Flycatchers to Shrikes (11 species)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
The local population of this species crashed in the early 1990's. The last confirmed breeding in the valley was in 1989, and at that time, there were at least 6 pairs present, all North of Compton. However in 1990, birds arrived 3 weeks late and none of the usual breeding sites were occupied. A family were seen hawking together by the old station at Newbridge , a juvenile was noted at Dunstall Park (Private land) and a nest was also found by the viaducts at Aldersley-Oxley. Nesting was also suspected at Crowther Road Playing Fields in 1991, and a family were also at Dunstall Park on 2/8 that year. Sadly, this was to be the last ever sign of breeding in the valley. Only up to four sighting records were received each year then until 1998. 1999 brought hope of a possible recovery in the species, when 5 birds were at Aldersley and the same number were also at Dunstall Park on 28/8. 2000 brought an Autumn passage involving up to 17 birds, but the following year only 2 records were received. 2004 brought another strong Autumn passage, with birds seen on 14 dates, and up to 4 birds being present at the Barleyfield. Good Autumn numbers failed to produce Spring passages and there have been only 3 May records since 1997. in fact despite the above good years, the decline then hastened and 2009 produced only 2 records. The only 2010 records were in September, with one at Dunstall Park on 8/9 and 9/9 and a passage juvenile by Dunstall Water Bridge on 8/9. The earliest arrival dates were on 9/5/1988 and 9/5/2004 and the latest Autumn record was on 3/10 1988.

Pied Flycatcher
There were three records in 1989: a female at Hawthorn Wood during foggy conditions on 25/4, a male feeding from Willows by Horden Road on 26/4 and another bird at Hawthorn Wood next day. Since then there have only been 4 records:
31/7/1990 - a female hawking from the Sheep-field fence near the Birmingham Canal and Dunstall Park.
22/8/2002 - one between the Barleyfield and Compton Park.
16/8/2003 - one at Aldersley Junction
19/4/2007 - a male at the South end of the Barleyfield.

Great Tit (Parus major)
Censuses in 1988 produced an average of 40 birds in the valley. This was reflected in counts throughout the 1990's that varied between 25 and 44. An unusually high count of 77 in February 2000 served to show that the population of this noisy and active species was stable in the valley, and it has remained so since.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
A residant species in small numbers with 3 pairs or so successfully breeding each year in the valley. The population appears to have remained stable since detailed records began in 1988.Birds can be encountered along the valley near stands of conifers or pines and among beech trees.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
In 1988 censuses recorded over 100 Blue Tits in Smestow Valley. Counts in the 90's varied between 66 and 108. The last count was of 81 in February 2000 and there has been no data since, although it appears that the species has remained stable.

Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)
An extremely uncommon sight in the valley with only 12 records since 1988 between September and April:
1988 - occasionally seen in a wood near the canal at Wightwick
21/1/1989 - 1 by the old railway at Compton
10/1/1991 - 1 in Peasley Wood
12/4/1992 - 2 in Hawthorn Wood
14/2/1993 - 1 in Hawthorn Wood
18/12/1993 - 1 in a canal side hedge near Wightwick Mill Lock, disappearing into vegetation by Turner's Fields
19/2/1994 - 1 by the Dell just North of Pine Trtee Hill
23/2/1994 - 1 by Aldersley Canal Junction
early January 2003 - 1 at Meccano Bridge
26/9/2003 - 1 possibly heard calling at Wightwick Mill Lock
23/12/2006 - one in a tit flock moving through towpath trees just South of Meccano Bridge
31/12/2010 - one seen by the Pine Tree Hill near Wightwick Mill Lock

Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
Up to six pairs were present in the valley from the late 80's up until 2004, after which there was a dramatic collapse. In 2005, there was no proof of breeding and the only regular sightings were had around the Barleyfield with a maximum of 4 there on 8/3/2005. 2006, brought hope as a pair bred successfully at the Barleyfield, and birds were seen at Turner's Fields, Wightwick Dell, Compton Sandfields, Newbridge Paddocks, Aldersley-Oxley and Dunstall Park (Private land). However sightings were reduced in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 was the last time that the species attempted to breed, without success in a dead stump by the railway walk near the Barleyfield.

In 2010, records were restricted to; a bird giving territorial calls sporadically by the Barleyfield throughout January; possibly the same male heard near Compton canal lock on 16/1 and territorial calls by the Barleyfield on 22/5 and 27/5.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
A common bird across Smestow Valley. Over 80 were recorded between Aldersley and Wightwick in November 2000, and numbers certainly appear to have remained stable, with probably in excess of 10 pairs nesting each year.

Wood Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
A species that has increased in numbers. Only one sighting was recorded in 1988, but now birds can be seen or heard all year round with one or two pairs nesting each year. Most likely to occur between Meccano Bridge and Aldersley Canal junction.

Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
A quiet and easily overlooked species. One or two pairs attempt to nest each year and it seems that numbers have declined since the 70's and 80's, when they could easily be spotted along the railway walk in Winter. Sightings are now sadly rarer, with just a handful in 2010.

Red-backed Shrike
An adult male seen at the Barleyfield on the evening of 7/6/2003, constituted the first definite record for Smestow Valley.
The previous West Midlands County record, had been one found in Sandwell Valley, back in 1976. However a juvenile also stayed at Russells Hall from 20/9 to 23/9/2003, making it a remarkable year for this species.
Pairs of Red-backed Shrike once bred across the Midlands and the last local record of successful breeding was in Saltwells Wood in 1966.

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