Friday, 20 May 2016

Newbridge,  20th May  2016


Morning’s bird blitz

so near to the record


Ian had forsaken us for a fortnight in God’ Country (it starts at Gretna) so it was down to Geoff, Gareth and myself to see just how many bird species we could tot up in or over the valley on a weekend morning in May.  The record number seen or heard locally in 24 hours stands at 66, achieved some years ago by Gareth and his dad Kevin.  But they were up at dawn and considered it over only when the fat Tawny Owl hooted, so we didn’t expect to top their total (us ancient birders do need our rest).

So, the Saturday before last (May 7th) yet-to-be-ancient Gareth went straight from a night shift to cover Pool Hall, Wightwick fields and Turner’s fields, Geoff took in the mid-section centred on the Compton barleyfield, and yours truly trudged northwards from Newbridge, taking in Aldersley, Oxley and Dunstall Park.  Migration had slowed (the north end of the valley continues to be quiet for the second spring running) high pressure weather didn’t help, but comparing notes over a welcome Cupcake coffee at Newbridge station around mid-day we were more than pleased with the result.  Sixty four species, a total which would have been bettered had we seen among others Rose-ringed Parakeet, Little Owl, Garden Warble and Bearded Vulture.

As it was, we managed to list Kingfisher, the first Spotted Flycatchers for the year (single passage birds by the barleyfield and Wightwick fields), Great Crested Grebe feeding youngsters at Pool Hall, singing Skylark, nesting Barn Swallow, House Martin and Mute Swan, and a singing Sedge Warbler. Among other species seen were Bullfinch, Lapwing, Linnet, Herring Gull, Grey Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rook, Raven, Jay, Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Mistle Thrush, Coot, Tufted Duck, Greylag, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel. A male Pheasant called from a rough grass field just north of Windmill Lane, and Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer were seen and heard near Castlecroft canal bridge.

All in all, not bad for patch that at its furthest point is less than four miles from the centre of Wolverhampton.  At a time when monoculture agriculture is degrading large tracts of the British countryside in terms of wildlife variety it’s refreshing to see a relatively small mixed-habitat linear park on the edge of one of Britain’s largest conurbations produce such an extensive list of bird species.  Here’s to the Smestow Valley!

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