Saturday, 28 September 2013

Patchy Vismigs, 2nd Wader Species attracted to Compton Park Wetlands and Work in the Valley

Unlike last year, when I had more time in September, this years vismigs (visible migration watches), from the Barleyfield, were rather hit and miss. This led to my missing the main hirundine (Swallow and Martin) passage, which occurred in the region on 15/9 19/9 on favourable South-westerlies.

22/9/13 Dead calm and mild, overcast Light SW 6:45 - 8;45am

Canada Goose - 65 SW
Mallard - 7 South
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 4 South
Black-headed Gull - 97 SW
Woodpigeon - only 6 SW
Swallow - 42 South
Tree Pipit - 2 separate individuals South calling
Meadow Pipit - 64+ South
Grey Wagtail - 2 South
Pied Wagtail - 8 South
Starling - 3 SW
Greenfinch - 3 South with 6 local at top of Barleyfield
Goldfinch - 1 East and 20+ local around Compton Park

Other sightings: Adult and Juv Buzzard calling from Tettenhall ridge, 1 Stock Dove on Barleyfield
4 Mistle Thrush on playingfield by Meccano Bridge, Dunnocks becoming more active with 3 calling at the South end of the Barleyfield, Chiffchaffs singing from top of Barleyfield and Western border, 2+ Coal Tit calling from the Western Border Annex.

22/9/13 7:00 till 7:30 Top of Barleyfield

A rare dusk visit paid dividends. 2 Common Sandpipers, headed low over the Barleyfield in a direct line Southwards from over the Lower Alders!! Whether they had actually visited the wetlands or not was unknown, but they were certainly attracted down to it as darkness was approaching.

This is the second wader species at this new site now, after a Little Ringed Plover was found there, again before dusk in the Spring.

23/9/13 1:00 am Junction of Compton Road and Richmond Road

Tawny Owl hooting there.

23/9/13 Vismig top of Barleyfield Misty overcast, drizzle, Light South

Autumnal weather produced the first vocal Song Thrush at Compton Hill Drive.

Canada Goose - 31 SW
Mallard - 4 South
Skylark - 3 very early birds, headed South together, briefly dropping onto the Barleyfield, producing a moment, which represented a flash-back in time to when large flocks were seen on the deck at this site. Excitement was therefore mixed with sadness.
Swallow - 91 South with the largest group holding 45 birds
Meadow Pipit - 24 South
Pied Wagtail - 19 South
Jackdaw - 11 South
Starling - 11 South 1 NE and 40+ feeding on the playing field by Meccano Bridge in the damp conditions.

Other sightings:Great Spotted Woodpecker at top of Barleyfield, 2 Chiffchaff singing from western border and middle scrub. There was also a fall at Eddy's Alders, with c10 Chiffchaff, 2+ Willow Warbler and 3+ Blackcap present there. Commitments prevented a tour of the patch to see other landings, which wasn't half frustrating!!! 5+ Song Thrush were also feeding in Elders there.

25/9/13  vismig abandoned as conditions worsened from dawn,  but a high count of 112 Canada Geese was notable.

26/9/13 vismig again abandoned, as forecast easterlies, turned out to be brisk NE, which just kills passage at this time of year, though the sturdier Woodpigeons will love such conditions, when they start to move in numbers next month. Another Song Thrush, was uttering short bursts of song near Meccano Bridge.

With 40+ Magpies heading between West and North-east at dawn, the total roost, must now be well over 60 birds. A Sparrowhawk was over Tettenhall College and 2 Grey Wagtail headed West off the wetland.

27/9/13 vismig 07:00 - 08:00 Light SE, dry, 70% cloud cover

What seemed to be highly favorable conditions, failed to fully materialise, although anything would have beaten the previous two watches!!

Canada Goose - 35 SW 2 NE
Mallard - 12 South
Swallow - 25 South in 3 groups
Meadow Pipit - 3 South
Pied Wagtail - 25 South
Jackdaw - 5 South ex roost
Starling - 34 SW from off the floodlights at the Academy

Conservation Works

The woodland edge and meadow has now been crafted by Compton Lock, and similar works will take place at the Paddocks, near the ranger station at Newbridge. This will result in an increase in biodiversity (the range of wildlife) and will benefit walkers, as the new method of management will reduce vegetation encroaching onto the footpaths.

The next Smestow Valley Advisory Group Meeting will be held on Tuesday 8/10/13. I have already raised the issue of Contractors sticking to their agreements, with regard to the emptying of dog bins and the carrying out of work to order, in areas of importance to wildlife. The ranger services have been superb, as always in sorting these issues.

Also the Autumn and Winter work program is on the agenda, in an effort to increase the information available to us ahead of any works commencing in the valley.

At a time, when staff and resources are already scarce, new government plans to protect the economic and social value of nature, which involve new ranger and leisure services work at recently designated Local Green Spaces and Local Wildlife Sites, are adding to workloads.

 I feel that it is right, therefore to say that the council are doing a superb job, given the present circumstances and wish to thank them for taking on every issue which I have raised on behalf of local residents and dealing with them effectively.

Please email me at if you have any issues that you would like me to raise at this meeting.

Moving Mountains Nature Network

A new article "Local" is the Word to Halt the Decline of Wildlife in the UK - BUT only with National Coordination , has been posted on the network site. This focuses on the importance of local wildlife clubs, local recorders and local recording offices (LRC's), and the creation of local partnerships that engage local communities and support the tireless work of local council biodiversity officers, wardens and volunteer patch watchers and bloggers across the country.

The item also highlights the need for coordination in terms of the creation of distribution and status data, and also national campaigns, which encourage children to become naturalists, and which provide information points in all green spaces, sign-posting the public towards, their local wildlife clubs, societies and volunteer groups.

The network now has 165 sites registered, so if you support this initiative please add a link to your blogs and spread the word. Member issues have already been taken on and we are, after less than two months, a third of the way towards a target membership, where we can gain national recognition and march on towards the ambitious goal of halting the decline in the UK's wildlife.

Thank you.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

MMNN - Contributing to Science OR Encouraging Participation ?

I have had it put to me this week that MMNN has to decide which side of the fence it is on.

My vision for MMNN is quite clear: It is so easy to tick both boxes and make a scientific contribution AND engage the public.

I can illustrate this fairly simply:

1. Members such as Council's and wardened reserves, that have the knowledge and experience of data collection, will continue to use a platform such as Living Record, or send data into local recorders and LRC's. They already do an excellent job contributing to Science. My aim here is simply to get as many members as possible onto a common platform, because it will help everyone along the chain in terms of quality and resources. Coordination, repeated surveying and "think-tanks" will help member council's in their tireless pursuit of biodiversity targets and allow them to monitor their performance more easily.

2. Next. The interesting one. What I call "The Second Element": the army of wildlife enthusiasts that hold intimate knowledge of their patches. 

To increase the quality and volume of the information hitting the LRC's and NBN, we need expansion of Local Wildlife Partnerships (LWP). This allows a patch of the British countryside to act as a structured "reserve". My life has taught me NEVER to have barriers or say something cannot be done. A central role of MMNN will be to assist in the creation of local partnerships and to identify new sites that require protection and designation, through our army of "bloggers" and "patch" watchers. 

It may well be the LWP's that provide the answers, as to why wildlife has vanished in such a short period of time, simply because they venture away from the managed reserves and into our more typical countryside and "wild Britain". The "patch" watchers may prove to be biodiversity's knights in shining armour!!!

3. Now for the worm and what I call the "Third Element". I had a biodiversity officer comment last week that 95% of the population have no intention at all in engaging with wildlife. 

Furthermore, my friend's son was asked at school a few weeks ago about his hobbies in front of the class. When he replied that he was a birdwatcher, his supply teacher laughed. Needless to say, after my involvement, her agency have been informed that she is no longer welcome at that school!!

To meet our 2020 biodiversity targets, this attitude has to change. MMNN  can embrace participation and education, WITHOUT compromising Science and Conservation. I'm not being funny, but if you ask a School to identify Worms, you will get misleading information!!! It probably would bore most of the kids to death too!!! 

If "Citizen Science" goes wrong, you cannot blame those making the records  for down-grading the quality of data. Surveys have to be designed carefully from the outset , in order to maximise accuracy of results and the positive influence that it has on the participants.

Is it right that we have more than 80,000 species of wildlife in the U.K? The vast majority of BAP species, don't even appear in the best selling field guides. These have to be recorded only by those with the necessary ability. But I will not accept that MMNN has to be on one side or the other, when the answer is so simple.

Schools can be provided with surveys, which cover easy to identify species. Don't ask them to survey Small White Butterflies, because some kids or even teachers may confuse them with worms, if you see what I mean?

But if every school in Britain performed a survey of male Orange Tip Butterflies, would you disregard the data as useless because it was produced by the 95% of the population that we need on board to save our wildlife? How many future naturalists would this approach produce? How many kids might be influenced by the hunting Kestrel that they see, whilst out on a warm Spring day with their school mates, counting butterflies on their local green space?

We are so lucky to have so many safe LNR's, Wildlife Trusts sites and other reserves and parks in close proximity to schools. We are also blessed to have our State of Nature partner organisations, and I am sure that they can produce a short-list of say 200 species, which are unmistakable and that can be surveyed annually by schools. If I were a science teacher and I had these species on Power Point, the first thing I would be doing with them, on the first week of the academic year, is showing them to my class and allowing them to pick their favourites to study during the year, so that they would already be attached to the project. (I think this area is actually part of the U.K's commitment to biodiversity?). There are a good number of easily identifiable "indicator" species, that if widely surveyed repeatedly, would tell scientists a lot about the strength of ecosystems, locally and nationally, and high-light where they are breaking down fast so that local factors can be identified.

If we make barriers, we shall have barriers!!! Kingfishers are still seen on the section of the River Cole in Birmingham where I first fell in love with nature. I will not allow them to vanish because we failed to rise individually and collectively to the challenges facing the U.K's unique range of wildlife and habitats, by placing obstacles in the way that aren't even there.

Join MMNN today. Together WE REALLY CAN make a difference.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Barleyfield Trimmings and Quite Vis-mig

Wednesday 18/9/13 Cool, drizzle with brief interlude between 07:00 and 07:45 allowing short vis-mig from top of Barleyfield. Light NW.

NW winds rarely produced good vis-migs last September, because of the valleys linear position running NE to SW and today proved that once again:

2 Cormorant South 
4 Meadow Pipit circled field and then SW
7 Starling SW
8 Greenfinch SW

Also 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 1 Green Woodpecker

Just a note to all users of the Barleyfield: The contractor will be returning soon to pick up the grass cuttings. Thank you to Wolverhampton CC Ranger and Leisure Services for providing such a rapid response today, regarding this issue.

This method of leaving the cuttings for a short while allows the seeds of the meadow flowers to disperse more effectively.

As regards the new areas of set aside, you can feel already, just how much of a difference this new regime will make to the insect and mammal populations, whilst also helping late flowering plant species. Cinnabar Moths, may well complete there life cycle here now which will add to evening walks.We may well get a Wintering Kestrel back, and the umbellifer stands may attract migrant or Wintering Stonechat.

Thank you to all those that were involved in the planning and authorisation of this initiative, which will enhance the biodiversity at this site, by adding micro-habitats and buffer zones for wildlife.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Moving Mountains Nature Network - Cheshire, Berkshire and Leicestershire Lead the Way

Just a brief update to say THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Our membership now stands at 125 sites.

For everyone out there who has followed and shared this initiative so far, THANK YOU.

For those that have, or are in the process of joining - together, we really can move mountains for nature.

Special mention has to go to the "bloggers" and "birders" of Cheshire who are banging the drum for this network. These committed volunteers have an intimate knowledge of the State of Wildlife on their local patches, and this can now be utilised through MMNN to halt the decline of species and help the U.K meet it's biodiversity targets.

Special mention, also to council officers in Berkshire and Leicestershire, who have seen MMNN as a way to help meet targets for the protection of biodiversity in their local communities.

Coordinated surveying that breathes life into old data sets and creates new trend data for assessing performance will add to the efficient use of council resources, but will also provide more status and distribution data to the national wildlife organisations that are working so hard to protect and halt the decline in the U.K's wildlife.

Contact from Canada raises hope for sister sites to rise in other countries, so that we can join hands in a peaceful and protective way.

I have started work on local initiatives, involving raising awareness of our cause, through schools.

MMNN has risen and now lets see where this exciting journey takes us all.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Gareth Clements Sightings Report

Gareth sent the following sightings summary from his visit to Dunstall Park (Private, strictly restricted access) this afternoon
14th september
2 till 330pm
Wheatear 1 juvenile, teal 6, shoveler 1, swallow 10, house martin 10+, chiffchaff few in bushes, snipe 10, buzzard 3, pied wag 15, lbb gull 16, herring gull 1, bh gull 48, grey heron 2. Gareth clements

Moving Mountains Nature Network (MMNN) - Month 1 Progress report

New Dawn Rising: Sunrise over Smestow Valley LNR
A month has passed and time to reflect and plan for the next stage of the MMNN initiative.

The green area between Oxley and Wightwick has been made famous to conservationists across the UK thanks to the ground-breaking treatise "The Endless Village", which in the 1970's had used it as an example of how a linear park could survive and flourish within a conurbation (the study led to the formation of the first Urban Wildlife Group and helped create the other "green corridor" nature reserves up and down the country). (Reference to Angus Dickie's "Smestow Valley Bird Group 1988-2013")

It is quite fitting, therefore, that the members of the former Smestow Valley Bird Group have served to reignite my passion for wildlife, and put the valley back on the map, as providing the launchpad for MMNN.

After months of planning, the launch of the network on 13th August 2013 filled me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there was the prospect of a dream coming true. My father's prophecy, that I may be able to change the world for the better, felt like it may actually become a reality. On the other hand, despite my appetite and enthusiasm, there lay negative thoughts that the network would fail to attract support or interest from the outset.

As I write this update, my heart is filled with hope. So many people have taken time to understand this initiative, and respond in a positive manner, because of their open-mindedness, commitment and passion for wildlife.

Customer service staff provided vital support in sign-posting and redirecting mail to those actively involved with biodiversity management. Thank you.

"Patch" watchers have joined the network and promoted it so that their intimate knowledge of their local wildlife sites, is shared in order to discover just why wildlife has vanished at such an alarming rate. Thank you.

Council biodiversity officers have provided in-depth information, constructive comment and support for the network. Any fears that MMNN would be just another data collector have been allayed, as it has become seen that the network will serve to coordinate and repeat surveys so as to breathe life into old data sets and promote the creation of trend data for status and distribution that allows evaluation of whether biodiversity  targets are being met at both site and national level. Thank you.

The other concern: that MMNN is repeating the work carried out by the national wildlife organisations, has been removed. The network will actually support these organisations by increasing the uptake of their surveys, and by working towards more coordinated data work in the future that provides them with more trend information to assist future assessments of the State of Nature. Also by working with the "Third Element" through education and media coverage, MMNN will inevitably lead to an increase in the membership for all wildlife organisations.
MMNN: It's role in the U.K. (click to enlarge)

Indeed the national organisations are now showing interest and support for the network. In particular the forward thinking and caring approach of Plant Life and the Woodland Trust has led to the sharing of information, which has been initiated as this progress report is issued. Thank you to their officers for taking the time to follow and understand my cause.

My last thank you will go to the great man himself. As a child I was limited to the greenbelt and old mining works around Norton Canes in Staffordshire, but it was Sir David Attenborough that inflamed the desire for conservation and the protection of this beautiful world's wildlife.

With the commencement of surveys for The State of Nature partners, scheduled to start at member sites from 1st January 2014, my focus is now on membership so that we can obtain official recognition.

You really can make a difference and help discover why the nation's wildlife is vanishing, by sharing your knowledge of your "patches", reserves, parks and other sites of importance to wildlife.

The Great Briton: An impression in concrete at Brandon Marsh Wildlife Trust Reserve
 in Coventry, to add to the millions of impressions he has made in our hearts.
If you support the cause, then please join today and thank you as always for your interest in the MMNN initiative.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Those beaky boys are back, and the Gareth transfer is complete . . .

Dunstall Park

Summer's over, we're in early September, and things are relatively quiet, with few migrants to report and some wintering species beginning to appear.  The lake is still attracting Green Sandpiper (two were present today, 12/9), single Yellow Wagtail (30/8 and 5/9) have been foraging on the central grass area with good numbers of Pied Wagtail (42 on 5/9), Northern Wheatear have been seen along the grass-sided drainage ditches (Mick from the ground staff saw two on 26/8 and one on 8/90), and the racecourse's second Spotted Flycatcher for the year was present on 11/9 in the north western corner, an area which is attracting small  numbers of  Chiffchaff and Blackcap to banks of elders and bramble, with  Blackbird, Song Thrush and Bullfinch also taking advantage of a bumper berry crop.  Barn Swallow are still present, with late-brood youngsters born in the stables now sitting on the race rails waiting for parents to bring food (ten or more birds were present today, 12/9)  or flying upwards to be fed in mid-air by the adults.  Some House Martin have left, but good numbers still hawk over the lake, where the odd late Common Whitethroat can be seen moving through bushes above the water's edge and single adult and juvenile Grey Heron stand motionless on the island or on the top of the grass banks.  A winter-plumaged Little Grebe was seen briefly on 9/9,  at least ten Coot are still present after their best-ever breeding year at the site, along with three broods of Moorhen, the youngsters varying in age from sooty spindly-legged chicks to adult-size juveniles.  A surprise visitor in the form of a single adult Cormorant has been seen daily at the lake since 5/9 (fourteen  birds flew south westwards over the site on 5/9),  and duck totals have been rising, with up to seven Teal and increasing nubers of Shoveler (17 on 12/9)  feeding and resting as they emerge from eclipse (at least 40 Mallard flew on to the lake to roost at dusk on 20/8).  Lapwing numbers have dropped away, but 15 were at the lake on 28/8,  and single Grey Wagtail have been seen and heard flying to and away from the lake.  And, reappearing after their summer absence, Common Snipe stand and preen almost invisible against the yellow and brown vegetation around the base of the island.  These are some of Dunstall's winter stars, either probing mechanically with their long bills along the margins of the lake or venturing out to forage on the central grass area among flocks of Black-headed Gull (200-plus on 5/9), Lesser Black-backed Gull (50 on 10/9) and Starling (c.100 on 9/9).  Conditons at the lake are now perfect for Snipe, but it remains to be seen whether numbers this coming winter will exceed the astonishing total of  107 birds seen in the lake area on January 8th 2006.  The 16 seen today (12/9) provide a good start.  Elsewhere, a flock of  eleven Mistle Thrush on the central grass on 30/8 show that the species has had a good breeding season following a run of relatively dry and difficult years for thrushes in general.  At least one juvenile Common Buzzard is still present, its by-now ragged parents less frequently in attendance, on 5/9 there was the surprise sight of a male Kestrel perched on a TV tower (a welcome appearance of a species that until 2010 bred annually in the nearby oak copse), and on 20/8 a Tawny Owl called at dusk from the direction of the canal and Aldersley Stadium.

It has been confirmed that Gareth Clements has completed a late-window transfer to the Smestow Valley.  His name in the signing-in book at the racecourse last week brings to an end months of speculation as to whether a deal had been done, but it seems a couple of Double Decker choc bars and a packet of Polos was enough to lure freelance Gareth away from the more remote Black Country fringes and return to where he first cut his teeth as a young birder.  Clayhanger visitors were tight-lipped today, but it's clear they've lost a top man, and they'll be watching to see what he kicks up on his old patch.  No need to kiss the badge, Gareth.  Welcome back. 

(NB.  Dunstall Park is a commercial restricted site.  Access is strictly controlled)





Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Red Kite Sighting

Thank you to Rachel Phillips for providing the valley's 6th Red Kite sighting. Arthur Russell, a regular contributor to our bird records advised her to submit it.

Rachel saw the Kite flying over Aldersley Road NW from the direction of Hawthorn Wood towards Codsall on 23/8/13 at 4:35

The successful spread of these graceful birds of Prey from their Welsh stronghold, together with introductions in other areas, means that it is expected that encounters over the reserve are likely to be more regular in the future.

The first site record of the species was on International Bird day (12/5/1996) when, the then Valley Park Bird Group, was treated, in warm weather, to a bird which circled high over Newbridge, before drifting North.

Other records are:
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

Sunday, 8 September 2013

News Round Up

Brief Highlights of recent visits to the valley (vis mig info is from top of Barleyfield):

21/8/13 - Calm dry overcast light SW

24 Greenfinch SW
1 Swallow
9 Swift
Collared Dove South
2 Stock Dove Barleyfield
5 Adult and 2 Juv Pied Wagtail Meccano Bridge Playingfields
Nuthatch Graisley Culvert
Willow Warbler singing SW corner Barleyfield
Blackcap fledged at top of Barleyfield, as had Common Whitethroats but apparently left nest site area immediately
31 Jackdaw S. Peters Playingfields

22/8/13 Dry calm morning, light Southerlies

57 Canada Geese SW
14 Greenfinch SW with 6 local birds at top of Barleyfield
FEMALE/JUVENILE REDSTART, seen briefly as it moved up the Western Border of the Barleyfield. It then flew off South over Compton Hill Drive
5+ young Bullfinch Graisley Culvert area
6 Swallow feeding high over the Barleyfield for over half hour in the warm calm conditions
2+ Coal Tit at Prefab Weir
Common Whitethroat calling Graisley Culvert

Painted Lady sunbathing near Compton Lock

29/8/13 Cool calm, dry clear Light SW increasing

89 Canada Geese SW
23 Greenfinch SW
2 Swallow South
3 Swift South plus 1 South over The Paddocks later
2 Starling SW
Adult and Juvenile Nuthatch Western Border of Barleyfield (dispersal birds, since Nuthatch have been scarce/absent in mid-section this Spring and Summer)
3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers around South end of Barleyfield
Female Sparrowhawk over top Barleyfield
3+ Blackcap at The Barleyfield Crossings and 2+ at Hanging Gardens
Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Juvenile Chiffchaff at Graisley Culvert area
3 Chiffchaff singing at The Crossings
1+ Chiffchaff singing 2+ juvenile Blackcap, Juvenile Willow Warbler and Juvenile Common Whitethroat in main Paddock
Chiffchaff singing at Tennis Club
Painted Lady in Canopy near Station
Small Copper near The Crossings

1+ Coal Tit at Compton Lock
Kingfisher off the Brook and over Compton Lock with 2+ Goldcrest nearby.
11 Pied Wagtail, mainly juveniles at Artificial Pitch and track at The Academy

31/8/13 Dry, clear cool Light Westerlies

18 Greenfinch South with 6+ local
1 Swallow South
2 Starling SW
Green Woodpecker
Male Sparrowhawk East over top of Barleyfield
Presumed family group of 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers together just SW of Barleyfield, where feeding trips were recorded earlier in the year, with another female calling at the same time at the top of The Barleyfield
3 Grey Wagtail, at least one of which was a juvenile, dropped into Graisley Culvert then SW.
5+ young Bullfinch and 3+ Juvenile Goldfinch at Graisley Culvert with a Coal Tit calling there and a Collared Dove over East
Devil's Coach Beetle under log on Railway walk by Crossings
2 Chiffchaff singing, 2+ young Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and 2 Jays at Hanging Gardens

1/9/13 Calm, dry, light cloud cover, light SW increasing

28 Lesser Black-backed Gull SW
Grey Wagtail NE just after dawn
Green Woodpecker Western Border
243 Woodpigeon SW, numbers increasing presumably as more fields are harvested in South Staffs. Birds consistently fly West to meet the valley then turn SW down the valley and can be seen doing this as far as the bins allow to the North.
Sub-adult Herring Gull SW
19 Greenfinch South with 6+ local birds
Pipit Species SW
Male and Female Sparrowhawk briefly in the air together over the Western border
Nuthatch calling from Eastern Border
13 Goldfinch, over half of which were juveniles at last!!
10 adult and 14 Juvenile Moorhen on canal
1+ Coal Tit calling at Meccano Bridge and 1+ at The Academy
Wasp nests just South of Meccano Bridge on canal towpath and another opposite Tennis Club
Warblers in Paddock as per Ian Phillips update and Nuthatch calling there
Meadow Pipit lifted off Barleyfield then South West
Coal Tit calling SW corner of Barleyfield
11 House Martin South
16 Pied Wagtail and 14 Starling on Meccano Bridge Playingfields
2 Stock Dove at Compton Park Wetland

Welcome back to Gareth Clements who provided this update:

"5th sept at dunstall park , 6 teal, 8 snipe, skylark, 1 prob white wag, 1 yellow wag , 1 grey wag, 35 pied wag, 3 shoveler, 1 on lake plus 14 sw cormorant, kestrel, 51  lbb gull, 200 bh gull, 1 green sand, otherwise quiet
Gareth and angus"

Friday, 6 September 2013

sightings update

Swift 15 circling over newbridge on 21st aug and single over water bridge on 25 flying south
Kingfisher several sightings of single birds between hordern rd and wightwick with 2 different birds on 3 sept
Blackbird many family parties indicating good breeding season but in sharp contrast to our two resident thrushes
reed Bunting single on Oxley bank 22 aug
Willow warbler 4 birds in paddocks on 1 sept (2ad 2juv) 3 the following day and 1 on 4th also 2 barley field 31 aug
Blackcap lots of juveniles but only 1 ad male and 1 ad female barley field and paddocks to water bridge
Grey wagtails seem to be back around water bridge and smestow including ad female aug 31st at water bridge
_Pied wagtails on football pitch at Compton 11 and 12 on first days of sept all but two were juveniles
2 spotted flycatcher and redstart just north of the valley Copley wood area on 25 aug would surely have made their way thru the valley
whitethroat juv in paddock on 1 sept followed by ad on barleyfield next day
lesser whitethroat classic bright juv on 2 sept on western border barleyfield
also on t6hat day small copper and painted lady butterflies

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Nagoya: Dream to Reality - The Third Element

In Nagoya, Japan in October 2010, 192 Governments and the European Union met to set out goals and targets to ensure that our natural environment was "resilient" by 2020, so that it can continue to provide the ecosystem services that ARE ESSENTIAL FOR LIFE.

The strategic goals were basically aimed at:

1. Mainstreaming - making people and businesses aware of the values of biodiversity, and to make them aware of how they can conserve it.
2. Pressures - reducing direct pressures on biodiversity and promoting sustainable use.
3. Safeguarding - improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.
4. Benefits - enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystems ( e.g. climate change mitigation and services from ecosystems like water and contribution to health)
5. Knowledge and Capacity - "By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequence of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied"

For these goals and their attached targets to me met, I feel that we have 3 key "elements" can drive us forward and create the formula for success:

The First Element: The Scientists, Defra, Wildlife Organisations and Biodiversity Managers and officers.

The Second Element: The amateur naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts and caring land managers.

The Third Element: The wider population.

So our formula is:

1st element + 2nd element + 3rd element = Targets met under "Biodiversity 2020 Strategy"

The world failed to meet it's targets for 2010, we are now in 2013. The U.K has to, along with every other convention member, submit progress reports by 31st March 2014.

My review, research and feelings gathered whilst creating and launching the Moving Mountains Nature Network (MMNN) are that:

1. The First Element, in isolation is extremely potent in both it's knowledge base and it's enthusiasm to meet biodiversity requirements. In particular, I applaud and gain so much hope from the quality and character of our nation's Biodiversity, Conservation and Parks managers. These people, really are our "generals" in the fight to halt species and habitat decline. Together they are head guardians over our 1500 Local Nature Reserves and also our Country Parks and other green spaces. Around them we should be proud to have Natural England and Defra above and all of the "STATE OF NATURE" partner Wildlife organisations along side them.

2. The Second Element, our amateur naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts? Well we have only to read the latest STATE OF BIRDS report to establish the power of this group who work with the heart and the policeman's notebook. The datasets used in the STATE OF NATURE report covering Bird Species, Mammal road deaths and Butterfly and Moth counts, would have been impossible without the army of amateur enthusiasts.

3. Our Third Element: the wider business and social community in the U.K? Here lies my fear. The importance of the Third Element is easy to understand. On numbers, this element is overwhelming, but more importantly so many of the negative factors that have led to the decline in the U.K, arise from the Third Element. Bank Voles in Smestow Valley LNR are only just recovering from the polution that someone spilled into the Smestow Brook a few years ago, and that is just one tiny example.

For our formula to work we require two things:

1. Unity and co-ordination between The First Element and The Second Element, so that there is great strength from their combining and hence a forward reaction that in the short term may compensate for the weakness or even negative influence from the presence of The Third Element.

2. Regardless, to meet our 2020 and 2050 Biodiversity targets WE HAVE TO MAKE The Third Element a positive and not a negative agent in this reaction, or we shall all fail.

I have three small personal experiences that provide light:

The community spirit and support that came from my charity walk in memory of my son, illustrated that if people understand the cause, they will rise in a strong, positive manner.

As part of my work on the MMNN, I have learned exceptional schemes, where the First Element, combines potently with The Third Element. For example, the council, that works closely with 40 Parishes to encourage participation and understanding in biodiversity work. The officers that set up 24 hour species counts competitions in their community.

Thirdly, on my own patch, by talking to and sharing with the users of my Local Nature Reserve over the last three years, we now have a new group of dog-walkers and health enthusiasts that carry binoculars and display a genuine thirst for wildlife knowledge.

The STATE OF NATURE report CLEARLY tells us we have little time, and a mountain to climb to halt decline and loss.

The following is my own submission and attempt to provoke, thought, comment and reaction, and so, at best, it forms a discussion document, although my heart wants it to be the basis for a plan of action. They are single comments, aimed as spearheads, or if you like catalysts that we may like to add to The Three Elements to allow The Third Element to become a positive agent, and to accelerate the overall rate of reaction, so that the U.K proudly reports in 2019 that it has BEATEN, not met it's biodiversity targets as a nation:

1. There are gaping holes in our datasets. The First Element and the Second Element combined well to monitor fashionable and easy to identify Birds, Butterflies and Moths, but where is our status and distribution trend data for fungi or mini-beasts? I thought that these groups were critical to holding up our ecosystems.

2. I look at the species included on the datasets used in the STATE OF NATURE report and compare them with our JNCC BAP priority species lists. They are worlds apart!!!!!!

3. I got out all of the best selling field guides for wildlife and then laid them alongside the BAP priority species lists (species in heavy decline). With the exception of our ever popular birds, the vast majority of BAP species were absent from the field-guides and reference books. So while thousands of keen nature lovers walk around their patch, there is not one book that they could possibly put in his back-pack that covers all of the species under threat on their site. The RSPB have shown exceptional publishing skills, but it would be so exciting if the JNCC could team up with The STATE OF NATURE partners to create a guide, updated every five years, that concentrates on the accurate identification of say 1200 species that are most under threat in the U.K. A section at the back could include web-links to participate in status and distribution surveys, via the Partners's websites. How strong would our Second Element be if they were armed with this best-seller, created by the teamwork that brings our wildlife organisations together. How strong would our First Element be with the whole nation contributing to surveys that cover the whole food-web and also focus on areas of ecosystems that are breaking down fastest??

4. How can we change our Third Element so that the strange person in green jacket with binoculars is seen as the gallant guardian rather than the gormless geek!!!! Simple!!!

Nature documentaries have an amazing influence and it's no secret that David Attenborough is responsible for my writing this article today. But you need the heart to choose to watch the programme in the first place, and this is the filter that continually converts members of the Third Element into those that form the Second Element.

Repeated addresses to the nation  by Defra (or even the leaders of ALL our political parties in union!!), attached to news reports when the whole nation is watching, and even after stand-up comedy shows and late night 18 rated films to explain the alarming decline in our "Natural Capital", and it's impact on business, the economy and human life itself. Can you imagine the effect that this would have on the membership and funding for our nature organisations and local councils?? (GOAL E in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020)

5. Millions of children could come home to their parents and echo the broadcasts, through learning at school as part of the national curriculum. Science teachers can lead their children from an early age into their local green-spaces to explore the beauty and miracles of nature. Older students can conduct surveys as part of GCSE and A level studies that add to the pool of coordinated studies already being performed by the First and Second Elements.

6. A heavy penal system for those that break the law and damage nature, together with a naming and shaming campaign. Lets alienate those that disrespect our beautiful planet and add the funds derived from penalties to schemes to protect BAP habitats?

Our doubt over the impact of The Third Element has been brought on by ourselves, because The First Element and The Second Element have the power to awaken a force within our nation that will beat all targets and set a fine example to the world.

The Moving Mountains Nature Network initiative is designed to streamline the First Element and the Second Element, whilst influencing the First Element to embrace the Third Element by 31st March 2014.

As soon as the MMNN holds 500 members, it will form catalysts to bring The Third Element into action directly, through education, fund-raising and lobbying: A peoples network but linking all 3 Elements and where the nation becomes the foot-soldiers.

Act now and join the network. Over the coming months, (with their consent) I will be highlighting those that are having the greatest impact on driving this initiative forward.

visit and add your patch, park or reserve to the network today.

Thank you.