Thursday, 28 November 2013

journey into unknown

Seemed like a good day to road test the new hearing aid so set off from Newbridge for the almost unfrequented bit of land just north of the viaducts.
It worked immediately getting me a goldcrest on the Smestow I would otherwise have missed and bringing me various thrush noises in the stadium area.
Anyway took life in hands and ventured under the viaduct on east bank of canal.  Always expect more than get from this patch but it did give me an alternative view of the Jackdaws as they gathered late afternoon.  About 200 were in the trees by railway line prior to moving towards racecourse.  they were then joined at 3.45 by another flock of between 200 and 250 arriving from the north.  this contrasts with the magpies which only seem to start coming in as light fades and in ones and twos.
2 little Grebe north of water bridge and updating last week female blackcap by boatyard footbridge same spot as last year.

Sunday, 24 November 2013




Dunstall Park

Saturday,  16th November

Mid-morning, dull, cool, damp, calm.

Well, the Mute Swans are still here, and now there are more of them.  Three adults and six youngsters were on the lake on November 9th, and since then one of the juveniles (its plumage was slightly more advanced then the other five) has departed, and at least two more adults have arrived.  The water level is still high, so perhaps they'll stay.  The Gadwall pair first seen at the start of the month are still here, sharing the water with five male and a female Shoveler and seven male and five female Teal.  At least three Coot are still present (adults and youngsters seen during the summer will have joined wintering rafts of their species at reservoirs such as Pool Hall, Gailey, Belvide and Chasewater), a young Moorhen picks its way along the base of the island, where at least six Snipe rest and preen among the rocks.  Thin notes from three Dunnock show how the lake's flourishing waterside vegetation is starting to attract small passerines,  a single Rook calls from the top of a tree near to where it and others of its species now nest by the Staffs & Worcs Canal,  six Goldfinch tinkle and twitter by lock 20 on the Birmingham Canal, and at least 25 Redwing arrow across and drop down over Aldersley, perhaps spooked by an unseen raptor.  On the central grass area 20 Lesser Black-backed Gull and two adult and one first-winter Herring Gull rest and preen, while some of a group of c.150 Black-headed Gull forage with a flock of at least the same number of Starling.  Closer observation shows there's a darker side to the Black-headeds' activities, for every few minutes a Starling will fly up and away from its feeding companions, with a gull hot on its tail.  The smaller bird tries to escape with a small worm or some other food item it has found, the gull won't give up the chase, the two species twist and turn, eventually the Starling loses its pursuer (one Starling flies to the top of a floodlight pylon and hides among the lamps), and the gull glides back down on to the grass to look for another potential victim.  I've seen Black-headeds do this to foraging Redwing on a playingfield, taking advantage of the smaller species' ability to find food. 
Dunstall Park
Tuesday,  19th November
Winter's here now, the leaves are turning and falling, the wind's in the north west, it's cold, with broken cloud.  Two of the Mute Swan adults have left the lake, and it seems the two that remain are parents to the five youngsters which are feeding quietly along the edges of the beds of aquatic grass.  The six Shoveler are still here, at least five Teal are visible (accurate counts of such a wary species can often only be made if  the ducks are frightened into flight), and two Snipe sit  motionless at the base of the island.  Coarse calls from trees and bushes along the south western side of the site bordering the former Valley Park School come from a loose group of c.40 Crows, typically worked up about nothing much, and 35 Canada Geese are foraging on grass by the all-weather track with two Greylag Geese, one of which flies off towards the city, its cackling call failing to persuade its companion to follow it.  A Buzzard lifts off from trees just south of Aldersley canal junction, a striking male Bullfinch sits at the base of a hawthorn, and, towards the top of a silver birch, a small shape hovers hummingbird-style under the crisp orange leaves, a Chiffchaff, my first warbler for the valley this winter.  Suddenly, the morning seems warmer . . .       
Dunstall Park
Saturday, 23rd November
Frost last night, morning mist clearing, the slightest of breezes from the north east, and sure enough, at least half the lake covered by thin ice.  Ones, twos, fives and threes, foraging Snipe are flushed, scratched alarm calls as they slant low across the stiff white-edged grass and over the wire fence towards the shelter of the shoreline and island, at least 20, their numbers having dramatically increased in recent days as the temperatures dropped.   On the lake are one adult and one juvenile Mute Swan, presumably the only ones of the family of seven to have stayed.  Six male and a female Teal are still there, four Coot chug along the ice-free passages, two Mistle Thrush rattle their way over the lake towards the Farndale estate (one was singing on Friday by the canal at Dimmingsdale near Pool Hall), and at least 25 Fieldfare and a handful of Redwing move noiselessly north eastwards across a dull sky.  The trees may still spell autumn, but it's winter now.  
(Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled.)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

wintering birds

Walk to pool hall this afternoon supplemented by sightings earlier in the month
Best bird was a male Goosander which flew from the direction of Pool Hall over my head as I passed under castle Croft bridge and headed north up the valley.
There seem to be at least 4 Little Grebes maybe 5 as per Geoff.
Two Juvenile Grey Wagtails again one around Compton and one around the water bridge.
Fieldfare were close to 100 at castle croft bridge but only handful of Redwing.
No kingfisher today but previously seen anywhere between castlecroft and the smestow at horern rd, set me wondering if two different birds?
Pool Hal held 17 tufted duck 40+coot and another little grebe.
17 was also the number of Canadas line astern at wightwick on the canal with the last bird being noticeably smaller with a smaller white face patch.
last week treecreeper on railway by hordern rd and plenty of Jays
other corvid news was of roosting with 200 jackdaw at the canal junction and a mixed group including rook and crow by water bridge which may have also been 200 strong but hard to count because of vegetation.  Similarly could only see 60 magpie in their roost at Oxley because of the leaves. (up to 150 in past)
Finally a summer sighting I omitted from last round up on the last thursdayu in August just as I left Racecourse drive and turned onto gorsebrook rd a Hobby flew overhead went across racecourse circled lake and disappeared.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

sat 16 November 2013                         09:15 - 12:15

mid section                        o/cast and mild, calm,

The Barleyfield was quiet today so all the interest was to come from the canal,were I had a grey wagtail at Compton Lock, a coal tit and a goldcrest just south of the Prefabs, a male kingfisher just north of Meccano Bridge, which after following along the canal for a while,eventually crossed over the canal to the Smestow alongside the Paddock. Also 2 little grebe in the same area ( 1 of which was north of Tettenhall Rd 3 hours earlier when I started this morning ).

fri 15 November 2013                      08:40 - 11:45

mid section                                     o/cast  dull

Another mirky morning found me struggling to get to grips with a mixed flock of finches in tree tops near Graisley Culvert. It turned out to hold a male brambling, 2 siskin, c10 goldfinch and c10 chaffinch, also in the same area 5 bullfinch. Later seen to transfer to the alders either side of the new lake. On the canal I had 4 little grebe, 1 by the tennis club and 3 north of Tettenhall Rd.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Nature4Kids@Christmas virtual wildlife store 2013 - All you need to find great gifts for children that will help the State of Nature!!

Firstly, thank you to everyone that joined Geoff Russon and I on our "wild" walk at the weekend!! We were blessed with glorious sunshine and warm company. Thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you all did too.

Thank you to Maureen and Alex for your wildlife records too. You will both be receiving invites to become blog authors over the weekend!!

I have created a virtual Christmas store to support our amazing wildlife organisations. It provides all your charitable wildlife online shops under one roof. A supermarket that cares, if you like!

You can visit it at:

I am setting up Aisle 3 in the store at the moment. This will be used to display gifts, goods and produce supplied by green businesses and farmers that work WITH rather than against nature.

To all our blogger readers, please could you add the above link to your site as it will help to give our wildlife organisations more resources to help nature in 2014. Your help is really appreciated.

Our site is being restyled soon so if you are a wildlife blogger or local friendly group, please contact me at and I will add you to our new links.

Lastly just to update you with what seen during our walk on Sunday 10th November 2013:

My prayers were answered and we had Northerly winds, which provided the group with the spectacle of Woodpigeon migration!!


1,233 Woodpigeon South
86 Starling S/SW
30+ Fieldfare SW
30+ Redwing S/SW
3 Meadow pipit

Other sightings:
Kingfisher near Compton Lock and later North of Mecccano Bridge
25+ Goldfinch at Eddys Alders
3 Little Grebe: 1 below the lock and 2 near the Academy
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
10+ Bullfinch with 3 males and two females together between Prefab Weir and Meccano Bridge

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Smestow Valley Wild Walk, November 10th

Smestow Valley Wild Walk
Seven intrepid nature lovers starting out on a wild walk on a beautiful November morning, with Chris and Geoff from the Smestow Valley Birders leading the way.
Tettenhall ridge, autumn, early morning sunlight
The early morning sunlight brought out the autumn colours of the trees by the Railway Walk and Tettenhall Ridge beyond.
Smestow Valley Wild Walk
A half-hour sky watch done, and time to get on the move.
Smestow Valley Wild Walk
At Compton Lock, with two little grebes downstream.
Song thrushes in a hawthorn
Further along the towpath, five song thrushes were at the top of a tree on the other bank.
Smestow Valley Wild Walk
As we reached Meccano Bridge, we were ready to step out of the shade.
Smestow Valley Wild Walk
Two little grebes here got most people's attention, but the dog seemed more interested in what I was doing.
Little grebes fishing
The dabchicks were busy fishing ...
Little grebes fishing
and, as usual, staying just a little too far away to pose for a good picture.
Smestow Valley Wild Walk
The final stop before we all headed for our homes and a hot drink - Freshwater Pool
Reposted from Wolves Wild.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Proposed Residential Development at the Cedars

I have been informed this evening that local residents have received letters regarding a proposed development of 12 residential dwellings on the site of the former City of Wolverhampton College Horticulture Centre along the Compton Road adjacent to Compton Park.

A public exhibition is to be held on Tuesday 19th November 2013 between 2pm and 8pm at City of Wolverhampton College Paget Road Campus.

The letter advises that a planning application will be submitted during November and Wolverhampton City Council will undertake a formal consultation process seeking views regarding the proposals.

If you cannot attend the "exhibition" but would like further information, residents have been advised to contact

There is obvious concern being already aired that this will affect the area of Smestow Valley LNR in the vicinity of the Barleyfield. To this end, anyone with strong views can contact me at Please ensure that you also involve yourselves directly in the consultation process.

I apologise for the short notice regarding this matter. Quite a few of us did ask for assurances following rumours earlier in the year. It's just a shame that those rumours have proved to be true and now residents have been given very little notice to act. I hope as many people as possible can make it on Tuesday to look at the proposals and get involved in the consultation process.

Thank you

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Mud and snipe may have vanished,

but for swans the lake's spot on . . .

Dunstall Park

Saturday, November 9th, 10.00 to 11.30, dull, drizzle, clearing later.

Miserable morning, but fresh air better than staying in, so on with the rain gear and off to check the racecourse lake.  The water level's as high as it's been all year, the mud margins are minimal, so no sign of Snipe (there were at least 20 present at the beginning of October), but some stately visitors have already found the depth to their liking, a group of Mute Swan, feeding and preening quietly.  There are three adults and six grey-brown juveniles, difficult to say whether it's one family or two, but one adult distances itself somewhat, suggesting that the other two are a pair.  Two youngsters feed on their own for while, but then glide back to the group, so maybe all six are siblings (seven cygnets hatched at the lake in 2004.  The last successful nesting was in 2005).  Certainly it's the largest swan group seen here since six adults and six juveniles flew in on 2/11/2008.  Floating gently near the shoreline, a pair of Gadwall preen and sleep (they were first seen on  November 4th), at least eight Teal forage along the margins, while six male and one female Shoveler up-end near the beds of aquatic grass, bright red legs pushing backwards as half-submerged the birds feed from the lake bed.  Some of the males, most likely winter visitors from north western Europe, are now resplendent in black, white, chestnut and black-green breeding plumage.  At least six Coot busy themselves back and forward across the water, an adult and two juvenile Moorhen pick their way along the shoreline, and an adult Grey Heron calls harshly as it glides low over the lake, only to drift up over the trees and disappear down on to the Staffs & Worcs Canal.  Along the north western edge of the site all is quiet, just the glimpse of  a brown-backed Buzzard flapping noiselessly away from trees near the canal junction.  A flock of at least 200 Starling slants and slides low over the central grass area, feeding momentarily before being harried by a single Crow which forces them to fly as soon as they have settled, two adult and a second-winter Herring Gull look down from floodlight pylons, and at least 200 Black-headed Gull and 23 Lesser Black-backed Gull rest and preen on the grass.  Close to the hotel reception doors a male Pied Wagtail scurries under the parade ring railings.  What's the betting he'll be breeding here next year . . . 
(Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled)

At Wightwick canal lock on Thursday 9th in calm, warm late-morning sunshine, wasps, flies, bees and a perfect Red Admiral butterfly feed on compact banks of sweet-smelling flowering ivy.  Nearby in the lock cottage hedge, red and pink roses are fully open.  It might as well be spring . . .       

Friday, 8 November 2013

Recent Sightings and Sunshine Forecast for Sunday's Walk!!

Highlights of recent visits to the Barleyfield:



Lesser Black-backed Gull - 5 adults South
Woodpigeon - still no significant movements over the mid-section of the reserve - 18 South and 12 West on direct flight paths.
Skylark - 1 South over Barleyfield and one heard over Meccano Bridge area later
Meadow Pipit - 8 South
Redwing - 12 West and 18 moving locally

Other highlights:
Pied Wagtail - 25 on Meccano Bridge Playingfields.
Goldfinch - 10 around Lower Alders

19/10/13 - Overcast, light overnight rain, moderate Southerlies


Canada Goose - 24 SW
Woodpigeon - 33 South
Collared Dove - 1 low SW and 1 South
Pied Wagtail - 14 South/SW
Meadow Pipit - 5 South
Redwing - 73 South/SW
Fieldfare - 58 SW , largest groups of 25 and 21
Mistle Thrush - 7 South
Starling - 55 South/SW
Chaffinch - 1 SE
Linnet - 1 South and 1 SW
Siskin - 1st 2 of the Autumn NE
Greenfinch  - 4 North

Other highlights:
Tawny Owl - calling near the Crossings, just after dawn
Sparrowhawk - Male over Henwood Road area

29/10/13 - Light Westerlies after storms had hit South coast. Clearing

An excellent morning with 2 Brambling (Male and probable female) rising from the Western Border at dawn heading South and another Yellowhammer record with two females seen soon after flying out from the Crossings area to the centre of the field and then onto the Hawthorn in the Central Scrub area. They rested briefly before both leaving to the South calling. This is further evidence that the extended field margins and other un-cut areas appear to be bringing passing birds down, with the valley offering safe roosting opportunities during Autumn movements.


2 propable Greylag Geese - Heading South down the valley. Only doubt came from the fact that they didn't appear to be showing any distinctive wing-pattern. Weren't vocal, which didn't help.
Fieldfare - 45 SW - largest group of 20
Redwing - 27 South with 30+ local birds along the railway line.
Starling - 9 South
Chaffinch - 5 South

30+ Goldfinch on Compton Park just SW of the tennis courts was the largest flock of the Autumn so far.

"Wild Walk" this Sunday 10th November 2013

Just a reminder that our informal skywatch and tour of the mid-section of the reserve between Compton and Newbridge is still on this Sunday.(See previous post).

We will be meeting at the top of the Barleyfield, by "Geoff's Bench" at 08:00.

The weather forecast is now looking better so it looks like we can cancel the Mac's and Umbrellas!! (Hope I didn't think that too loud!!).

Look forward to seeing everyone there.

Thank you