Monday, 30 March 2015

weekend catch up

Still some wintering birds, a little grebe just north of meccano this morning, a single redwing on the barleyfield on Friday and possibly the same bird this morning ~(reminding me of the single bird thru last October)  and a chuntering blackcap (which was audible from canal and paddock on Friday and we presume to be a winterer)
By contrast the chiffchaffs are clearly not.  Up to 6 birds were singing from the same places on fri/sat/today-too wet to go over on Sunday. However on Friday several more birds were passing thru mainly feeding low on the canal giving a total of around 14.
Otherwise it was all about residents with goldcrest at Compton lock, coal tit at meccano, 2 calling green woodpeckers, and treecreeper at the railwaycutting and station.
Star bird was a calling rose ringed parakeet in the trees between the canal and henwood rd, quite possibly2 birds were involved because it seemed to come from different directions and was contact calling and they are often seen together.

Friday, 20 March 2015

weekly round up

Very much a mix of seasons as expected.
Resident birds showing well included several goldcrest, jays and a soaring female sparrowhawk through the week. chaffinch are also more in evidence this year.
Buzzards were much in evidence on the 14th with a minimum of 5, probably 6 and maybe 8 engaging in display and territorial behaviour seemingly coming from 3 different directions.
2 greylag geese accompanied a Canada over newbridge on the 15th and a kingfisher was by the tennis club on the 17th going from canal to brook.
Had thought the wintering little grebe had left the canal but one was still present by the tennis club on 17th.  A female grey wagtail was active on the smestow and under tettenhall road bridge on 17th and 18th. A flock of circa 45 redwing flew east over the barleyfield on 14rh.
Finally blackcaps which I think we have to allocate to winter a surprise female was in my garden on the 13th and a singing (subdued) bird was in the ivy opposite ms centre this morning ( as per last year)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Newbridge,   March 14th  2015

Woodpeckers at war
as woodland awakes
OK, officially it’s spring, but only if the sun’s out and you’re away from the wind.  Ian and Geoff have already seen what were almost certainly the first migrants to arrive, two or more Chiffchaffs (and Sand Martins are passing through local reservoirs), but out in the open an easterly airstream shows that the sunniest (can you believe it?) winter on record is reluctant to depart.  It’s dull, but the air is cold and sharp, the wind is desiccating the woodland floor and green shoots are starting to push up through drying ground, sodden since the start of the year.  High in the trees the clacking calls of Magpies chart their progress through a network of still-bare branches, a Nuthatch disappears into what may well be this year’s nest hole, and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker angles outwards as he clings to a trunk, ready to force any intruder into a feather-flaring stand-off (some years ago two were seen locked together falling from a branch to within a few feet of the ground, separating at the last second to fly up, still defiantly issuing their Kestrel-like chase calls).  Stock Dove circuit the treetops in an exaggerated wing-flap display, Goldfinch hang like lightweight fruit as they feed in silver birch next to the playingfield, the thin note of a Goldcrest come from an ivy-covered tree, and a Crow struggles to make its way through the uppermost branches of its chosen tree with new nest material in its bill.  A pair of Jay forage in long grass at the edge of the playingfield, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush are in voice at opposite ends of the wood, and Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit are paired.  Coal Tit call from conifers by nearby gardens, where House Sparrow squabble, a female Blackbird sizes up breeding sites, Hedge Sparrows wing-wave to potential mates, and the resident Robin takes on all-comers (providing they are his size or smaller).  Our resident Buzzard pairs are now on station, circling above their breeding sites as the air warms in the late morning.  Difficult to believe that 20 years ago even the sight of one of these beautiful raptors over the valley would have meant a dash to a phone box (remember them?) to alert fellow birders.  Now they are the most commonly seen bird of prey locally.  Wonderful!!
Recent records from Newbridge include a Treecreeper in the wood on February 6th, a male Blackcap in a garden by the playingfield on February 15th, a Grey Wagtail at the Double Pennant canal wharf on February 23rd, and twenty one Redwing on the Giffard school field on March 3rd.  Further north along the old railway at least four Redpoll were at a garden feeding station on March 9th (winter finch records this winter have been few and far between) with a male and two female Bullfinch, and at least two male Greenfinch have been singing at the canal wharf by Tettenhall Road.

Dunstall Park produced late-winter highlights for the valley in the shape of single adult Mediterranean Gulls (one of them ringed) with Black-headed Gull flocks on February 12th (Gareth’s record) and on  February 28th, a female Stonechat hawking from lakeside bushes on March 10th and a Green Sandpiper at the lake on March 12th (Gareth’s record). Duck numbers at the lake have been low in a relatively mild winter, with up to ten Shoveler and nine Teal reported, but an unusually large flock of 15 Tufted Duck was seen on March 12th.  The Gadwall pair continued their stay, with another male seen from mid-February, the Mute Swan pair were still present mid-March, at least one pair of Little Grebe were heard and seen following last year’s successful nesting, and at least four Snipe were still at the site at the beginning of this month.  Coot pairs contested territories, with at least 16 birds, some of them non-breeding individuals grazing on lakeside grass, seen on February 28th.  Canada Goose totals peaked on February 8th when at least 210 birds grazed on the central grass area, c.500 Black-headed Gull were present on February 28th, at least 65 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were counted on March 3rd, and single Grey Heron visited the lake periodically.  At least 70 Starling were on island bushes on March 3rd, two Reed Bunting were in lakeside bushes on February 8th, and a Pied Wagtail pair were seen regularly in the racecourse hotel area where they nest annually.
Reports from elsewhere along the valley included a young male Kestrel perched by the north eastern corner of the Compton barleyfield on February 2nd and a Green Woodpecker calling from the same area on March 5th.  The Rose-ringed Parakeet trail seems to have gone cold, with no reports from garden feeding stations in or near the valley for some weeks now.

Can’t really compare with the Somerset Levels or with Aberystwyth pier, but at least 70 Starling swirled above the Castlecroft Road/Pool Hall Road area at the southern end of the valley at dusk in mid-February in a pre-roost mini murmuration.

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

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

spring has sprung

Yesterdays warm weather revealed daffodils in the paddocks in full bloom and the first butterflies of the year.
A red admiral was near the meccano and two presumed small tortoiseshells reported from castlecroft.
A chiffchaff was well seen in the scrub halfway between castlecroft bridge and pool hall.  (the latter held a single great crested grebe and 12 tufted duck, 11 of which were male.) Another presumed common chiffchaff was seen fleetingly by the meccano. Neither bird sang so I don't think we can view them as migrants necessarily as they could be dispersing wintering birds.
Two very active goldcrests were on the old railway line by the coach depot, a treecreeper performed well in the same spot on Monday. plenty of sightings of jays and great spotted woodpeckers and lots of singing wrens and robins in this bit this morning also male sparrowhawk overhead.
the male kestrel is still frequenting the bottom of the barleyfield and it or another bird hovered over wightwick mill lock as seen driving by on Saturday.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

February round-up

A pretty quiet month in the valley.
At least 3 little grebe were present on the canal throughout the month and are now fully in summer plumage and I suspect about to relocate to their breeding habitat, which could be the racecourse lake.
Similarly with Grey Wagtails although they do sometimes nest within the valley along the Smestow.
Two birds have been regularly at the spill weir and near hordern rd.
Also near Hordern rd was a water vole but be aware that rats are seen far more often hear. my last two sightings have been at exactly the same spot 50 yards south of the road bridge.
Buzzards gradually became more visible during the month with two birds seen over barleyfield, in crowther rd and at Oxley.  Hopefully this could mean a minimum of 6 birds in the northern half of the valley but we need to wait for the warmer weather to be sure (remember the double figure count in autumn.)
Otherwise the lack of finches continues with greenfinches often being most numerous especially around aldersley stadium where up to 40 could be found. Goldcrests continue to be prominent especially around station. A wintering chiffchaff has been present just north of the valley on the Shropshire union canal alongside the sewage works. But sadly no sign of the willow tit which have seen near the canal club in previous years and no sign in the valley which may partly be due to the success of the Great spotted woodpecker which have a reputation for predating willow tit nests.