Crows, Starlings & Sparrows (9 species)

Magpie (Pica pica)
For better or for worse, this increasingly confident and opportunist bird is having a greater presence in the valley. In the early 90's there were Winter roosts at Hawthorn Wood, the Compton Council Nurseries and at the Aldersley-Oxley Carriageworks with up to 160 birds in total across the three sites. In October 1996, 100+ were at the Council Nurseries alone. Maturing Scrub plantations fueled the increases and although there were no full counts since 2001, by 2010 there were 120 recorded at Aldersley/Oxley in November and there was a newly recorded roost site at Compton Park that was holding well in excess of 100 birds.

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Another species like the Wood Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker that has increasly become resident and breeding in our parks. The first confirmed breeding in the valley in recent times was in 1993. At this time birds were mainly seen at the South end, but by 2000 breeding was suspected at 3 or more sites and encounters could be had all along the valley, especially in Autumn as birds horded the acorn crops and when birds contested territories in the Spring. A record 9 birds were seen together at Dunstall Park (Private land) in March 2007. In 2010 pairs nested at Wightwick, Compton, Newbridge, Aldersley and elsewhere.

Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Another increasing species in the valley. The Wightwick/Peasley Wood roost has always meant that exceptional numbers have been recorded in the valley. An estimated roost count of 10,000+ Corvids in January 2004 were mainly Jackdaw. The roost site is less impressive nowadays with 1000+ in January 2008 being the highest count since. However a second roost at Dunstall Park (private land)/Aldersley/Oxley has developed and pre-roost gatherings there have become significant (250 on 23/12/2010). There is a colony of 20-30 birds near the college at Compton Park, with birds also nest prospecting at Newbridge. In 2010 breeding was strongly suspected in the North end after fledglings were seen at Dunstall Park.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
This species has had mixed fortunes in the valley, but we are so lucky to have a bird that is associated with open farmland, on the reserve. A nest site near the old Environment Centre South of Compton was established in 1991, peaking in 1997 with 22 nests occupied. However it then went into decline and was last used in 2007, when 5 nests were active. At Dunstall Park (private land) a Rookery was established in 1996 and it expanded to a peak of 19 nests by 2003. However this site then also went into decline at the traditional Willow site, with birds then establishing themselves in the Oak Coppice. In 2010 12 nests had been built by the end of March and 44 birds including juveniles fed on the racecourse on 11/6/10. Cessation of farming activities mean that the sight of 100+ Rooks on the Barleyfield is restricted to the memories of those that visited the site in the late 1980's.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
Hundreds of Crows have been seen over the years heading to and from the corvid roost at Peasley Wood/Wightwick. Numbers have been hard to ascertain. Indicators from the archives include an observation of "hundreds" seen heading to and from roost in January 1996 and pre-roost gatherings of 130 at the Barleyfield in February 1989, 75 at St. Edmunds school in October 1995, 200+ at Wightwick in August 1997, 170 at Compton Fields in December 1997 and 129 at Dunstall Park (private land) in November 2005, as a new local corvid roost was establishing itself.

Common Raven (Corvus corax)
There has been a remarkle expansion of this species range into the Midlands Conurbation, The first valley record was on 7/6/1991, when an individual was seen heading North over Wightwick Mill Lock. There was then a wait for a further record until 9/4/2000 when one passed over Peasley Wood. Since then we have had local breeding and considerable numbers being recorded, including 24 over the Sheepfields, just South of the valley on 18/3/2005. I supose a rule is a rule, so the official valley record is 16 seen over Wightwick Ridge on 16/4/2005. Since then there has been a maximum of 4 birds with the exception of 9 at Wightwick Fields in October 2008. The species breeding status in the valley was maintained in 2010. A bird that settled on a snow-covered Dunstall Park (private land) to eat a food item it was carrying on 10/1/10 constituted the first "on the deck" record for the site.
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
After all the positives, it's inevitible that we come to a species in rapid decline, locally and nationally. in the early 1990's. late Summer gatherings exceeded 2000 individuals at Dunstall Park (private land) in the early 1990's. Since 2003, numbers have failed to reach 1000. 940 at the site in October 2008 was encouraging, but by 2010, the maxima was 600+ on 29/9. Pairs nest all along the valley and contribute to these foraging flocks. Autumn dawn watches at Castlecroft canal bridge recorded a high of 529 birds on 9/11 2010.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Oh no, another downer!!! 1n 1998 this species was recorded as the most common bird in local urban areas and 100's fed on the Barleyfield in autumn and Winter. By November 1995 a census had recorded just 22 birds. 25+ at Pool Hall Lane in July 2009 was a significant count. Some light has come from the stables development at Dunstall Park (private land) where over 30 birds were recorded in July 2002. Numbers do now appear to have stabilised. In 2010 at least 20 birds visited a garden by Newbridge Playingfield during harsh Winters and small colonies exist at Compton Park, Compton, Finchfield and other sites.

Tree Sparrow
.............You guessed it!! There has been an 85% national decline in this species. The end of farming in the valley emphasised this trend in Smestow Valley. In the late 1980's flocks at The Barleyfield regularly exceeded 20. However after one was seen at the site on 1/8/1990, there were no records at all the following year. Recent records involve the odd bird overhead on dawn watches and occasional wanderers from the Pool Hall colony that have been retreating further into South Staffordshire.

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