Friday 30th Dec 2011 - Shenstone snippets

There were 2 Shoveller (1♂) present at Captains Pool this afternoon (TS).

I briefly popped to Willow Marsh Fishery during this afternoon's downpours, where 16 Cormorant, 2 Grey Herons and 6 Black-headed gulls were present.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks a Green Woodpecker and a single Jay were the only birds of note.

Thursday 29th Dec 2011 - Out and about in Shropshire

Today I met up with Mark P (aka BirderWolf, WoodDingle etc) to do a bit of birding a few miles up the road in Southeast Shropshire.

First port of call was Chelmarsh Reservoir near Bridgnorth.  Unfortunately the water level at the scrape was so high that the scrape was now a pool with very little on it. There were however good numbers of Reed Bunting present.

After spending a rather un-eventful period of time in the hide at the scrape we walked onto the causeway to view the main reservoirWithin a short period of time we picked up the long staying Red-throated Diver.  This is the same bird that was on the River Severn at Bewdley (approx 15 miles down river) back in November.  Also of note on the water were 23 Goosander (9 drakes).

On the way back we decided to pop to Sturt Common in the Shropshire side of the Wyre Forest to look for Crossbills.  We pulled up on the lane and scanned the tops of the numerous Larches.  Eventually we connected with a flock of 8 Common Crossbills (3 ♂) feeding frantically away on the seeds of the Larch cones.  I managed to grab about 15 seconds of video of one of the males before the flock flew deeper into the forest.

All in all a good away day's birding...but my patch is beckoning again!

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge video

Tuesday 27th December - Grimley & Shenstone

Today Bev and I decided to go out for a post Christmas stroll to burn off a little of those excesses.  We decided to pop to Grimley for a couple of hours.

Just before arriving a Grimley we decided to check out the field opposite the entrance to top barn.  There were no Golden Plover there today but there were still c.150 Lapwing present.

We parked up at the north end of Camp Lane pits and walked the footpaths down to the causeway at the south end.  There was very little of note at Camp Lane today other than 20 Gadwall, 5 Pochard (2 ♂), c.200 Canada Geese, 5 Little Grebe and 5 Mute Swans (2 adult & 3 imm.).  The only notable passerines were 2 Siskin, 1 Meadow Pipit and 1 Pied Wagtail.

On the way back home I decided to skirt through the patch.  On driving down Heath Lane I noticed that the trees next to the paddock was loaded with birds.  I pulled over and began to scan.  In the tree tops were c.60 Fieldfare and 3 Redwing.  With them were c.100 Starling making a tremendous racket.  I then began scanning the paddock and adjacent wires. Perched on the wires there were 9 Corn Buntings.  Not a bad little collection of birds for a whistlestop visit.

Gadwall (drake) - Grimley

Merry Christmas from Shenstone Birder

Right, that's it...the birding is over for a few days, let the merriment begin! 

But before I go I would like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas....

Thurs 22nd Dec 2011 - Ladies Pool and Brake Mill

Today was another pre-christmas day with very little time for birding but on my travels I did grab my 'bins' and check out Ladies Pool (Blakedown) and Brake Mill Pool (Hagley).

Ladies Pool was pretty quiet this afternoon with no sign of any Goosander...perhaps due to the 3 fishermen there.  The only notables were a Kingfisher and a Little Grebe.

Of note at Brake Mill Pool were c.100 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Tufted Ducks (1♀ and 1 partial-eclipse ♂), a Little Grebe and a Grey Heron
The highlight of the afternoon came after I had walked under the railway bridge towards my car. I heard a snatch of Corn Bunting singing and then another.  I walked along the lane towards the sound and much to my suprise came across a flock of 9 Corn Bunting perched in one of the large trees.  It is so unusual to see a flock of them locally away from known breeding areas such as Shenstone.  It was heartening to know that there are other pockets of this nationally declining species still about locally.

Wednesday 21st December 2011 - Pirton Pool

I decided to go 'off patch' today and pop just south of Worcester to Pirton Pool to see the party of  4 Bewick's Swans (3 adult & 1 juv)  that have been there the past 5 days.

On arriving at Pirton I walked the public footpath to the pools edge and began scanning.  Within a few minutes I had picked up the juvenile Bewick's Swan swimming across the water towards one of the islands.  The 3 adults were sat  along the edge of the island with there heads tucked in, although one did show fairly well as it gave itself an extensive preening.

I then spent the next hour or so enjoying the birds (and a rare bit of sunshine!). It was far nicer seeing them here than through a glass window at Slimbridge just felt more natural.

Bewick's Swans are the smallest of the European swans and, like the much larger Whooper Swan, have obvious yellow in the beak.  They migrate from their breeding grounds in Siberia and the Arctic tundra between October-November, to winter in coastal lowlands of northern Europe.

Also of note at Pirton were 48 Mute Swans, c.80 Wigeon, 11 Teal and good numbers of Gadwall.

Bewick's Swan (adult)

Bewick's Swan (juvenile)

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge video

Tuesday 20th Dec 2011 - Shenstone & Grimley/Holt

I made the decision to 'pop to water' today and check out Grimley gravel pits.  But you know me, i still had to pay a fleeting visit to Shenstone on my way out.  The only place i stopped was Barrs Lane where on pulling up I was greeted by a huge flock of winter thrushes feeding on the ground either side of the lane.  There were at least c.100 Redwing and c.60 Fieldfare.  It was difficult to get a more accurate count due to some birds being obscured by the stubble.  Also in this same field, but closer to the hedgerow, were 14 Blackbirds.  What a good start to the morning....I continued my journey 10 miles down the road to Grimley/Holt.

My first stop off was along the concrete road near Holt Church.  In the adjacent stubble field there were 27 Pied Wagtails and c.100 Linnet.  Nearby Sling pool was devoid of birds but whilst I was there a flock of Lapwing flew over heading towards Top Barn farm, with them was a single Lapwing...I headed over there.  In the field opposite the entrance to Top Barn was c.200 Lapwing and in amongst them were a number of Golden Plover.  I panned across with my scope and counted 47 Golden Plover in total....a good count in this part of the county these days.

My final destination was at Camp Lane pits, Grimley.  I scanned the recently landscaped North end first and within minutes a Peregrine flew through, landed in a puddle and proceeded to bath.  It was there for a good 5 minutes or so before being chased off by the corvids.  The main pool at Camp Lane was relatively quiet although I did note 20 Gadwall and 3 Little Grebes.

Click on YouTube logo to view larger version of video

Monday 19th December 2011 - Shenstone

I managed to get out and about around the patch for short while today between the heavy showers.

I started my visit at one of my favourite haunts...Tony's cafe, where I leisurely drank tea whilst watch 11 Siskin and  20 Goldfinch that were in an Alder at the edge of Captain's Pool....oh the joys of armchair birding.  Also of note on the still partially frozen pool were a Lesser Black-backed Gull and 8 Black-headed Gulls.

I then decided to pop from Captains over to At Willow Marsh Fishery at Shenstone.  The pools were also fairly iced over here.  The only birds of note were a single Grey Heron & 6 Black-headed Gulls on the Ice. In the trees surrounding the fishery were c.30 Fieldfare and c.40 Redwing 

On the way back I popped to Butts Lane but only managed a short walk as the weather was taking a turn for the worse.  Still it wasn't fruitless as I recorded 2 new species of fungi for the patch:  Bay Cap and Velvet Shank

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)

Bay Cap (Peziza badia)

Saturday 17th December 2011 - Shenstone

I started my visit to the patch at Captains Pool.  The pool was almost completely frozen with a small area of water  being kept free by the circling Mallards.  21 Black-headed Gulls were stood on the ice and a Moorhen and a single Canada Goose were also present.  Also of note at Captains were 5 Siskin in the Alders, 2 Jays and 2 Redwing.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks there were 3 Green Woodpeckers feeding on the deck.  Opposite, along the hedgerow of the carrot field, there were 6 Yellowhammers present.

Heath Lane paddock was very quiet with only 2 Robins, 2 Blackbirds and a Goldfinch of note.

At Willow Marsh Fishery 9 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron and 5 Black-headed Gulls were recorded.  A Common Buzzard was over Witch Lane.

My final stop off was Barrs Lane/Butts Lane where I walked the public footpath a next to the stubble fields.  Whilst doing so I put up 70+ Skylark and 2 Meadow Pipits. In the trees at the back of Stone Manor were 25 Fieldfare.  Also, a Redwing flew over Butts Lane and a ♀ Kestrel was present near Eastfields Farm.  It was also interesting to see that the small drainage pond was starting to fill back perhaps a bit more rain and it may be ok by the Summer for the dragonflies & damselflies.

Mallards on Ice - Captains  Pool

Out and About.....

It's that time of year where there seems to be loads going on and birding opportunities limited.  Add to that the fact that my better half has been of this week for a spot of Christmas shopping....I haven't been able to get out as much as I would like.  Still, I have grabbed an hour here and there so below is a summary of these outings.

Wednesday 14th December
I had an appointment today at the Worcester Biological Records Centre at Lower Smite Farm near Droitwich.  As I was running a bit early I decided to kill twenty minutes by visiting the grounds of the rather posh local hotel/restaurant Chateau Impney to see if there was any sign of the wintering flock of Wigeon.  I was in luck and spent a short while enjoying the 25 Wigeon that were on the River Salwarpe there.

Late afternoon, on my way back home, I drove back through Shenstone.  Whilst on Witch Lane I noted 7 Cormorants that were just heading off from Willow Marsh Fishery.  At Barrs Lane there was a small flock of 20 Linnet wheeling about over the stubble.  Also of note were a Common Buzzard and 8 Fieldfare.

Thusrday 15th December
A Peregrine was seen flying high over my back garden in Kidderminster this morning heading towards Weavers Wharf.

At Shenstone there were 20 Cormorant present at Willow Marsh fishery (TMH)

Late afternoon I paid another visit to Ladies Pool at Blakedown.  There were an increased number of Goosander here today with a total of 19 Goosander (3 drakes) present.  I then headed to the nearby Brake Mill Pool at Hagley, where I normally see wintering Goosander....there were none to be seen.  Perhaps there is a correlation between the birds at the two aforementioned sites.  

Anyway I've dipped into my archives to post this photo of a ♀ Goosander that I took last winter.  They really are stunning looking birds.

Goosander - December 2010

Please sign this petition

OK, it's time for me to bang my drum again...this is something I feel strongly about and, if you love birds and wildlife, I'm sure you do too.  

Please help protect our Birds of Prey. Call for the iintroduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England.  So please sign this petition:

Scotland, recognising that those who persecute birds of prey frequently do so at the direction of their employers or others with vested interests, has introduced an offence of vicarious liability, the purpose of which is to bring those parties to justice. This petition calls on the government to introduce an offence of vicarious liability to bring to justice those who direct or turn a blind eye to raptor persecution in England. 
As an indication of how bad thing are, in the last year only four pairs of hen harriers successfully reared chicks in England, fourteen peregrine falcon territories failed on grouse moors in Lancs forest of Bowland, and only one successful goshawk nest was recorded in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Current legislation is not enough to deter those who break the law and destroy our heritage; the introduction of vicarious liability would hit those directing the slaughter.

Tuesday 13th Dec 2011 - Shenstone and Ladies Pool

Today's visit to the patch was one of those which, all though I decent mix of birds, left me feeling a little flat.  I started my visit at Captains Pool where the undobted highlight were 3 Siskin that were feeding in the alders next to the dam and the ♀ Sparrowhawk that went through.  On the pool itself were 16 Canada Geese, 11 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Moorhens and c.40 Mallard.

I then parked up on Stanklyn Lane and walked the perimeter of Stanklyn Wood.  This turned up a light-phase Common Buzzard, 1 Song Thrush, a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker, 14 Long-tailed Tits and a Coal Tit.  A Goldcrest, a Jay and a Nuhatch were all heard calling. 

Stanklyn Lane paddocks were very quiet with the only birds of note being a dark-phase Common Buzzard and a Green Woodpecker.  Heath Lane was also dead quiet with only a ♂ Kestrel being seen.

I decided to head over to the South-side of the patch and check out Willow Marsh Fishery.  On arrival I was greeted by the sight of 8 Cormorants perched in the trees at the rear of the pools.  There was little else of note here, so I decided to call it a day for Shenstone.

I had however managed to add four more species of flora still in  flower for my winter count.  These were Daisy, Herb Robert, Petty Spurge and Rape.  This takes the winter wildflower total up to 27.

From Shenstone I decided to pop a couple of miles up the road to Ladies Pool at Blakedown.  This is part of an area that is worked fairly regularly as a local patch by fellow local birder Mark Peacock ( I have been meaning to have a look at this place for a while now and I know Mark had recorded 6 Goosander there over the weekend so I thought I would have a nose.

i must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Ladies Pool.  It is larger than Captains Pool with an area of Phragmites Reed along the one side (oh for reeds at Shenstone! and all the possibilities they could bring...ah well).  On arrival I quickly picked up the Goosander and there were infact 17 Goosander present (3♂).  Also of note here was a ♀ Shoveller, a ♀ Tufted Duck and a Little Grebe.

Cormorant - Willow Marsh Fishery, Shenstone

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Drake Goosander - Ladies Pool

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Saturday 10th December 2011 - Shenstone

On this morning's visit to the patch I decided to concentrate my efforts on the Barrs Lane/Butts Lane area.  Walking the public footpath past the stubble field I flushed 62 Skylarks.  Who knows, one of these days I may find a wintering Woodlark in amongst them.  Also of note during this walk were a single Meadow Pipit and a Redwing.

On the way back to me car I bumped into Mark P and we decided to go and walk the wooded footpath to see what fungi was about.  Much of the fungi here was now going past its best although there were some nice examples of The Prince showing. Also of note were Common Rustgill and Conocybe tenera.

During today's visit I also managed to add a few more winter wildflowers to the list:  Common Speedwell, Fat Hen, Hedge Mustard, Prickly Sow-thistle, Red Campion and Small Nettle.  This takes the total number of wildflower species seen in bloom this winter  around the patch to 23.

The Prince (Agaricus augustus)

Small Nettle (Urtica urens)

Prickly Sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)

Please Note

The aerial views of the patch have now been put into a gallery in the 'additional pages' section on the right-hand side of the blog.

They can also be viewed by clicking on the below link:


Thursday 8th December 2011 - Shenstone

This afternoon I decided to brave the near gale force winds and undertake a patch walk.  I parked on Stanklyn Lane, walked to Captains Pool then across the beet field towards Summerfield before heading back along the lane.

At Captain's Pool a family party of 6 Mute Swans were new in (TS).  Also present were 23 Black-headed Gulls.  Along the footpath from Captains was a flock of c.40 Chaffinch, but there was no sign of any Brambling with them as yet.

Whilst walking the beet field 7 Meadow Pipits went up.  The only other notables were c.60 Starling, a single Skylark and a Redwing.  

That was about it in terms of birds today, although I did add a three more species of winter wildflowers to the list in Bristly Ox-tongue, Cats Ear and Charlock (taking the total to 17).  I also found some Coral Spot Fungi on some fallen branches.

Mute Swans (family party) - Captains Pool

Click on image to enlarge

Tuesday 6th December 2011 - Captains Pool

With only a little time to spare today I decided to spend it at Captains Pool.  There were no fishermen on the pool this afternoon and I was hopeful of perhaps some interesting wildfowl.....there wasn't.  All that there was of note on the pool were 22 Black-headed Gulls, 26 Canada Geese, 3 Moorhen and a pond load of Mallard.

The visit wasn't a complete loss however the trees around the pool were chuffing with birds.  The Alders along the dam there were 12 Siskin (5♂) and 10 Goldfinch feeding.  Also present were 5 Chaffinch. A large tit flock of c.60 birds went through including a Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tits and many Great Tits & Blue Tits.  With them were also a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper.  At one point a Common Buzzard landed in the trees along the south edge of the pool to be immediately mobbed by 2 Jays.  A highlight though was hearing a Tawny Owl calling from the trees at the farside of the pool

I also managed to add 2 more species to my winter wildflower list - Green Alkanet and Oxeye Daisy. Both of which were growing between the Damn and the water's edge...hence the fencing in the photos.  This takes the count up to 14 species of wildflower in flower this winter.

Green Alkanet

Oxeye Daisy

Shenstone - Winter Wildflowers

I've decided to follow the lead of a fellow blogger, Dean ( who is recording all the wildflowers that are still in bloom during the Winter months (Dec, Jan, Feb).  So far he is up to 41 species on his patch of Cortonwood in South Yorkshire, so I decided to rise to the challenge and see what wildflowers Shenstone has to offer during the winter months.

Monday 5th December 2011
I decided to concentrate my first flora finding visit at the Gallops field on Stanklyn Lane.  In total I recorded 11 species of wildflower still in bloom, these were:  Common Ragwort, Dandelion, Hogweed, Nipplewort, Red Clover, Scentless Mayweed, Shepherd's Purse, White Campion, White Dead-nettle, Wild Radish and Yarrow.

I then briefly visited Witch Lane where I added Common Mallow to the list.

All in all it was a good start to a fun challenge...after all it will add a bit more colour to patch visits between the birding.  Talking of birds, it was deadly quite on that front today with the only notables being 1 Kestrel, 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Mistle Thrush and 5 Fieldfare

Common Ragwort



Scentless Mayweed

Shepherd's Purse

Wild Radish


Shenstone - A different view

First up I would just like to let you know that my blog posts will not be so frequent over the coming week.  I have got a number of appointments and other commitments this week, so visits to the patch (or anywhere else for that matter) will be limited.  That said I have a couple of odds and ends that I want to post so do check back.  Anyway...on with the show.

I've recently been playing around with google maps and some image grabbing software that I downloaded to bring a series of Ariel photos of various parts of the patch allowing those who don't know the area to get a better feel for itI hope you find this interesting.

Map of the patch

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Captains Pool

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Stanklyn Wood (private, no access)

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Stanklyn Lane Paddocks

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Heath Lane

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Eastfields Farm & WW2 Refugee Camp

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Willow Marsh Fishery

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Saturday 3rd December 2011 - Shenstone News

There were still 3 Corn Buntings present along Stanklyn Lane today, as well as 7+ Yellowhammers and 4 Lesser Redpolls flew over (Craig Reed).

Thursday 1st December 2011 - Shenstone

Today I made a quick visit to the patch and spent an hour or so in the Stanklyn Lane area.  On arrival, there appeared to be much bird activity at the back of the 'carrot field'  (note to self...I will have to do another map with all my saft location names on!)

I walked the public footpath adjacent to the 'carrot field' and noted c.80 Starling, 3 Skylark and a Meadow Pipit in the field itself.  Along the footpath were 2 Jays and a good number of Blackbirds (these have notably increased over recent weeks with more arriving from the continent for the winter).

What I was most interested in was all the large mixed Bunting/Finch flock in the trees/hedgerow at the rear of the 'carrot field'.  This flock included 17 Corn Buntings, 5 Yellowhammers, 5 Goldfinch, 10 Greenfinch and c.30 Chaffinch.  The Corn Bunting flock was fairly mobile, this path is well used by dog walkers and the Buntings would often go up and head over the lane towards the paddocks for a while.

On the way back down the footpath towards the lane I noticed a cracking Shaggy Parasol mushroom....cue photo.  I then rounded of my visit by checking the paddocks. They were unusually quiet today with the only notable birds being 5 Fieldfare and 2 Green Woodpeckers.


Corn Bunting

Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes)

Wednesday 30th Nov - Stubber's Green & other places

Today I had an 'away day' with Tony and his mate Tricky to Stubber's Green near Walsall.   Stubber's is a well known West Midlands gull hotspot and the good thing about it is that the gulls rest up here at that waters edge during the daytime after visiting the local landfill.  This enables you to get good close views of gulls in good light, letting you get to grips more easily with i.d. features than say at dusk at a reservoir gull roost. Last time I visited here was in 2010 to see Iceland Gull and 3c/y Caspian Gull.

Today we were visiting in the hope of seeing one of the 2 adult Caspian Gulls that have been present for a while now.  We arrived just after 11:30am and it wasn't long before an adult Caspian Gull was picked up along the shore line with the numerous  Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.  The bird showed many of the classic features:  white pear-shaped head, small dark beady eye, straight bill and long-legged in appearance. I've added some photos at the end of this post.

Also of note at Stubber's were 7 Great Black-backed Gulls and 4 drake Teal.

From Stubber's we popped up the road into Staffordshire and spent an hour or so at WMBC's Belvide Reserve.  Here we were treated to c.200 Golden Plover, looking rather resplendunt when they all went up after a Common Buzzard went through.  Also of note were 4 Dunlin and a handful of Tree Sparrows

On the way home we stopped off at Whittington along the A449 to try and see the roosting ♂ Merlin that is present there this Autumn.  Whittington is still in Staffordshire but is right on the border with Worcestershire and only about 5 miles from Kidderminster where I live.  We parked up at around 3:20 pm  and  walked the bridleway to the area where it is viewed.  On arrival we bumped into fellow local birders Eric Phillips and Kinver Jim who informed us it had just, minutes before, flown in.  I quickly set up my scope and enjoyed views of this cracking adult ♂ Merlin as the light  diminished. 

Not a bad way to end a day but I must get back to Shenstone tomorrow...who knows what I may have missed!

Caspian Gull - Stubber's Green

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Tuesday 29th November 2011 - Shenstone

Today I decided to concentrate on the patch's accessible bodies of water.   There are areas on the patch that are private and un-viewable such as Stanklyn Pool...who knows what gets on there!

I started at Captains pool on the northern edge of the patch.  Here I noted 22 Black-headed Gulls and the usual Mallards & Moorhens.  Whilst scanning the wooded edges of the pool I just caught a glimpse of a small bird diving.  A few seconds later it popped back up, it was a Little Grebe.  Result!  this is only the second record of Little Grebe on Captains in 2011.

I then headed over to the south side of the patch to check out Willow Marsh Fishery.  I usually view the birds dropping in at the fishery from Witch Lane but I have recently discovered that there is a public footpath that runs through it accessible from Curslow Lane.  The fishery is only open weekends this time of year, so there is always a chance of something interesting.  There was little of excitement here today however but I still recorded 5 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard and 3 Redwing.  There was also a nice Shaggy Ink Cap fungi along the footpath.

My final stop was on Witch Lane where I walked the 'fungi footpath'.  I know, it's another of my daft names but this semi-wooded footpath is where the highest concentration and variety of fungi are found on the patch.  Birdwise I only noted 11 Fieldfare and a single Jay.  I did however record another new species of fungi for the patch, Common Rustgill.  Also of interest was a small burrow I found with loads of part eaten fruit outside the entrance.  It looked like the flesh had been discarded but the seeds eaten, leading me to believe it belongs to a Wood Mouse as opposed to a Bank Vole.  I've attached a photo if anyone agrees or disagrees please say.

Common Rustgill (Gymnopilus penetrans)

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus)

Wood Mouse Burrow (and signs of activity)