Monday, 24 February 2014

"Schools out to learn about Wolverhampton's Woodlands"

Visitor's to the Barleyfield will be aware that The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country has got together with students from S. Peter's Collegiate School and St. Edmund's Catholic Academy to work on a woodland management project there.

The full article can be found on The Wildlife Trust site here

This schools project will be running until 18th March 2014. Further information, including details regarding the Birmingham & Black Country Nature Improvement Area can be found here.

If you have spare time and would be interested in learning new skills, whilst enjoying the great outdoors and helping preserve the environment, you can find out how to volunteer for the Wildlife Trust here.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Saturday morning walk

Newbridge to Wightwick mill along railway and back on canal.
Winter visitors still around, 5 redwing on the football pitch, siskin and redpoll with the finch flock by the new pool, and 3 little grebe still on canal.
But lots of signs of spring, 2 Coots on canal eyeing up nesting sight, singing goldcrest, dunnock, wren and song thrush, 2 drumming great spots but no nuthatch.
also 2 greylags flying SE across barleyfield

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Just a brief update to say that I am back, and starting to get up and running again!

I have had a prolonged period of illness which has hampered me from getting out and about, since my last update. This has also meant that I have been juggling commitments, and subsequently, this site needs some TLC!!

I will be taking the blog offline on Sunday for quite a bit of updating and maintenance.

A rather slimmer version of Chris will be seen around the patch next week as things return to the norm. I shall look forward to catching up with you all and getting back in tune with the valley!!

Thank you.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

newbridge to pool hall

this afternoon did the above along canal towpath and return same way.

Little grebe 3 on canal
great crested grebe pair back at pool hall
goosander male circled pool and later fished canal between Compton and wightwick
tufted duck 20+ on pool
coot 1 on canal by reeds nest prospecting??
water rail came either out of overhang or drainage duck at bottom of smestow school field flew cross canal into sluice system
stock dove 23 on farm fields
(also fieldfare but no redwing have they gone??)
also at field was finch flock of 20-25 which were mainly goldfinches but unfortunately flew off b4 could check all
kingfisher wightwick mill
grey wagtail compton

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

more song

After Angus's report of singing Blackcap I also had a male in song on Saturday gone approximately 500 yards southwest of his garden.  This raises the obvious question of whether it is the same bird?
The bird I heard and briefly saw was opposite the MS centre on the canal and was giving the usual subsong which I have heard many times in early Autumn and sometimes in early Spring.  One suspects this is from wintering birds and is in marked contrast to the full song belted out by newly arrived migrants from late March.
Other songsters just north of the valley in the field West of the JLR site were several Skylarks one of which despite the strong wind was 50 feet up and in contrast a ground hugging Song Thrush despite the availability of perches. (also 25-30 Meadow Pipits)
Otherwise a small dark Buzzard seems to have a winter territory within the triangle formed by Aldersley, Codsall rds and Lowlands Ave close to albert tennis club.  I saw what I think same bird battling the wind over the canal today.  Also today a circling redhead Goosander and goldcrest near station.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Thunder crashes, lightning flashes,

and secretly a Blackcap sings . . .

At last January has ended, disturbingly warm for mid-winter, with record rain levels, gales, thunder, lightning, even hail, a truly tempestuous start to the New Year.  Difficult to remember, but during the mayhem there were days when all was calm . . .

NEWBRIDGE     January 11th, bright, cold.

A walk through the wood as the morning progesses,  a single wintering Coot chugs by on the canal opposite the Double Pennant wharf as a pair of Stock Dove fly in to perch high up, wing-flapping in an exaggerated slow-motion display over their nest site.  A single Buzzard circles against the bright light, turning slowly and slanting away to show its dark underwing patches, eventually floating off towards Stockwell End, possibly one the valley's nesting birds already responding to the warm weather.  Soon pairs will be reinforcing control of their breeding grounds, driving away last year's progeny and defending territories against adult interlopers.  Bushes above the feeding station at Newbridge canal wharf produce a female Bullfinch, a male Greenfinch, a Goldfinch and a female Chaffinch, but no sign of Brambling.  They're thin on the ground this winter.
As dusk descends there's a slim brown shape on the garden fatball holder, a female Blackcap sneeking a last feed before roost time.  She's seen again at the same time next day, following another appearance in the morning by a male of her species, a bird first seen on 6th and still visiting at the end of the month, using the birdbath on 18th.  Regular garden visitors throughout January include two Coal Tit, at least three Woodpigeon and a pair of Robins, the male flying frantically back and fore as he tries to drive away two Dunnock and at least 15 House Sparrow.  Sheer weight of numbers eventually prevails in a piece of pantomime repeated daily. The redbreast, it seems, never learns.
NEWBRIDGE     January 15th, dull, damp, calm.
Across the field the wood stands cold against a grey sky, the winds have lifted, the rain has stopped. Low over the trees a familiar shape emerges from the gloom, small head, long-tailed, broad-winged, flying up over the canal before circling, barred wings spread and tail fanned, dropping into a shallow dive towards the trees before rising, the slow, laboured wingflaps a token of territorial possession to other females and a contact signal to any male that may be watching. The female Sparrowhawk is back.
NEWBRIDGE     January 22nd, dull, calm, cold.
A walk round to the corner shop, everything's quiet, back towards home, paper under arm.  A sharp "tac tac" from a corner garden privet, so  stop, silence, but the bird won't call again.  Give it a minute, turn the corner and, wait, there's the faintest of sounds, a soft chuntering warble, the pattern and pitch of notes the same as in those subdued songs heard in bushes and ivy-covered trees along the Smestow Valley on quiet, sunny mornings in March.  Still can't see the singer, no bins on me, so let's confirm this if we can by resorting to the twitcher's "schup, schup, schup" inticement call.  Yes, in under a minute a slim grey shape comes out to the edge of the bush, a male Blackcap, very likely my garden visitor, pecking at the leaf stems and then flying off in the general direction of my house. The bird, the only Blackcap I've ever heard singing in mid-winter, will almost certainly be one of thousands of his species which now come in ever increasing numbers to lowland areas of the UK in winter from Central Europe, appearing after our breeding Blackcaps have left for southern Europe and Africa.  The incomers eat berries and other natural foods, but also visit garden birdtables, particularly in harsh weather.  It is estimated that 90 per cent of Central European breeding Blackcaps migrate to Spain and north west Africa, with the rest finding a winter home with us.  There is now even a theory that the physical characteristics of the UK wintering birds are slowly changing, so that their wings are becoming more rounded because of shorter migration flights, and their bills are becoming longer and narrower due to a fat and seed diet provided by humans.  Evolution before your very eyes.
DUNSTALL PARK    January 30th,  cold, easterly wind, snow flurries.  
A quick visit to the lake before the bad weather closes in reveals three Grey Heron by the shoreline, a single Snipe motionless at the base of the island, at least 12 Coot starting to defend territories, and  a Mute Swan pair gliding out to preen and feed.  Duck numbers have increased, with at least 12 Teal, two Mallard pairs, seven male and two female Shoveler, five male and five female Tufted Duck and a pair of Gadwall present.  One of four large gulls moving northwards over Stockwell End turns out to be an adult Great Black-backed Gull, flying with two of its Lesser Black-backed relatives and an adult Herring Gull.  This powerful species is not often seen along the valley, so a good bird to report as the month ends.
NB  Dunstall Park is a commercial restricted site.  Access is strictly controlled.