Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Roosts in Valley

Given the dearth of bird movements in desperation for something to report here is a bit on daily movements of corvids.
The black members of the family seem to be quite flexible in their choice of roosting place.  It seems to vary dependent on the use of the racecourse and aldersley stadium.
The number of birds is around 400 most obviously Jackdaws which are the most vocal but including Crows and Rooks.  Site choices are Aldersley canal junction, the racecourse by the pool, the stadium poplars or the water bridge copse.
The Magpies are more picky always choosing the trees and bushes around Oxley bank, height varying a bit with wind strength but generally lower than their monochrome cousins.  A few days ago I went down about half four and counted 81 already there and then another 50 arriving singly from the West over the canal.  returning to the roost I counted 133 which must be an underestimate because they arrive from all directions.  Yesterday noted 15 in a pre-roost by Water bridge, where there were two contrasting Little Grebes one in full summer plumage the other still in full winter.  Wonder if it has anything to do with age of the bird?
Finally I found the finch flock(50ish) which usually graces the stadium just north of Autherley junction; mainly chaffinch , goldfinch and lesser redpoll with at least one siskin.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Not a lot to report with the continuing mild weather.
The cold night just over a week ago did produce the sight of four Little Grebes huddled together by the boats at the Wildside Centre, perhaps will be same tonight.
Song Thrushs are singing and Nuthatchs calling with some Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.
Redwings seem to be moving into the fields having gorged on the berries and are now joining Fieldfare.
So we are not seeing displaced birds and neither do we seem to be getting Redpoll and Siskin. In the surrounding farmland Yellowhammer and the 2 Partridges are conspicuous by their absence. is this also due to a poor breeding season caused by last years late spring?
Finally a belated record from last year which I initially hesitated to put up was an immature/female Merlin on 17th November at 3pm. As often happens with this species it was a one day wonder being seen flying from the bottom of the Lupin field towards barnhurst sewage works. (I saw an adult male at Featherstone last Saturday).

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Moorhens are climbing, Goldcrests

are chasing, Coots are contesting


Cold and damp but comparatively calm, a break in this seemingly endless run of storms that have battered out the Old Year and blown in the New.  The trees are bare, trunks glistening with overnight rain, the paths through the wood brown and damp under a carpet of rotting leaves and broken branches.  Birds and humans are out and about again, a weekend clutch of joggers striding their way along the towpath, dog-walkers waiting patiently as their pets nose the earth by the canal arm bridge.  Above them Crows and Magpies call in the leafless treetops as Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock and Wren busy themselves in bankside bushes.  Two Stock Dove fan in and perch close together, their iridescent neck patches clear even in the dull light, a Nutchatch calls, and the clear but as yet subdued notes from a Song Thrush and the hollow drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker show that woodland territories are already being proclaimed.  A single Redwing arrows its way across the school playingfields, and thin high-pitched calls are traced to two tiny shapes flitting and fluttering their way along a hedgeline.  It's courtship time for Goldcrests, the birds calling continuously, the male's crest flaring and spreading from yellow to orange as he pursues his intended mate.  There's a sudden movement in treetops beyond the towpath, black wings arching upwards as a squat, unfamiliar shape edges its way slowly out along one of the highest branches to sit quietly next to another of its kind, two Moorhen, at least 15 to 20 metres above the ground.  It's not unusual to see this species climbing out of the water at dusk to roost in bushes and low trees, but these two seem to be high-altitude specialists.  Minutes later they've disappeared, presumably having flown back down to resume their patrols, low along the edges of the canal.  That's some change of scene.

DUNSTALL PARK,  JANUARY 5th,  2014                               

A westerly breeze, another dull day, and a mid-morning check at the racecourse reveals at least 200 Canada Geese and two Greylags grazing as 220-plus Black-headed Gull, an immature Herring Gull and 10 Lesser Black-backed Gull rest and preen.  The gulls rise suddenly as a Buzzard comes in low to skim the grass and head towards the Farndale estate perimeter, pursued by corvids.   Some of the gulls move to the shelter of the lake, where three male and one female Shoveler edge out from the island, and nine female and 13 male Teal fly up and then settle near two at least seven Coot.  Numbers of this highly territorial bird have risen in the comparatively warm weather of recent weeks, and even this early in the year, pairs are gearing up for noisy and aggressive clashes as they defend nesting areas.   Two Grey Heron stand hunched in rough grass near the shoreline, a single Snipe is motionless at the base of the island, and thin calls from bankside sallows reveal the presence of a single male Reed Bunting, the washed-out version of his dark black summer bib just visible.  After a few minutes he flies off towards the west, and I walk back towards the east, and to a cup of hot Bovril at home.  Cheers.
(Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled).        

PS.  This morning (January 6th), a male Blackcap is bossing birds on my garden fatball feeder. Long may he stay . . .



Saturday, 4 January 2014


sat 4 jan 2014             mid section         early morning

Just a quicky

Early morning around the mid  section  did't produce much, but as I sat on the seat at the top of Barleyfield I pick up a small Phylloscopus warbler in the Blackthorn near the top SW exit leading to the railway track. It quickly disappeared and after 45 mins it could't be relocated. It was probably a common chiffchaff but with plenty of siberian chiffchaffs around just now its worth keeping an eye out for if anyone visits the Barleyfield.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

December update

Firstly a Happy New Year to all our readers (if we have any).
Just a few notes for December which as others have commented seems to have been pretty quiet.
Gadwall: If we do get a cold snap then well worth looking out for them on the main canal which presumably due to the influence of the sewage works doesn't freeze between Oxley and Castlecroft.
Reason I say this is 2 males were at Pool Hall and 10 birds at Pendeford mill just before Xmas
Little Grebe: Still with us on canal but quite mobile and very much favouring the middle of valley
Kingfisher: Again still with us but probably not if we get cold snap, favouring the Meccano area.
Redwing/Fieldfare: These along with other members of the Thrush family are the subject of a survey by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) now in its 2nd year.  Not sure if anyone in the valley is submitting records which anyone can do.  My impression is we have lots of groups of Redwing which are feasting in gardens on berries whilst fieldfare are more likely to be encountered on the edges of the conurbation feeding in fields in bigger groups.
Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Nuthatch:  All three seem quite prominent and enjoying good food supplies.
Reed Bunting: A bird on the western boundary of the barleyfield was a surprise on Xmas morning.

Finally star of the month was a Water vole. 2 sightings around Hordern Rd bridge including one obliging animal which crawled out of the canal and crossed the towpath a few yards in front of me!!