The odd pair nested in the North end of the valley until the late 1980's. Now a rare visitor. Last recorded at Dunstall Park on 10/3/2010 and before that in April 2009, when 2 were present at the Agricultural College test field, Compton Park, which has recently been bull-dozed for housing. The North of the valley used to be a stronghold, and it's not so long since you could have been lucky and found some around Wightwick Fields near Castlecroft canal bridge. A covey of 11 were seen there in November 2003 and 2 were present nearby in April 2007. An odd record was one seen in trees at the back of the Newbridge Pub in March 2006.
There have been 3 valley records since 1979, all in Spring:
13/4/1979 - 4 on Compton Fields.
1/5/2004 - 2 at Wightwick Fields.
30/3/2006 - 2 at Wightwick Fields
On 25/5/1992, a male was seen after thunder and torrential rain drying its wings on a path by what was the British Rail tip at Aldersley-Oxley. To the observer's horror a dog picked up the bird in it's mouth!!. The birder shouted and the dog obligingly dropped the bird which appeared dead in the hand. However it revived and walked off. Shortly after a female emerged responding to the males soft call, before disappearing again and the pair were never seen again!!
Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
In the 1980's a small stronghold existed in the Aldersley area. The only recent local breeding record was a sighting of 5 juveniles in fields North of the Birmingham Canal on 16/8/1999. Regular sightings at Dunstall Park (Private land) and around Wightwick Fields.
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficolis)
The emblem of the Smestow Valley Bird Group, deservedly so as the Valley holds excellent numbers on it's sheltered canals in Winter.Pairs attempted to nest on the Staffs and Worcs canal near Dunstall Water Bridge in 1987, 1996 and 1998, without success, but in 2000, a pair hatched 3 chicks at the maturing Dunstall Park Lake (Private Land), and one survived. 2001 looked promising, with 3 pairs present at the lake, but all nests were abandoned. After 2 pairs failed in 2003, there was no more records until 2007, when high water levels at the site helped a pair to raise one chick.
With such temperamental local breeding records Winter arrival and departure dates are highly unpredictable. Birds have generally arrived now by mid-October and depart during late February. Winter numbers have often hit double-figures, especially during freezing conditions and the valley record stands at 21 birds recorded in January 1996, during a particularly protracted cold-spell.
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Birds breed annually at Pool Hall and yet records in the valley remain rare. There have been 5 records:
24/4/1992 - 4 flew SE then South over Aldersley Playing Fields, near the canal junction.
19/8/1997 - a juvenile was at Dunstall Park Lake (Private land).
15/4/2005 - a Summer-plumaged adult was at Dunstall Park Lake.
A Summer-plumaged adult was seen at Dunstall Park lake between 18/2 and 5/3, then, presumably the same bird was there again between 18/4 and 24/4, and may have been the bird found dead on Aldersley Playing Fields on 1/5.
22/12/2010 - one seen flying over Dunstall Water Bridge in freezing weather.
Leach's Storm Petrel
One was seen heading North on strong winds over Dunstall Park (Private land) on 6/2/2002. record numbers were noted off Western coasts from 2/2/2002 to 20/2/2002, with 600 seen off the Wales and Cornwall coast alone on 6/2/2002. This was the first West Midlands record since what was probably one individual was seen at Bartley, Sandwell Valley and Chasewater on 27/9/1987.
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Over the years this species has been recorded in every month. It is most regularly seen during post-breeding dispersal from late August to October. However hard Winter freezes produce cold-weather movements as birds pass overhead between bodies of local water. At this time if you are lucky you may encounter birds fishing on the sheltered sections of the canals, near Aldersley, such as happened on 7/1/2010, when 12 were present on the Staffs and Worcs canal by the Wildside Centre at Hordern Road. Until 2001, birds had only been seen flying overhead. The first bird to set foot in the valley was in 2001 when one was found on a shed roof by Wightwick!!
In 2004 an immature bird visited Dunstall Park (Private land), paving the way for annual Autumn visits there, with 30 present in September 2009.
Eastern air streams may well have led to the valley's only record on 16/11/1991, when an immature bird was on the canal just South of Meccano Bridge. It is thought to have spent the night on the outboard motor of a canal cruiser at Newbridge and gave excellent views throughout the next day, diving and feeding on Roach-sized fish and standing on the towpath to dry out and preen.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Following the remarkable spread of this species in the U.K, it was only a matter of time before the valley would have it's first record. This came on 17/12/2003, when 4 birds were seen heading SW over Wightwick Fields, landing briefly on the Smestow Brook, before continuing towards Pool Hall. On 21/10/2006, 1 headed SW over Dunstall Park (Private land). 2010 brought the valleys third and fourth records: one was seen flying over the lower pool in the gardens of Wightwick Manor at lunchtime on 20/1 and was reported from there again, later the same day, and one flew from Dunstall Park Lake, low towards Aldersley before climbing and disappearing NW on the morning of 24/8
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
An early morning walk at any time of year can produce an encounter with birds fishing at the edges of the canals, and open sections of Smestow brook in the South end of the valley (especially in freezing weather). Our nearest Heronry is at Pendeford Mill Nature reserve, and from mid-Summer to Autumn, sightings increase as birds make fishing trips and later when adults and young are seen feeding in the valley. At this time Dunstall Park (Private land) offers relative safety and a record 18 were there in August 2009.
|Grey Heron at Newbridge April 2013 |
about to be pounced on by a Crow!!
A bird was mobbed by Jackdaws as it moved South, high over Newbridge on the afternoon of 30/4/1990.
There have been 5 records of this impressive migrant:
14/5/1986 - one over Dunstall Park
6/5/1996 - one North over Stockwell End
23/8/2002 - one South over Wightwick Fields
29/3/2004 - one North over the valley
9/6/2008 - a presumed non-breeder which appeared from the South over Dunstall Park (Private land),was mobbed by gulls as it circled the lake, before heading off North over the Bilbrook area.
The successful spread of these graceful birds of Prey from their Welsh stronghold, has led to us having 5 records of this species in the valley, all in Spring:
12/5/1996 - on International Bird day, the then Valley Park Bird Group was treated, as, in warm weather a bird circled high over Newbridge, before drifting North.
13/3/2002 - one seen heading North over Newbridge
19/3/2005 - one soaring above Compton.
28/5/2007 - one floated over Peasley Wood at lunchtime, before heading West towards Pool Hall.
22/3/2009 - one circled low, early on, over the old station at Newbridge, before drifting North
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
The expansion of this species into the Midlands has been remarkable. The first Valley record was on 29/3/1990, when an individual was seen over the Barleyfield. By 2000, over 40 records were being received each year, and we are now so lucky to have three pairs nesting locally. Peak times are in Spring as territories are established and late Summer/early Autumn as young and adults disperse, when up to 10 birds have been seen over the Valley.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
A species which has enjoyed stability and if anything an expansion in population locally. Up to 4 pairs nest annually in the valley (compared to 1 or 2 in the early 90's), with encounters possible anywhere, though as with most raptors, Spring gives the opportunity to enjoy birds displaying and establishing territories. Late Summer also offers the chance to see patience tested as young birds learn to fly, whilst being constantly mobbed by the local magpie and Corvid population!!!
There have been 5 records of this Buzzard-sized Bird of prey in the valley, all in Spring:
5/4/1990 - one headed, mid-morning, low over Valley Park, being continually mobbed.
6/3/2005 - a female flew along the valley from Wightwick towards Perton.
15/5/2005 - possibly the same female circled high over Wightwick Bank, with 2 Ravens, before leaving to the NW.
15/4/2007 - a male was over Wightwick Fields, drifting out over the Staffordshire countryside.
11/4/2009 - a large female showing fluffy white breeding undertail-coverts flew East over the Barleyfield.
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
In the 1980's pairs nested in the valley and at Dunstall Park (Private land). But by the late 90's there were none, although 3 pairs continued to nest nearby. In 2003, however the birds breeding status was restored as a pair raised 3 young at Dunstall Park (Private land), which has now become a traditional site once more. Concern remain for this species as suitable hunting areas become more disturbed and sterile.
Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
A handful of records are received each year of this exciting migrant.Since pairs nest in South Staffordshire, birds can be seen pretty much any time from their main arrival in May until they depart in early September. Although parties of Swallows and Martins at the Dunstall Park and Barnhurst Sewage Works can be an attraction for adults and dispersing juveniles, they can be encountered anywhere in the valley. Earliest arrival was 20/04/2007 and latest departure was 3/10/2000.
Peregrine Falcon (Flaco peregrinus)
Another success story. There were only 3 records between 1988 and 1994. Today it is usual for 10 or more sightings each year as the species continues to colonize the Midlands conurbation.Early Spring and late Summer, provide the best times for an encounter with this stunning bird.
There have been 5 records of this small, agile bird of prey:
7/1/1989 - a male hunted over the Barleyfield.
13/4/1993 - one at the Barleyfield and most likely the same bird on 16/4/1993 over fields North of Smestow School.
17/1/2004 - one SW over Wightwick Fields in the evening.
1/12/2006 - a female or immature bird was seen near Castlecroft canal bridge, heading over Wightwick Fields towards the Bridgnorth road.The bird then turned back, skimmed across the canal and headed off towards Radford Lane.