Tuesday, 31 December 2013



Dunstall Park

Sunday December 29th 2013

Cold, calm, bright, slight frost, mid-morning.

The gales of recent days have blown themslves out, new ones are forecast, but at least now there's a brief respite between storms as the year nears its end.  Clear overnight skies have brought a frost, but not hard enough to put off at least 175 Canada Geese which with two Greylag Geese graze the central grass area near to resting groups of c.380 Black-headed Gull,  35 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single adult Herring Gull.  Around 20 per cent of the lake is covered with thin ice, five Coot busy themselves on the open water, two adult and an immature Moorhen tread gingerly along the shoreline, and at least seven Snipe rest and preen in the morning sunshine between sandy-coloured rocks along the base of the island.  An adult Grey Heron stands motionless on the grass banks, looking down as a single male Shoveler pushes out from the shore, and a group of  12 Teal emerge one by one from the spiked aquatic grass.  This diminutive duck species has been at the lake since late summer (22 birds were present on October 22nd), and the group that remains are mostly males, now resplendent in full chestnut, green, grey, white and yellow breeding plumage.  They are determined to impress the four or so light-brown females, escorting and chasing, giving high fluted calls and pushing their heads and tails skywards in a exaggerated banana-shaped attempt to catch the eye (the species' collective name is a "spring", capturing perfectly their ability to rise instantly and vertically into the air when disturbed).  A Wren and a Robin are heard and seen in shoreline bushes, two species which have become more frequent visitors to the lake as the waterside vegetation has spread, and two Stock Dove float in to perch in the canalside oak copse near the Water Bridge.  Corvid commotion often means there's a raptor about, and sure enough at least six Crows and a couple of Magpies surround a Common Buzzard as it sits on the banked grass between the racetrack and  service road.  Quite what it's up to is unclear, but if it's looking for worms there's no joy, and it flies up on to a junction box on the side of one the light pylons which line the course perimeter.  The corvids won't give up, and eventually the Buzzard drops off the pylon and flaps slowly away towards the northern end of the site.  The tree-lined western edge of the racecourse is a quiet reflection of a calm day, there's nothing about, so it's back across the tracks and grass to the warmth of the hotel and its reception staff.  A Happy New Year to them, and to you all.

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


All told, a quiet end to a quiet year for the whole of the Smestow Valley.  Autumn passage wader records have been few across the region, not helped by high water levels at lakes and reservoirs, but a Green Sandpiper was present from December 1st to at least 4th at Dunstall Park, only the second winter record for the site.  A male Peregrine visited the racecourse on December 4th, and a wintering Coot was on the canal by Newbridge wood on December 16th.  Relatively warm weather encouraged a few singing birds, including single Mistle Thrush near the canalside flats by Hordern Road on December  16th and by Newbridge playingfield on December 24th.  And, sandwiched between the squalls and rain, came the sounds of spring in Newbridge wood on a calm, clear morning on December  29th . . . territorial calls from at least one Nuthatch, and, high in the bare trees, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming away for all the world to hear.




Friday, 13 December 2013

Proposed development at rear of "The Cedars", Compton Road - Update

Apologies to everyone. I have had a bit of leave and just getting back into the driving seat, so to speak!!

The "Exhibition" for the above development has quickly transformed into a planning application.

You can find the application by searching for 13/01181/FUL at the following link:


If you wish to comment about the proposed application, you have to do so by 24th December 2013.

If you are unfamiliar with the council planning site, click on the tabs to view the map and make a comment.

You will see from the map that this proposal covers land which is, again, right alongside the Eastern Border of the Barleyfield - a site that provides immense pleasure and biodiversity for all to enjoy.

We have been concerned about increased disturbance in an area that still records Willow Tit, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, and hosts a wide range of habitats and species. The Eastern border provides shelter for a variety of breeding species as well as significant flocks of Winter feeders.

Wolverhampton Council, recently helped by providing additional areas of uncut grass to help as buffers. Geoff and I both hold records to show that these measures have helped wildlife, so it is sad that this important area is having to endure more challenges.

If you have strong views, please get involved.

Thank you.

P.S. I will be back on the patch soon, and I am looking to organize a "Winter sounds" walk - a fun tour of the mid-section giving an opportunity to learn common bird calls and song, before it all get's beautifully noisy but complicated in the Spring!!

Anyone interested, please email me and once numbers have built, I will plan a convenient date with you all.