Greenfinch (Carduelis Chloris)
maybe 10 pairs have nested annually across the valley. Winter roosts at Aldersley Stadium, reached a peak of 130+ in December 1997, though there have been no significant counts at all from there since 1999. Flocks are attracted to the Rose hips at The barleyfield in Autumn, with 60+ there in October 2006. Recent years have produced less than 30 at this site. Dunstall Park (private land) has had its moments for Greenfinches with c50 there in September 2003 and 61 over there in November 2006. The largest group in 2010 was 10 at the tiop of the Barleyfield on 16/1. Recent dawnwatches at Castlecroft canal bridge had produced numbers that have just about made double figures.

Siskin ( Carduelis spinus)
A winter visitor, although birds have been recorded in May (2004) and July (1996,1997 and 2005). Meccano Bridge and The Barleyfield is the definite stronghold for this species, although good numbers have also occurred at Wightwick Fields and Dunstall Park (private land). As the Alders matured at The Barleyfield, exceptional numbers were recorded in the early noughties, with over 100 there in both Winter periods in 2002. After this 70 in January 2003 and 60 on January 2006 were the best records. In 2010, numbers were again good with c70 there on 21/12. 25 also flew out from the Double Pennant boatyard into Newbridge Wood on 27/12.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Smestow Valley is a real stronghold for this species and despite their beauty, to locals they are often took forgranted. Pairs nest along the valley. The species rarely forms large flocks but counts in the valley usually exceed 20 birds. In recent years, Dunstall Park (private land) has attracted good numbers at the feeding station with 13 there in May 2008, being the largest group recorded in the valley. he area between Turners Field and The Barleyfield represents another hot-spot for the species.

There have been three records since 1987:
November 1987 - one record.
9/2/1989 - one in hawthorn bushes by Dunstall Water Bridge, which flew into trees by Aldersley Stadium, before leaving towards Aldersley.
16/12/1990 - one with a Chaffinch flock at midday by the Smestow Brook, just North of Tettenhall Road.

Common Crossbill
There have been two valley records:
28/8/1999 - a small number were heard travelling high SW over Dunstall Park (private land)
5/6/2000 - 4 headed West over the Barleyfield.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Up to 5 pairs bred in the valley, and as recently as 2005. A pair now breed at Dunstall Park in most recent years, but sadly they are now absent from The Barleyfield after the last last breeding there in 2010. A male sang at a former breeding site by Lock 21 on the Birmingham Canal in late April and early May that year, but there was no evidence of breeding.Gone are the days of seeing 20+ at The Barleyfield in Winter (up until 1992), with the highest counts in recent years being 6 at Turners Field in February 2003 and 4 at The Barleyfield in March 2006.

Male Reed Bunting at the bottom of the Lupin Field
by Lock 19 of the Birmingham Canal April 2013

Little Bunting
One was heard and briefly seen at Aldersley/Oxley on 18/10/2003, appearing much smaller than the accompanying Reed Bunting, with chestnut on it's ear coverts and producing the typical "tic" like call. Unfortunately the bird could not be relocated.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
The cessation of arable farming at the Barleyfield in 1992, put an end to sightings of up to 50 Yellowhammer there in late Winter. The racecourse produced double figures up until 1998, before the species spectacularly crashed. A male sang at The Barleyfield in March 2008, but the last confirmed breeding in the valley was back in 1990, at that site when 3 males sang anddyoung were later seen. By 2010, all records came from birds that wander across or sing at the border with South Staffordshire at Wightwick Fields and Castlecroft canal bridge.

Corn Bunting
There have been two valley records:
12/4/1980 - 2 at Oxley
21/3/2004 - 2 by wightwick Fields

No comments: