Sunday, 31 January 2016

january round-up

I haven't managed to post since new years day so this is a combination of this weekends sightings and additional records not previously logged.
Yesterday morning started with an interesting looking gull as I walked towards newbridge. The bird was only in view for a couple of seconds before going behind the shops and not reappearing. It was large and seemed pale and without any black wingtips. The view was much too fleeting for me to even raise binoculars but enough for me to change my route and arrive at the barleyfield via the school access road. Three adult herring gulls were on the wulfrun campus field with the black-headed but that was it.
A circuit of the field and back along the canal generated lots of activity but nothing unusual; most notable was the number of long-tailed tits 25plus.
Back home and something to eat before hearing for west park to check the gulls there.  No joy but did note 14 mute swans of which 8 were sub-adult. There have been at least four different swnas on the canal during the month, a regular bird with a colourless bill but otherwise adult, 2 females hanging out together towards the southern end and a juvenile.  Also several flyovers of 2 birds.
Still on the gull hunt early afternoon and back to the wulfrun field which tends to get better as the day goes on.  Sure enough about 90 birds and quite a mixture.  No white winger (glaucous or Iceland) but a common gull and about 12 large gulls including a strikingly white headed bird with a small beady eye and sloping forehead. It showed pale colourless legs but did not give views of  its primaries.  However its feel was very much Caspian pity it was just outside the valley.
Its about time we added to the valley total but, especially with gareth doing the racecourse, it cant be long before this species is officially added. Other candidates include cetti's warbler and firecrest.
I tried again today but arrived at 3 just in time to see a large mixed flock take to the air.
Yesterday had male goosander flying over the canal and have had many similar sightings over the month-the best of which was 5 birds fishing in the canal on the 2nd until disturbed by a dog walker.
Finches have been in short supply for the latter part of the month with the siskin seemingly moving on but have had 3 redpoll and 2 redpoll near castlecroft bridge. 2 kingfisher sightings ;at the wetland on the second and by meccano mid-month.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Kingfisher and Ring neck Parakeet

23rd January 16          morning             mid section

hazy sunshine,  7-9°c,  1028 mb,  S 8-13 mph

  A kingfisher at the Prefabs was a first for the year and good to see it's still around. Met Ian at Compton Lock and continued to the Barleyfield where we had a great spotted woodpecker drumming in the Annex and a goldcrest in trees there also about ten redwing around the Wetland area. A chaffinch singing along Railway Walk past the Paddocks is very early along with several great tit and plenty of robins singing. A ring neck parakeet seen and heard flying south over Station Paddock and maybe the same bird later heard calling further north in Newbridge wood. Another great spot a male seen in trees at Double Pennant and a total of five little grebe including the two summery birds rounded off a decent mornings birding.

Little Grebe 5 S&W canal
Mute Swan 1 imm ♂ Meadow View
Ring Necked Parakeet 1 flew S over Station Paddock,  poss same calling Newbridge wood,
Kingfisher 1 flushed from Graiseley Brook Prefabs,
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 drumming Barleyfield  Annex,   1♂ Double Pennant,
Robin 13 singing mid section
Song Thrush 1 singing Smestow Meadow
Redwing c10 Wetlands
Goldcrest 1 1 exit Barleyfield Annex to railway,
Long Tailed Tit c10 Smestow Aldersley Stadium
Coal Tit 2 Newbridge Wharf feeder
Great Tit 5 singing mid section
Chaffinch 5 ( 1 singing ) mid section
Greenfinch 7+
mid section

mid section

Friday, 22 January 2016

Newbridge,  20th January  2016


Half-roll Raven and

a grebe that’s greedy


Hard overnight frost, bright, cold and calm, a perfect winter morning in which to check the Smestow brook as it winds its way through the rough grass fields south of Windmill Lane at Wightwick, followed by a walk via the canal towpath and old railway back towards Compton and Newbridge.  Over Castlecroft canal bridge (no sign of Gareth’s Corn Bunting), and nothing much is showing, save a hunched Buzzard perched by the brook nearer to Pool Hall, and a few Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks calling from along the hedgerows.  Back along the edge of the brook, and a Kingfisher arrows its way low over the grass by the canal run-off, a Collared Dove joins Magpie and Woodpigeon in bushes by the stream, and a Grey Heron lifts off from the water’s edge just south of Windmill Lane.  A pair of Jackdaw are indulging in mutual grooming high in tree by the road when the largest of their relatives appears over Wightwick ridge in the angular shape of a single Raven, making its way purposefully towards the north east, the low sun giving it a dull sheen as it half-rolls twice over Compton.  No time today, it seems, for the full barrelling display, it’s just letting the bird world knows it’s there.  After that, nothing of real note, save a Stock Dove low over the Compton barleyfield and yet another Coal Tit (they’re everywhere!) busying itself in a bush by the Smestow south of Tettenhall Road.

A walk along the Wightwick section of the Smestow last Saturday (January 16th) produced a Jay flying towards the Bridgnorth Road with an acorn in its bill, a single Fieldfare on a phone wire, a Kestrel over the rough grass fields, a female Pheasant flushed from the brook margin just south of Windmill Lane, and a male Goosander flying westwards along the canal before changing course northwards towards Tinacre Hill.

Sightings in recent days include a singing Goldfinch by Newbridge allotments on 17th, a pair of Bullfinch in Newbridge wood on 17th and three Buzzard circling low over Stockwell End in misty conditions at lunchtime on 18th.  A female Blackcap on a feeder by Newbridge playingfield on 17th was very likely the bird seen in the same garden on January 5th.


PS  A Little Grebe seen trying to eat what appeared to be a roach nearly as long as itself by Tunstall Water Bridge on 15th eventually gave up the struggle and let its victim drift off down the canal.  This wasteful bird could be in breach of EU fishery discard regulations, even though the rules apply to catches that are too small, not too big . . .

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

No sign of Corn Bunting    

19th January 16         morning          southern section

cold, mostly sunny,  0-4°c,  1016mb,  SE 4- 3

  Paid a visit to Wightwick Fields today to look for the corn bunting that Garath had yesterday. No sign today though. However did have about four yellowhammer with some greenfinch which flew from the hedgerow running down from the bridge to perch in a tree by the Smestow and then flew off towards Windmill La. Five goosander flew around the field and away to the north west. Other for the  year included kestrel,fieldfare and house sparrow.

Mute Swan 2 S&W canal east of Castlecroft Br
Mallard 3 S&W canal east of Castlecroft Br
Goosander 1♂ 4♀ over Wightwick Fields
Kestrel 1♀ Wightwick Fields
Black Headed Gull odds over Wightwick Fields
Lesser Black Backed Gull odds over Wightwick Fields
Robin song Wightwick Fields
Fieldfare 1 Wightwick Fields
Song Thrush 3 Wightwick Fields
Long Tailed Tit c8 Wightwick Fields
Jay 1 Wightwick Fields
House Sparrow c10 Wightwick Fields
Greenfinch 15+ Wightwick Fields
Yellowhammer c4 Wightwick Fields

Monday, 18 January 2016

Garaths Corn Bunting    

Garath Clemence is taking on the Smestow Valley this year as his patch for Patchwork Challenge ( its a birding thing, google it to find out more). He was in touch today to let me know that he had found a corn bunting in with 8 yellowhammers at Wightwick Fields near Castlecroft canal bridge. This is only the third record for the valley ( 2 roosting with linnets on the Loopinfields 12/4/80 and 2 singing in almost the same place as today's 21/3/05  being the others ). He also reports two goosander flying along the canal.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

A touch of frost and we get Teal  

16th January 16          morning            mid section   

hazy sunshine,  -1-2°c,  1030 mb,   WNW 3-W 4

Again the Barleyfield and canal was pretty quiet, with more seen between Tettenhall and Hordern Rds. The slushy mud was mostly frozen and hazy sunshine took the chill of the very low temperature. Just two little grebe on canal one either side of Prefab weir, coal tits on the feeders at Newbridge boats and Double Pennants and two nuthatch at the latter. The Smestow near Hawthorn Wood produced a bright grey wagtail and four teal which were flushed from behind gardens in Aldersley Rd.

Little Grebe 2 S&W Compton
Teal 4 flushed from Smestow Hawthorn Wood / Aldersley Rd,
Green Woodpecker calls Tettenhall Ridge
Grey Wagtail 1 Smestow/H Wood
Robin 9 singing mid section
Song Thrush 1 singing Meadow View
Coal Tit 1 Newbridge boats feeder + 1 Double Pennant feeder
Great Tit 2 singing mid section
Nuthatch 2 Double Pennant
Jay 1 Hills Coaches
Chaffinch 1+ Newbridge boats feeder
Greenfinch 7 top Barleyfield,  few Newbridge boats feeders.
Goldfinch 3 Eddies Alders
Bullfinch calls Barleyfield

Newbridge,  12th January  2016


A thrush flush plus

uncommon Common


At last, some proper winter weather this morning, winds from the north west, black clouds piling in and a hint of sleet.  This is much more like it, so head down and start across rain-sodden pitches towards the wood.  There’s movement near the boundary fence and a single Fieldfare flies up into a tree, the first record for the species here this winter.  A check across the grass reveals two Redwing foraging with a Mistle Thrush near to three male Blackbirds and a Song Thrush.  This, in card terms, must be a straight flush of resident and seasonal visitors, all of whom fly up suddenly into the wood or across the canal as a Common Buzzard circles low overhead before slanting away from the oncoming squalls.  The wood is damp, cold and quiet, but yesterday it produced a Treecreeper plus male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Today at least two Robin are singing, a Nuthatch calls high in the trees and a solitary Goldfinch trills against the darkening sky at the top of an oak next to the allotments.

Along the canal at DUNSTALL PARK birds are still responding to the weather conditions of recent weeks.  The ground is waterlogged, and lake levels have risen to a point where Snipe have disappeared and duck numbers are even lower than at the end of last year.  On 8/1 the Gadwall pair was still present (a small number of these unobtrusive ducks have been annual winter visitors to the lake for the last decade), but just one male Shoveler was seen, with three females and two males the only Teal visible.  Other lake records on the same day included a single Grey Heron and 28 Canada Geese.  On the central grass area more than 100 Starling foraged near to 93 Lapwing, with more than 500 Black-headed Gull and 70 Lesser Black-backed Gull also resting and foraging.  Among them were the birds of the day, an adult and a first-winter Common Gull, the first of their species to be recorded at the site since the winter of 2012.  Despite their name these are by no means the most frequently seen gulls locally, even though large numbers are reported annually from farmland along the western Cotswold fringes and along the Avon and lower Severn valleys.  The largest groups yet recorded in the Smestow Valley were just four adults flying over a snow-covered racecourse on 13/2/1991, four adults on Dunstall Park on 24/11/2002 and four birds moving south eastwards over the same site on 18/8/2005)

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


PS.  Trumpeted in the headline, but then no mention of Blackcaps in last week’s posting.  Sorry about that, and so for the record, there were sightings of single males (perhaps the same bird) on feeders by Newbridge playingfield on November 25th and December 29th, and of a female briefly visiting the same site on January 5th.   This warbler species has been a winter visitor to the same garden for the last four years.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

North to Aldersley

8th January 16,         morning            north section

partly sunny,    4-7 °c,   996 mb,   S 8-10 mph

 North again today. The treecreeper still at Double Pennant in the same trees as 21/12 also there at least two coal tit after one on the feeders by Newbridge Boat moorings and a nuthatch calling over the canal in Newbridge wood. A great tit singing here was the only species in song apart from the robins. On the Smestow as it runs between Hawthorn Wood and the gardens of houses on Aldersley Rd I found the dull grey wagtail that Ian's been having recently. Four lapwing flew west off Dunstall Park and over the canal ( there's usually a good sized flock on DP so its strange they are so uncommon in the surrounding areas ). The single mute swan was near Meccano bridge and between here and Oxley Moor Rd there were five little grebe including the two with remains of summer plumage.

Little Grebe 5 S&W canal
Mute Swan 1 S&W Canal just N Meccano bridge
Lapwing 4 over Dunstall Park
Black Headed Gull c50 Aldersley Field
Grey Wagtail 1 dull Smestow behind Hawthorn Wood
Robin 10 singing north section
Song Thrush 1 Newbridge wood
Long Tailed Tit 1+ Double Pennant
Coal Tit 3+ north section
Great Tit 1 singing Double Pennant
Nuthatch calls Newbridge wood
Treecreeper 1 Double Pennant
Jay 1 Hawthorn Wood
Rook 2+ Dunstall Park  Oaks rookery
Greenfinch 1 Newbridge boats feeder

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Newbridge,  7th January 2016


Blossom, Blackcaps,

drumming and daffs 


There’s tree blossom in Newhampton Road, daffodils are in bloom at Newbridge wharf, catkins hang in curtains along the barleyfield boundaries at Compton and a woodpecker drums from canalside trees at Dunstall Park.  Wildlife locally and nationally has responded to the warmest December since the 1930s, four weeks in which record amounts of rain fell across the UK.  So, as the New Year gets under way it’s perhaps a good time to report on bird records from recent months along the Smestow Valley covering a period of autumn and early winter that may as well be spring . . .

Records from Dunstall Park lake reflect the weather, with duck and wader numbers falling away in the unusually mild winter conditions.  Snipe totals rose and fell, with two seen on 5/9, at least 30 present on 28/10, and just three counted on 23/12.  Likewise Teal, with three birds present on 22/8, eighteen on 4/10, at least 30 on 6/12 and 14 on 23/12.  The most Shoveler seen were four birds on 13/9 and three males and a female on 21/11.  A pair of Gadwall made their annual winter appearance in November and were still present on 14/12, a handsome male Pochard was an unusual visitor on 28/10, and the lake’s only Goosander record for the year came when a drake flew in at midday on 5/12.  Single Grey Heron were sporadic visitors throughout the period, two Little Grebe were present on 4/10, four Coot were seen on 23/12, and at least six Moorhen, adults and juveniles, were October visitors.  Lapwing counts at the racecourse included 60 birds on the central grass area on 9/8, around 30 on 13/9, at least 35 landing at the lake on 26/11 and c.40 circling over the site on 19/12.  The year’s second lake record for Common Sandpiper came with a single bird on 13/9, and a wintering Green Sandpiper was seen there on 3/11.

Racecourse gull numbers fluctuated as usual, with maximum counts of at least 400 Black-headed Gull on the central grass on 21/11, c.450 on 23/12, seventy six Lesser Black-backed Gull (including 26 juveniles) seen on 21/11, and four adult and two immature Herring Gull on 14/11.  Other Dunstall Park records included 76 grazing Canada Geese on 26/11 and a group of 18 grazing Greylag on 13/8 (the albino Greylag was with the grazing geese throughout August and into September).  A pair of non-ringed Mute Swan first seen at the lake in early October were still visiting at the end of the year, and were most probably the birds seen in recent weeks on the Staffs & Worcs Canal between Compton and Autherley junction.

                                                             Finch flocks                                                                 

Autumn and early winter raptor records from along the Smestow Valley were intermittent, but two Buzzard were seen plunge-diving over the old Valley Park School buildings on 18/8, and at least one young Sparrowhawk called for food on the western edge of the racecourse on 13/8.  By the year’s end most winter thrushes had moved through into South Staffordshire, Shropshire and beyond, but at least 20 Redwing were noted flying over Newbridge on 17/11.  Resident Mistle Thrush were vocal and active as the year ended, as were Great Spotted Woodpecker, both species seen disputing territories in the Newbridge area on 27/12.  A Green Woodpecker called from the edge of the Compton barleyfield on 16/11, territorial calls were heard from Nuthatch in and near Newbridge wood and along the old railway south of Hordern Road at the end of December, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed by Dunstall Park on the exceptionally early date of 23/12.  Winter finch flocks were noted by the barleyfield (cf Ian and Geoff’s posts), with six Redpoll feeding in a silver birch by Newbridge playingfield on 26/11 and a singing Goldfinch among a small flock just north of Compton canal lock on 16/11.  Five male Bullfinch were seen together by the old railway just south the Meccano bridge on 16/11.

Closer to home at Newbridge there were a number of late summer/autumn warbler records, including a Garden Warbler living up to its name as it ate honeysuckle berries next to the playingfield on 26/8, and four passage Chiffchaff in a mixed feeding flock in a silver birch at the same site on 18/9.  A singing Chiffchaff was in the same tree on 28/9 and one was in voice at Dunstall Park on 18/9.  The warm winter weather has so far favoured some of the UK’s smallest birds, with single Goldcrest seen in mixed flocks by Newbridge playingfield on 1/10, 28/10 and 26/11, and at Dunstall Park on 28/10 and in Newbridge wood on 28/12, and at least ten Long-tailed Tit with Blue Tit, Great Tit and other species moving through gardens by Newbridge playingfield on 19/12 and by the old railway south of Hordern Road on 19/12.  A Grey Wagtail fed by the Smestow brook just south of Tettenhall Road on 26/12, at least one pair of Stock Dove were setting up in Newbridge wood, and two Collared Dove were at the racecourse on 4/10.  Other Dunstall Park records included two Pied Wagtail by the grandstand on 4/18, two Jay at the lake on 14/11 and two Rook foraging on the central grass on 21/11. 
(NB.   Dunstall Park is a closed commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled).

PS.   Recent records suggest that the valley is witnessing an unusually large number of Coal Tits visiting garden feeding stations and other sites this autumn and winter.  Is this due to one of the nominate Continental species’ (Parus ater ater) periodic irruptions into the UK (the last recorded invasion was in 1996), or did birds of the resident race (Parus ater britannicus) had an exceptionally successful breeding season last year?
PPS.   There are more and more reports that a colourful and vocal species is establishing itself along the valley.  It’s open to question whether the presence of at least six Rose-ringed Parakeet should be welcomed, but all the evidence suggests that at least one pair has successfully nested locally in the last 12 months.  It’s very possible that some of our birds are from a small breeding colony in the Sandwell Valley.  Until recent years there were only a few annual records for the Smestow Valley dating back to the 1980s, almost all very probably involving escaped birds.  It’s too early to say what effect their presence will now have on other tree hole nesting species, but numbers in their breeding stronghold in outer London have reached plague proportions.  One thing’s for sure.  They’re among the valley’s fastest fliers, calling shrilly as they rocket along the canal and old railway.  For the time being, just enjoy!!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Extra Time

Things had improved so much during the morning that I thought I would pop out again at lunchtime.
Three Goosander overflew newbridge as I arrived (a male had flown north along the canal yesterday.)
the parakeet was still calling intermittently. A snipe flew high over the water bridge where a dull grey wagtail foraged, the stadium produced mistle thrush and a few redwing (15 of the latter at tennis courts\water feature on tuesday}
A stock dove sang from the rookery where a couple of rooks were loafing around giving a grand total of 37 species for the day.

A game of two halves 

1st january 16         morning            Compton Rd to Hordern Rd

cloudy,  3-6°c,   1014 mb,  ESE 11-14 mph

 Apart from a few singing robins and song thrushes, the Paddocks, Barleyfield and canal were very quiet. It wasn't until we strayed north of the Tettenhall Rd that things picked up. The feeders by the boats were buzzing, both sparrowhawk and buzzard overhead scattered these birds,  a goldcrest and nuthatch were at Double Pennant and the mute swan was under Hordern Rd bridge. We returned via the rail track where we heard a parakeet calling from the other side of canal and picked it up flying towards Newbridge wood and a male great spotted woodpecker was it trees by the coach depot.

Little Grebe 2 S&W Canal
Mute Swan 1 S&W canal Hordern Rd,
Sparrowhawk 1♂ over Newbridge boats
Buzzard 1 over Newbridge boats
Ring Necked Parakeet 1 Newbridge wood
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1♂ Double Pennant
Robin 7 singing mid section
Song Thrush 5 ( 4 singing ) mid section
Redwing 2+ Shrike Bushes
Goldcrest 1 Double Pennant
Long Tailed Tit c30 mid section
Coal Tit 2 Newbridge boats feeder
Nuthatch 1 Double Pennant
Jay 1 Hawthorn Wood
Chaffinch 3+ Newbridge boats feeder
Greenfinch 4 Newbridge boats feeder
Goldfinch 2 Double Pennant
Bullfinch 4 mid section