Wednesday, 11 June 2014



A month's absence, so time to shake sand from the travelling bags and see how green is our valley as mid-summer approaches.  At home, a pair of Robins are feeding a second brood in their nest behind a screen of ivy, young Blue Tit and Great Tit are passing through the garden, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbird are still singing sporadically, Nuthatch call from Newbridge wood, and Wood Pigeon, Crow and Magpie forage on the playingfield.   They were late, but two Swift pairs have set up in eaves of houses opposite, and the road's only House Martin pair are again in residence.
Down at  Dunstall Park,  at least two Blackcap and two Chiffchaff are still in voice,  Chaffinch sing in canalside trees and young Rook fledged from the site's oak copse colony feed with their parents on the central grass area, near to a flock of 25 Canada Geese and a single Greylag.  At the lake, brief glimpses of a stripe-necked juvenile Little Grebe on June 1st  show that nesting has been successful here for the first time since the year 2000 (at least three adults were present on June 6th), five adult Mute Swan were seen on June 1st  (almost certainly some of the 12 birds which were present on May 11th), with four still there on June 6th, and at least 14 scruffy-looking moulting Mallard are sleeping on the island.  Four pairs of Coot are feeding youngsters some of which are now nearly adult size, at least one adult Moorhen is present,  an adult Grey Heron was by the lake on June 1st, and on June 6th a Grey Wagtail foraged on the concrete run-off apron from the Smestow brook culvert.  Lakeside bushes are attracting House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Dunnock, with adult and juvenile Starling sunning themselves on the banks of island brambles.  The racecourse ground staff report that three Barn Swallow pairs are breeding in the stables, that a Pied Wagtail pair have sucessfully fledged young, and that, best of all, House Martins have taken up residence on the hotel building, their three nests tucked in under the roof overhang, safe and dry, away from the weather.  This engaging migrant has for decades nested in numbers at the nearby Farndale housing estate, but this is the first time they have bred on the racecourse site itself.
NB.  Dunstall Park is a restricted commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled.

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First walk in the valley since return from far north of Scotland, still the odd singing warbler; chiffchaff blackcap and garden warbler.  On walk from newbridge to town via the 21 locks biggest surprise was lack of moorhens, only saw 1 brood of 3 by lock 19.  by contrast there were more coot at the town end single under viaduct followed by pair with 2 young under railway drive and pair with 5/6 young at horsley fields. (note I cut across from Stafford rd to carvers so missed about half a mile).
No sign of common tern that had seen a few years ago fishing the canal by horsley fields (always wiondered where it came from ?? clayhanger seems a long way but do they breed closer it was end june).
Notable in Scotland was the number of singing Sedge warblers on the north coast but not that many willows.  both species seem to me to be scarce in England this year.