Monday 23rd March 2014 - Habberley Valley NR

Today I returned to Habberley Valley Nature Reserve to see if I could see the Adder(s) again.   Shortly after arriving I bumped into a nice chap called Andy H who has been watching and photographing the Adders there for a few years now.  After a bit of a natter we walked round the prime area and observed 3 Adders (2♂, 1♀).  The dark male that I had seen on my previous visit here was the most showy but the other smaller male and the female were far more wary and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.

Adder - 23rd March 2014














After Andy had left I decided to go and check another area of the reserve that is favoured by the snakes and after a while I managed to spot one all but hidden under the vegetation...obviously camera shy.  Still this ♂ Adder was the 4th I had seen at the site during this visit.

Camera shy Adder - 23rd March 2014














By now, the temperature had warmed up a little and the sun was trying it's best to break through, so I decided to return to the initial area. The showy dark Adder was now on full view and was even obliging enough to let me film a bit of footage.



What a great way to round off the day, I just need to catch up with a few Grass Snakes now!

Wednesday 19th March 2014 - Titterstone Clee

Today, Bev & I decided to take a trip out to the Shropshire highpoint of Titterstone Clee Hill.  Titterstone is about a 35 min drive from Kidderminster and, and although across the county border, is perhaps closest high point (it's certainly much closer than the Malvern Hills).  It's a place that I visit every few weeks and can produce some good birds, especially during migration periods.

On arriving at the summit car park we undertook a walk around checking the ruined quarry buildings and slopes for any passage migrants.  Things were extremely quiet until Bev picked up on a single ♂ Northern Wheatear on one of the rocky slopes...result!  This was the first Wheatear I have seen in 2014....cheers Bev!  A Common Buzzard, a Kestrel and 4 Ravens were also noted in the summit area.

Northern Wheatear - 19th March 2014 (record shot)














The rest of the walk around the summit area proved fruitless so we headed over to the nearby Catherton Common. Bev was starting to feel the cold and decided to sit it out in the car, so I set off to see what was about.  I hadn't walked far before a cracking ♂ Stonechat perched up on a gorse.  This individual was unringed, so possibly a passage bird as there has been a rolling program of colour ringing the Stonechats & Wheatears at Clee.

Stonechat - 19th March 2014 (record shot)














On walking past the boggy pools I flushed a Common Snipe which called loudly before flying off into the distance.  Continuing my walk around the marshy area I then flushed a Jack Snipe which flew up from a couple of feet away flew about 30 feet and dropped back down.  I headed back to the car to fetch Bev and see if we could slowly walk towards where it had dropped down and relocate it.  We were in luck when I picked it up sat next to some Juncus in a damp channel.  We walked slowly a bit closer to the bird as it sat motionless hankered down watching us.  This allowed for us to get some cracking photos of this stunning little wader.  After a few minutes of watching the bird we turned around and walked back leaving it to go about it's business...what a great way to end the day!

Jack Snipe - 19th March 2014

Friday 14th March 2014 - Wyre Forest & Habberley Valley

This morning I met up with a mate of mine, WFDC Ranger, Adam H to undertake a walk in the Wyre and possibly Habberley Valley NR afterwards to look for Adders. The mid morning mist had burned off and the temperature was starting to rise...we were hopeful of connecting with a few of these stunning snakes.

On starting our circuit of the coppice we soon picked up on our first ♂ Adder basking on a mossy log, a good start!  Little did we know that this would be the only one we would observe in our circuit around together.  That said we were also treated to a Comma butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell and an Orange Underwing moth. Unfortunately a call from school informing Adam that his daughter was unwell cut short our searching...still it had been an enjoyable catch up all the same.

Adder - Wyre Forest, 14th March 2014















Comma - Wyre Forest, 14th March 2014















Shortly after Adam had left I bumped into Wyre forest resident & local Adder guru Sylvia Sheldon.  Also with Sylvia was Matt L.  I joined them for part of their transect walk which was fairly unproductive until we reached the hotspot where yet again 5♂ Adders were basking.  After a while they continued on wards but I hung back and took a few more photos of these stunning creatures (well it would be rude not too!)

Adders - Wyre Forest, 14th March 2014












































After lunch I decided to pay a trip to the Habberley Valley NR which is situated between Kidderminster and Bewdley.  Armed with some information that Adam had given me as to the favoured areas of the reserves Adders I decided to go and take a look. 

I spent about half hour or so checking the said area when who should turn up but former Wyre Forest warden and respected veteran wildlife photographer John Robinson.  John had popped in on the off chance of seeing the Adders before doing an ecological survey at some nearby rock houses.  Together we re-checked the site again but to no avail...there was but one thing we could do, stop and have a good natter!  As we was chatting I noticed some movement down by my feet...I looked down to see a stunning ♂ Adder slither between us and out onto the open grass in front of us...result!  This individual, although not a 'black adder', was much darker than the ones I had seen earlier that day in the Wyre.  What an amazing experience and a good end to a great day!

Adder - Habberley Valley NR, 14th March 2014







Out and about in Worcestershire...

Monday 10th March - Barnett Brook:
Late afternoon I received a rather excited a call from Mark P letting me know he had found a number of Orange Underwing moths on an area of his local patch.  Orange Underwings are stunning day flying moths (about the size of a Small copper butterfly) that associate with Silver Birch trees and when in flight you get to see their beautiful orange underwings.   On meeting up with Mark it wasn't long before we saw a small number of these moths flitting around the scrubby area near some Silver Birch (in fact Mark had managed a count of 15 before I arrived). 

Whilst on Mark's patch we decided to have a look for another of his patch invert specialities the Pine Ladybird. It wasn't long before we found good numbers of these cracking little black and red ladybirds, and their larger relatives the 7-spot Ladybird, congregating on the young pine trees.  Pine Ladybird was a lifer for me so it was more than pleasing sight!

Pine Ladybirds (Exochomus 4-pustulatus) & 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata)















Pine Ladybirds (Exochomus 4-pustulatus) 















Tuesday 11th March 2014 - Chaddesley Woods:
It was a sunny afternoon so I decided to take a wander around Chaddesley Woods to see if there were any butterflies on the wing and I didn't actually see a single one!  That said, I did manage to see a moth called The Engrailed that flew past and landed on the trunk of a nearby tree.

Also on the walk around I noticed a number of patches of Scarlet Elfcup fungus present.

The days highlight though came in the form of a bird when I heard (and saw) my first Chiffchaff of the Spring busily singing away.  There were good numbers of Siskin present in the woods and at one area I came across a flock of c.60 of these stunning finches.  On returning to me car a ♀ Bullfinch was showing well along the lane.

The Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)




Click on image
to enlarge













Scarlet Elfcup















♀ Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)















Thursday 13th March 2014 - Shenstone:
On my out & about today I stopped off (late afternoon) at Heath Lane and was pleased to hear a Chiffchaff singing from the grounds of the Islamic School.  This was my first singing patch Chiffy of the year, a sign that Spring is well and truly here!


Monday 10th March 2014 - Wyre Forest

Today I made a return to the Wyre to take another look at it's reptilian inhabitants.  I arrived at Dry Mill Lane around 11am  and walked along the disused towards the coppice.  Along the railway line a pair of Grey Wagtails were flitting about and occasionally perching up on the low branches of the adjacent trees. I enjoyed watching these for a while until they took off and headed down the embankment towards Dowles Brook.

At  the coppice I soon picked up on 'Stumpy', the ♂ Common Lizard without a tail that I saw the previous week in the same area.  This time he was sitting out on the wooden tree stump basking in the sun.

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara ) - 10th March 2014














Some way along the same ride I picked up on my 1st  Adder of the day in an area where I haven't previously observed one.  This wasn't the most photogenic of Adders due to it's position half under the bracken but I took a few record shots all the same.

Adder (Vipera berus) - 10th March 2014



















Also basking on the bracken along this stretch was a rather stunning Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.  I've got to say it's good to see a few flutters now on the wing!

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - 10th March 2014















A bit further along on my walk I was lucky enough to find a Slow Worm half hidden under some vegetation, my first of the year.  Again not the most photogenic but needless to say record shots ensued.  Personally I think that Slow Worms are always nicer to see when they are basking in the open than under a tin or roof felt sheet.

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) - 10th March 2014



















On completing this part of my walk I bumped into fellow wildlife blogger Mark P (http://doorstepbirding.blogspot.co.uk/) and local wildlife artist/illustrator Matt L (http://www.matthewlissimore.com/), needless to say much wildlife nattering ensued.  After a while Mark had to scoot but Matt and I went back to see the Slow Worm and then on to another spot in the forest where a number of Adders had been seen basking.  We were in luck and 5♂ Adders were showing and, by keeping a respectable distance and not disturbing them with our vibrations from walking around, we were able to get some great views and nice photos.  It was a real privilege to see these majestic creatures in all there glory!

Adders (Vipera berus) - 10th March 2014













Sunday 9th March 2014 - Down in the garden

Today, Bev and I decided to spend some time out in the garden tidying it ready for the Spring.  This involved the usual pruning, weeding and general tinkering about.
 
Whilst pottering I noticed an interesting looking caterpillar crawling over the plants below the Honeysuckle.  I took a number of record shots and quickly went to check it out in a number of my butterfly/moth books.  It turned out to be quite a result as it was a Scarlet Tiger moth larva.  Interestingly we had an adult Scarlet Tiger fluttering around the garden for a few days last summer.  The main food plant of the Scarlet Tiger moth larvae is Comfrey, of which  we have none in our garden.  They will however also feed on Honeysuckle and Nettle (both of which we have present)

Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha Dominica) Larva



 

























A while later Bev called me to let me know she had found another caterpillar crawling across the floor.  This time I immediately knew what it was, a Ruby Tiger moth larva, a species I have recorded regularly at Shenstone.  Amazing, two tiger moth larva in one day in the garden!

Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) Larva

Also observed whilst working out were a Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Common Plume moths and a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee

Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla)














A Common Frog was seen with it's head sticking up out of the surface of the pond, so I decided to pop back out on the evening (when they tend to be more active) and check again by torchlight.  This time I counted 10 Common Frogs in total (2 of which were mating), rounding off what had been a great day's wildlife in the garden

Tuesday 2nd March 2014 - The Wyre Forest

Today Bev and I decided to make the most of the mild weather and go for a walk in the Wyre Forest.  The walk along the dis-used railway line felt really Spring-like with bird song seemingly all around us, interspersed with the occasional drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the kronking call of a distant Raven.  In the skies above 4 Common Buzzards were making the most of the weather and soaring on the thermals.

At Town Coppice I spent some time looking for some of the forest's reptilian residents.  At this point Bev and I split up and she carried on walking whilst I undertook a slow search of the bracken clad clearing.  My time was well spent as I managed to locate (and photograph) 4 basking Common Lizards.  Three of which had their tails intact and one was without.  Tail loss in Common Lizards isn't an uncommon occurrence as they will shed their tails as a defence strategy against predators.  Common lizards have an amazing way to escape capture from predators.  If caught by the tail it will snap off at a joint near the base, leaving their predator holding just the tail which will continue to wriggle for a while after separation.  The lizard can grow a new tail if it lives long enough, although the new tail will be shorter and thicker than the original.

A while later Bev and I met back up and she filled me in on her equally enjoyable wildlife experiences having seen a Muntjac deer in the orchard at Lodge Hill and encountered good numbers of both Lesser Redpoll & Siskin at the footbridge.

All I can say is... what an enjoyable day, the Wyre Forest can be such a magical place!

Common Lizards - 2nd March 2014







Shenstone: The patch starts to get interesting!

Sunday 23rd February 2014
Spent some time today walking around the perimeter of Stanklyn Wood to see if there was much going on, where a Coal Tit was a long overdue addition to my patch year list.  The highlight though was seeing 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (2♀,1♂) chasing about, with the females getting particularly feisty towards one another.  After a while things settled down with just 1 female and a male remaining within the area.  This then led to me observing (and hearing) the ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming against a tree and the remaining ♀ drumming back in response.  These short bursts of drumming are part of the bird's courtship behaviour.

At Butts Lane/Barrs Lane there was a large mixed winter thrush flock feeding in the stubble with c.200 Fieldfare and c.80 Redwing noted.  A flock of c.80 Linnets were also present. 

The South side of the patch was fairly quite today although 2 Tufted Ducks (1♂, 1♀) were notable at Willow Marsh Fishery.

Thursday 27th February 2014
Today was most definitely one of those good patch days. I started my visit walking the footpath next to the freshly sown field along Stanklyn Lane.  The field was literally alive with birds and I recorded 40+ Corn Buntings, 10 Yellowhammers, c.60 Chaffinch, 8 Greenfinch and 6 House Sparrows feeding there.  Also present were small numbers of Goldfinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Skylark.  It was a real pleasure to see such large numbers of birds in such a small area! 

Yellowhammer - 27th February 2014















From Stanklyn I headed over to Butts Lane/Barrs Lane area where the undoubted highlights (note the plural) of the day were about to come.  On scanning the field edge from the top pull in on Barrs Lane I picked up an absolutely cracking ♀ Stonechat, get in!  This is only the second Stonechat I have recorded on the patch over the last 4 years, with the other being a passage male last autumn.  There were at least 6 Skylarks up singing and chasing over the stubble fields and the flock of c.50 Linnets was also still present.

Stonechat - 27th February 2014





























I contacted TS & TMH to let them know about the chat as, both being Shenstone regulars, they were both likely to want to come and see it.  Tony arrived first and whilst we were chatting we were treated to the second highlight of the day when a ♀/imm. Merlin flew low over Butts Lane triangle and headed towards heath lane.  At one stage it even did it's  undulating flight, mimicking a Mistle Thrush,  in a no doubt opportunistic attempt to take a Linnet or a Skylark!

What an amazing patch day!

Friday 28th February 2014
The female Stonechat was still present today (no further sign on Saturday 1st March). Also of interest were 3 Green Woodpeckers that were present on the telegraph poles at Eastfields Farm.

Friday 21st February 2014 - Hopwood & the Lickeys

Today, I caught up with my sometime partner in crime and curmudgeon of legend Tony S.  We decided to pop over to Hopwood to see the long staying Great Grey Shrike that has been wintering there.  Hopwood is situated near Southwest Birmingham and lies just within the Worcestershire county boundary. 

On arrival, we parked in the layby and headed over to the gate that it is recommended to view over the field from.  It's not a location I had been to before but I can see why a Shrike has turned up there as the mixture of rank grassland and scrub looked ideal.  The bird wasn't initially visible but we set up our scopes and started scanning.  Within a few minutes I had picked up the Great Grey Shrike perched up in one of the Oak trees a fair distance away.  It was quite a blowy day and the bird was just content to sit up there the whole time we were there.  So on this visit we never really got any exceptional or closer views...ah well, that's birding.

Great Grey Shrike
(photo from my archives)














From Hopwood we stopped off briefly at the nearby Lower Bittell Reservoir to see if there was anything of note.  Both Tony & I were both amazed at just how quiet it was there with the only birds of note being 2♀ Goosander, 3 Pochard, 16 Teal and a handful of Tufted Duck.

From Bittell we popped across to the woodland at Twatling Road (great name!) in the Lickey Hills to see if we could see the flock of Brambling that has been feeding on the Beech mast there.  After a short walk we picked up c.30 Brambling perched up in the trees.  They remained for a fair while before taking off and heading to another part of the wood, allowing me to at least get a few record shots off.

Our final stop off of the day was Tony's CafĂ© where tea & toast made for a fine lunch, bringing an end to a decent day's wanderings.

Brambling - 21st Feb 2014

Coach Trip to RSPB Newport Wetlands

Hi Folks,
Just a quick notice to any local readers of this blog to let you know that there are still a small number of  places left on the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust - Wyre Forest Local Group's forthcoming coach trip to the RSPB Newport Wetlands Centre on Saturday 22nd March 2014. 

The trip costs £19 per person and includes a guided tour of the wetlands.  From RSPB Newport Wetlands their will also be a visit to Monmouth  (I know I'm looking forward to sampling a quick pint of Kingstone ale whilst there!)...anyway, I digress.  RSPB Newport Wetlands is home to a variety of interesting species of birds including Bearded Tit and Cetti's Warbler.  It is also home to an array of waders & wildfowl.

The coach leaves from Station Drive, Kidderminster at 8:45am and will return at approx. 5:30pm.

To book a place please contact David Howell. Click on the following link for contact details:

http://www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk/events/2014/03/22/coach-trip-rspb-newport-wetlands-monmouth?instance=0

For more information regarding RSPB Newport Wetlands visit:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/n/newportwetlands/about.aspx


Cheers
Jason



Bearded Tit
(image ©RSPB)












Cetti's Warbler
(image ©RSPB)