Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Newbridge, January 17th 2018

Year ended on a high

The new year's under way, so let's round off the old one with some notable sighting from December, a month which reflected one of the Smestow Valleys' best-ever 12 months for records of resident and visiting birds . . .

The cold snap mid-month was perhaps too short to produce any discernible bird movements into the valley, but the subsequent thaw meant that melting snow and a few days of rain did raise water levels at Dunstall Park lake. Single Goosander were visitors on 19th and 22nd, three Jack Snipe were recorded on 16th, and the last day of the year saw counts of 40 Teal, 12 Snipe and two Lapwing. Green Sandpiper records of two birds flying south westwards over the racecourse on 1st and a bird at the lake on 31st showed once more how the valley has become an annual wintering passage area for the species. Three Shoveler flew south westwards over the racecourse on 17th, three Skylark went northwards over the same site on 16th and a Mute Swan pair swam in thin ice on the lake on 28th. Other Dunstall Park records included 28 Greylag geese foraging on the central grass area on 16th, two Grey Heron at the lake on 31st, nine foraging Rook on 31st, and c.50 Crow on the last day of the year, some of which kept watch on a light-plumaged Buzzard perched near the school perimeter fence.
Elsewhere along the valley the cold snap brought Goldcrest and Nuthatch into a Newbridge garden, a Treecreeper was in Newbridge wood on 9th, Bullfinch were recorded at Newbridge and Compton Park, a Raven flew low over Castlecroft Lane on 30th, Jay were reported from Newbridge, Compton and the racecourse, and the winter's largest Siskin flock was seen on 6th when c.30 birds fed in alders on the edge of Compton Park. Records from the southern end on the valley included a male Shoveler on the dam lake at Pool Hall on 3rd, a Little Owl perched near Mops Farm on 30th, a Kestrel hovering north of Mops Farm on 3rd, and 40-plus Stock Dove foraging on fields north east of Mops Farm on 30th (a bird displayed over Newbridge wood on 6th). A mixed flock of foraging birds on fields near the Smestow brook north of Mops Farm on 30th included at least 60 Redwing, 30-plus Fieldfare and 100-plus Starling.
The valley's run of wintering warblers continued, with a Chiffchaff caught at Dunstall Park on 2nd found to have been ringed previously in Belgium. Other single Chiffchaff were at the racecourse lake on 1st and 16th, another was seen there on 28th, and one foraged on the racecourse bank of the Staffs & Worcs Canal in freezing weather on 12th. At least two Little Grebe were on the canal between Compton and Aldersley throughout the month, a Grey Wagtail foraged along the Smestow brook by Aldersley stadium on 12th, a Mistle Thrush sang at Newbridge on 24th, eight Collared Dove were in a tree near Castlecroft canal bridge on 3rd, a Tawny Owl called by Newbridge playingfield on the night of 28th and a Mute Swan pair with three youngsters was on the canal at Newbridge on 9th.

(Dunstall Park is a restricted commercial site.  Access is strictly controlled.)

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