Tuesday, 29 October 2013

News News News ...From the Wildside!!

Wildside Activity Centre

First a little showcase for this important charity that promotes awareness and participation in nature activities, volunteering and conservation.

There is a full programme of fantastic events over the coming half-term week.

Full details can be found at:


So no excuse!!! Grab the kids and get down there!!


I am inviting anyone interested, to join me and as many of our valley wildlife recorders as possible on an informal walk, covering the mid-section of the valley, between Compton Bridge and Newbridge on Sunday 10th November 2013.

Dogs are welcome, as are children, if accompanied by an adult.We will start at 08:00, with a short skywatch at the top of the Barleyfield, looking for birds on the move along our valley, followed by a trip around the Barleyfield, Compton Park, along the canal and back through the paddocks, following the railway walk.

For all those interested in attending or leading groups, please send me a brief e-mail to smestowsightings@gmail.com so that I can get an idea of numbers.

New Authors

Valley users are probably aware of the presence of our local wildlife photography expert, David Ashcroft, otherwise known as the creator of "Wolves Wild" (http://wolveswild.net/). I have linked his site to this blog from the outset, and I have recently asked David to start keeping formal records of what he sees, so that it can contribute towards our understanding of wildlife, and why it is vanishing at such an alarming rate.

Talking of contributions to wildlife, I bumped into Maureen this morning, who has an excellent feeding station set up in her garden near Compton Lock. She provides an important food supply for the birds in this area, and is also going to start producing records for future valley reports

With these two "Wildlife-Warriors" contributing so much to the reserve, It is therefore fitting that I invite them both as authors to this blog and I am sure you will all join me, in warmly welcoming them to our little, caring community!!

Angus Dickie acknowledges the work of so many others, who have contributed to previous valley reports, every time I see him. Therefore, I also warmly invite anyone else who regularly watches and records wildlife in the valley to get involved by emailing me your details.

As part of the transition from paperback to online reports, I will be offering a pick-up/drop off service, so that we continue to include valuable manual records, provided by passionate enthusiasts, who are, perhaps less able or willing to start surfing the net!! Thank you so much for your continued support.

Moving Mountains Nature Network - Charity Wildlife Walk - Spring 2014

I am planning an event, which will raise awareness and trigger a strengthening of the protective nature networks, around Smestow Valley, Clayhanger Marsh (Diverse habitat and SSSI), and an important urban wildlife corridor near Harborne. Local schools will be involved, so that we can lead our children towards the beauty of Mother Nature that lies within our green spaces. Who knows, it might generate our next Sir David Attenborough or Chris Packham!!!

Any local individuals, groups, charitable organisations or businesses that would like to get involved, please register your interest at smestowsightings@gmail.com

Thank you

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

wed 23 oct 2013             mid afternoon

sunny but chilly westerly breeze

Very wet underfoot ( or should I say wheels ). I cycled from Compton Lock to Aldersley Junction and had my first little grebe of the autumn at Tunstall Water Br and a grey wagtail at Tettenhall Old Br.
                                         After a quiet spring, summer and autumn, cheer up it will soon be christmas! lol.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tettenhall and District Draft Neighbourhood Plan - Have your say!!

I am in the process of ploughing through this important plan, and for so far it looks simply excellent!!!

Anyway, here is the official briefing on the plan................

The Draft Tettenhall Neighbourhood Plan for the 2 wards of Regis and Wightwick is out for public consultation until 31st October 2013. The Plan is a national frontrunner. Its purpose is to give local people greater ownership of how their neighbourhoods are developed over the next 10 years. Once ‘made’, next year, any planning application made for a development or change of use of land or buildings in our area, will have to be assessed against the Neighbourhood Plan, alongside national and city-wide policies for planning.  It is therefore of huge importance.

The Draft Plan is based on hundreds of ideas and suggestions gathered over the last 2 years from local people and has been drafted by local residents.

Our vision states:

‘ As residents we take pride in our attractive, characterful and vibrant area, and especially in all the green spaces ranging from Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve to small domestic gardens. Our Plan will help conserve both the places of historic interest and those most appreciated in the Character Studies which were carried out by local people. Designs for all new development will be required to show sensitivity to local forms, scale and materials and to meet high building standards and so ensure sustainability. The Plan will enable local businesses to invest in new opportunities. Action is required to alleviate traffic problems, whilst housing, community buildings and other amenities will need to be upgraded over time. By putting these priorities into our Plan, we can enable people to make it as good a place for the next generation as it is for us.’

For lots more information and to view the Draft Neighbourhood Plan and to complete a feedback form online at http://www.ourplaceourplan.org.uk/

Friday, 11 October 2013

Missed the Massive Redwing Movement and Twitter Feed to Connect us to Nature

Friday 11/10/13 - Moderate NE, overnight light rain, clearing : Barleyfield "vismig"

A frantic day on the work and home front yesterday meant that I was left to read about the tens of thousands of Redwing that had reached Britain on favourable winds.

An incredible 33,082 were recorded over "The Pinnacle", Sandy, Bedfordshire, in just four and a half hours yesterday morning!! A more modest 2,600 had passed over Black Bank in Staffordshire.

I hit the patch this morning, knowing that winds were more northerly and were likely to halt movements, but still wanted to get some idea as to whether the valley had witnessed some of this event.

It was immediately clear, on arriving at the Barleyfield that birds had got this far West. There was a "movement" of birds west, but aside from 3 groups, the largest holding 35 birds, the rest were grounded birds that were lifting from overnight resting places.

A one hour vismig produced the following, before fading:

Canada Goose  37 SW
Mallard - 5 SW
Cormorant - 4 High SE and 1 soon after heading South - all adults
Black-headed Gull - 65 SW
Woodpigeon - 19 SW - apparently still too early for migrants on the favourable NE
Pied Wagtail - 4 SW
Meadow Pipit - 4 grounded birds, lifted off the Barleyfield and headed SW
Redwing - 150 - c50 on migration West and the other c100 were grounded birds, lifting and heading low West. 55 of these were around the Lower Alders.
Song Thrush - 1 South
Blackbird - 6 coping remarkably well heading West on the cross wind.
Starling - 10 local birds SW and 7 presumed migrants heading West.


As part of the push towards connecting more people with wildlife, I have now set up a Twitter feed on this blog, that will provide you with updates regarding wildlife events, issues and sightings. They are all my comments or retweets, and will not include personal or provocative opinion from others. Media releases will be shown, where I feel that they are relevant to the understanding and protection of wildlife.

MMNN members who follow us on Twitter will benefit from having their events and causes highlighted on this blog.

I hope that this adds to your experience, whilst visiting us!!

Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Barleyfield Provides Yellowhammer with Bed and Breakfast!!

Sunday 6th October: Clear, dry, cool start, Light SW -  Barleyfield area

As posted previously light South-westerlies, really do suit visible migration in the valley, today producing the best Pipit passage of the Autumn so far for me (there are still no noticeable Woodpigeon movements over the mid-section of the valley):

Canada Goose - 117 SW early
Black-headed Gull -217 SW from roost to Staffs feeding areas
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 10 SW
Stock Dove - 2 NW
Collared Dove - 3 South, can't remember when I last seen this many in one morning from Barleyfield!!
Meadow Pipit - 191 South - these really are good conditions for this species and it was great to see good numbers dropping onto the newly extended middle scrub!!
Pied Wagtail - 17 South
Grey Wagtail - one West early on and one SW from Graisley Culvert later.
Song Thrush - 2 West and 1 South (1 uttering brief phrases of song to the SW)
Starling - 1 SW was poor but c25 left from the academy floodlights SW later
Chaffinch - 5 South
Goldfinch - 4 South and 7 around the North end of the Barleyfield

A remarkable 38 species were noted, without leaving the Barleyfield area, with the highlight being a female Yellowhammer that had been roosting in the Hawthorn at the tip of the middle scrub. It preened, called a few times, dropped to the ground then flew off South at 07:00.

Other notable sightings included.....Geoff Russon!!! YES, it sounds like he is migrating South again now as well, so get used to seeing "Mr Camouflage" on a regular basis again (we hope).

Sparrowhawk - one SW along valley early and one East into the middle scrub later
Great Spotted Woodpecker - female at top of Barleyfield
Dunnock - getting more vocal with 3 around the south end
Blackcap -male and probable adult female at Hanging Gardens
Chiffchaff - birds singing at top of Barleyfield, where two were later seen and also at Eddy's Alders
Goldcrest - one at top of Barleyfield
Nuthatch - one calling from Eastern border
Jay - 2+ in SW corner
Bullfinch - 4+ around

Saturday, 5 October 2013

After the Peregrine strikes, the

name of the game is patience . . .

Dunstall Park

Sunday, September 29th 2013, mid-morning, cool, high broken cloud, easterly breeze.

Two weeks away in sunnier climes, so now it's time to see what might still be around and what might have arrived.  The ground staff say the last swallows and martins departed early last week, and the only migrant seen on this quiet morning is a single Blackcap feeding on elderberries in the north western corner of the site.  An adult Pied Wagtail forages along a drainage ditch by the grandstand, a male Sparrowhawk flaps and glides low towards the Farndale estate, a Jay flies from the oak copse, and on the central grass area 50-plus Lesser Black-backed Gull sit or stand with 160-plus Black-headed Gull and an adult Herring Gull.  At the lake a single Lapwing stands somewhat forlornly by the island, four Snipe and 16 Teal are lined along the water's edge out of the wind, four Coot and four adult and two juvenile Moorhen swim or pick their way through and around the banks of spiked aquatic grass, an adult Grey Heron stands hunched near the perimeter fence, and a Grey Wagtail calls as it flies away towards the Staffs & Worcs Canal.
Tuesday, October 1st, morning, cool, dull, south easterly wind.
Duck numbers are increasing now, with birds coming out of eclipse and dabbling species returning to the racecourse lake as winter visitors, taking advantage of relatively low water levels.  Five Mallard, possibly a female and her offspring present for some months, are feeding, at least 17 Teal rest and preen, and near the Smestow brook overflow apron five male Shoveler are grouped together, their chesnut flanks and dark green heads now becoming more obvious as their breeding plumage emerges.  Ten Snipe are visible (there will almost certainly be more present), and a last check reveals a single Green Sandpiper feeding along the margins (there have been regular records since mid-June of this migrant wader calling in at the lake).
Wednesday, October 2nd, mid-morning, dull, warm, south easterly breeze, clearing later.
Meet up with a Codsall birdwatching group on the car park as arranged at 10 o'clock, and notice as we sign in at the hotel reception that Gareth's name is already in the book.  That means he can tell us what's about, and, knowing him, he may well have found something good.  So, through past the grandstand, and yes, already there's the "cronk cronk" of a Raven, the bird moving north westwards towards Stockwell End and Tettenhall.  A good start, but hang on, Gareth's approaching to tell us that a "huge" female Peregrine has in the last ten minutes come in low over the lake and has sent ducks, waders, the lot, flying to the four corners of the earth. Gareth's on his way to work, he can't stay, but he wishes us luck.  OK, we'll just have to be patient, not everything will have gone.  An initial check shows Coot and Moorhen going about their fussy business as two Stock Dove fly up from the lake edges, two Jay fly towards the Farndale and at least 60 Starling go to and from the top of nearby floodlight pylons.  In the distance come the autumnal calls of two large skeins of Canada Geese, at least 150 birds honking their noisy way low over Newbridge towards the city.  Then, one by one, the Teal quietly emerge from the aquatic grass, seven of them eventually resting or feeding near the island.  Two Snipe are spotted, sleeping one-legged and head tucked in, their brown striped plumage perfectly camouflaged against the dying yellow of the sallows.  Someone's sharp eyes pick what could be another flying away from the lake, definitely a wader, but the bills's too short, a white rump shows as it turns to circle before leaving north eastwards, it's a Green Sandpiper, possibly the bird seen at the lake the previous day.  Time's getting on, so we move along the racecourse's north western edge, where a juvenile Buzzard floats low over the canalside trees, a Nuthatch calls, and at least two passage Chiffchaff flit in and out of the elderberry and bramble bank near Aldersley canal junction.  Finally, back to the hotel and off to lunch. Just like the weather, things turned out fine in the end . . .
Saturday, October 5th, morning, dull, calm, warm, heavy overnight rain.           
A quick visit, but enough time to see that Snipe numbers are building nicely, with at least 20 at the lake.  Thirteen Teal are present, and there's the unusual record for the lake of a Long-tailed Tit flock moving through the waterside bushes.  Nearly all the Coot have now dispersed, with only three seen at a site which has enjoyed its best-ever breeding year for the species.
(NB.  Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled).