Shenstone News - 25th to 30th July 2011

Here is a quick round up of the news from the patch whilst I have been away:

Monday 25th July
2 Little Owls (1 adult & 1 juv) still present on the North side of the patch.  There was a mass emergence of Gatekeeper butterflies along Heath Lane. Red Admiral and Peacock were present along Captains Pool dam (TS)

Tuesday 26th July
A White-letter Hairstreak was seen (just off patch) in a garden near Captains Pool and flew off in direction of pool (TS).  Good numbers of butterflies were present on the set-aside on the Stanklyn side of Captains Pool.  These included Essex Skipper, Small Skipper and Gatekeeper (TS)  This is a new location for Essex Skipper on the patch.

A family of 5 Common Whitethroat, 2 Swifts and a Little Owl were seen along Heath Lane (TS)

Wednesday 27th July
A flock of 10 Corn Buntings were seen feeding on the newly harvested field along Heath Lane (TS)

Saturday 30th July
An adult Common Tern was over Captains Pool at 10:30 am (TS)

Please Note

Hi Folks

Just a quick note to let you know that there will be no posts on this blog next week as I am away on holiday.  Normal service will however be resumed on my return.

If any local birders would like to email me their Shenstone sightings I will put them on the blog when I get back.

Cheers Jason

Shenstone Birder on Flickr

Hi folks

Just to let you know, the Shenstone Birder Flickr account is finally back up and running (it only took the Flickr help team 4 weeks to sort it out!).  I have added a selection of new photos and will keep it regularly updated from now on.

The Flickr gallery can be accessed by clicking on the 'Shenstone Birder Flickr' logo at the top right-hand side of the blog or clicking on the below link:

Cheers Jase

Wednesday 20th July 2011 - Shenstone

I decided to do a brief evening visit to the patch today, just to mix things up a little.  

I arrived around 8pm and headed to Stanklyn Lane paddocks first.  Here there was a summer flock of 20 Mistle Thrush.   I also recorded a juvenile Green Woodpecker in the one paddock and a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.

From Stanklyn Lane I popped to Barrs Lane next where I was greeted by the sight of 3 Common Buzzards (2 juvenile and 1 adult) all perched in the same tree. The young Buzzards were calling regularly.

My final patch stop was to check on one of the Little Owl territories.  On arriving I was overjoyed to see a rather downy looking juvenile Little Owl sat in a tree with an adult sat on another branch a few feet higher.  This is great news as it it the 2nd successive year that they have bred here. 

Little Owl (juvenile)

Monday 18th July 2011 - Bircher Common and Yatton Hill Common (Herefordshire)

Today TS and I went off patch and headed over to the North Herefordshire hills in search of Dark Green Fritillaries.  Interestingly enough where I live in North Worcestershire you can get to 5 different counties within a 50 minute drive...anyway I digress.

We arrived at Bircher Common and walked the paths through the bracken (as mentioned in the 30 Butterfly Walks in the West Midlands book) with very little success.  The weather was getting cooler and windier and the only butterflies we saw were Ringlet, Small White and Large White.  It was nice to see lots of  Harebell in flower along these grassy rides. Whilst there we bumped into a guy with a pair of bins and asked him about the Dark Green Fritillaries.  He suggested a better sight was at Yatton Hill Common a few miles down the road.

We decided to continue our walk at Bircher for a while and I did see a fleeting Dark Green Fritillary zip over the bracken but it was a very unsatisfying view.  We headed up to the grazed common above the bracken and had a consolation bird in the form of a ♀ Common Redstart that was showing well. Linnets and Yellowhammers were also seen. 

We returned to the car and headed over to Yatton Hill Common.  Here you can park in Yatton village and walk up, it is a fairly steep ascent for the unfit (myself included!).  Looking up at the bracken covered common through binoculars I could see a Fallow Deer neer the summit.  On taking the footpath from the village to the hill there are cereal fields either side.  Here we had the highlight of the day when we heard 2 singing Quails.  We stopped and listened for a while and then continued our trek up the hill. 

Towards the summit I had a somewhat worn Dark Green Fritillary on the path.  I called Tony over and it flew just has he got there (so no photos I'm afraid).  As the fritillary flew off over the bracken a 2nd one flew up and zipped across.  This was the end of our fritillary sightings for the day.  We continued to the summit where the views were stunning looking right across to the Black mountains in Wales.  After a short rest it was back down the hill, just getting to the village as the heavens opened up.

View from Yatton Hill Common

Click on photo to enlarge

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Thursday 14th July 2011 - Shenstone

I hadn't got much time to spare today and with things fairly quiet on the bird front I decided to continue building up a picture of the patch flora.  I focused on the area at the edge of Stanklyn Lane beet field today.

Whilst at the beet field I was pleased to see and hear singing an adult Willow Warbler in the hedgerow.  This is particularly pleasing as Willow Warblers are not a breeding bird on the patch.  With yesterday's Lesser Whitethroat and today's Willow Warbler I just get the feeling that there is a little bit of movement on the warbler front.

Not much to butterfly wise in this area other than 1 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 1 Holly Blue and a handful of Whites.  I did however record a  Pied Hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri) next to the pull in along Barrs Lane half hour or so before.  This is a species that I haven't recorded in the area before so it was a pleasing sighting.

As for the flora, I added to the growing patch list Field Pansy, Black Horehound and White Dead Nettle.  So all in all it was an hour well spent.

Pied Hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri)


Black Horehound

Field Pansy

Wed 13th July 2011 (evening) - Shenstone

A Lesser Whitethroat was present and singing along Barrs Lane for a brief while this evening (TMH).  This is the first record of this non-patch breeding species this year.

I arrived about 15 minutes later to meet up with Terry by which time the bird had flown.  Whilst on the patch TMH pointed out a nice bit of Shepherd's Purse that is growing along Stanklyn Lane.  

We then proceeded to have a quick check around to see what was about. There was no sign of the Little Owls this evening but a highlight came when a Hobby flew over Witch Lane heading East.

Shepherd's Purse

Wed 13th July 2011 - Oversley Wood (Warks)

Today I returned to Oversley Wood with my mate Jared 'Bellamy' Tibbetts, primarily to see the Purple Emperors but also to see any other butterflies that were on the wing.  The weather was cloudier than my previous visit a couple of weeks before so it was fingers crossed as to whether we would get our target species.  In total we saw 19 species of butterfly.

Whilst we were walking the rides we bumped into a couple of gents (Richard & Steve) that I knew from some of the Worcestershire asites that I visit, so the four of us decided to walk the reserve together (more pairs of eyes and all that).  During the walk we did in fact see 4 Purple Emperors that flew over the canopies.  The highlight of these was a ♀ being chased by a noticeably smaller .  The views were sufficient but not a patch on last time when I had one perched...but that's wildlife watching, you need to be in the right place at the right time and then have a certain amount of luck.

Interestingly enough we only saw one White Admiral, leading me to believe that they are over a bit earlier due to emerging early this year.  We also recorded 10+ Silver-washed Fritillary, 1 Brown Argus, 1 Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Purple Hairstreak.  We didn't record any White-letter Hairstreaks on this visit.

Other insects of interest included Narrow-bordered Five-Spot Burnett  moth, Large Red Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle and Southern Hawker dragonfly. Of note bird wise were a small party of Marsh Tits and a stunning dark phase Common Buzzard that was perched in a nearby tree.

Of course a trip out with Bellamy (sorry I mean Jared) wouldn't be the same without him sharing some of his extensive botanical knowledge on the way round.  During the course of the walk he pointed out a variety of interesting flora including - Agrimony, Bettany, Corn Mint, Creeping Jenny, Nettle-leafed Campanula, Meadowsweet, Perforate St. John's Wort and Enchanter's Nightshade (what an ace name!)  All in all it was another enjoyable day out at Oversley Wood.

Comma on Meadowsweet

Purple Hairstreak

Silver-washed Fritillary

(a rather worn) Red Admiral

Small Skipper

Brown Argus

Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium)

Corn Mint (Mentha arvensis)

Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)  

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

Tuesday 12th July 2011 - Shenstone

I decided to do a couple of butterfly walks around the patch today with the weather being fairly nice.

My first port of call was the field at the back of Stone vicarage (just behind the top of Butts Lane).  Here there were good numbers of Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.  The highlight was a nice fresh 2nd generation Small Copper that was feeding on the flowers of some Yarrow.

Next stop was Stanklyn Lane.  The Gallops field was disappointing as the grass has now been cut (hopefully all the pairs of Skylarks here had fledged there young!)  I spent some time at the beet field watching 3 Purple Hairstreaks flit around the Oaks and Ash but still didn't manage any photos (one day!).   Also in this area were 4 Speckled Wood and 2 Holly Blues.  2 singing Chiffchaffs were also present along the lane.

My final stop was Butts Lane/Barrs Lane.  I decided to walk the footpath across the field towards the vicarage.  There had been an emergance of Small Tortoiseshell with 9 present on one area of thistles.  It was also good for the farmland birds with Skylark, Yellowhammer and Linnet all showing well.  2 young Common Buzzards could be heard calling from the trees at the back of Stone Manor with one fledgling showing quite well. The walk back along the set-aside was fairly productive with good numbers of Essex Skipper and Small Skipper seen (it seems to be about 70% Essex to 30% Small down there at the mo).  A Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 2 Gatekeepers and 1 Large skipper were also added to the days list here.  The Whites were numerous across the patch with all three common species seen.

Below are a few butterfly shots from the walk plus another handful of photos of the patch's flora.

Small Copper


Essex Skippers


Small Tortoiseshell

Lady's Bedstraw

St. John's Wort


Sunday 10th July 2011 - Shenstone

Today, I decided to pop around the patch on the evening with the hope of seeing a mammal or two at dusk or maybe if I'm lucky picking up a patch Barn Owl.  Well the mammals were not showing (I've had Foxes, Badgers, Stoats and various Bats at dusk on other occasions).  As for a Barn Owl, well it was a bit optimistic.

The evening wasn't a complete loss though as I did manage to verify that there are in fact 2 Little Owls on territory on the patch.  One on the Northern side and one to the South.  As a pair bred at the Southern location last year its possible that they are breeding here again.  The Northern Territory bird is a recent find (found by TMH) and has been present on a number of evenings over the last few weeks.  This evening though I managed to see adult birds at both sites...encouraging indeed.

Ive attached some record shots of one of the Little Owls.  The photos are slightly dark due to the time of evening but they serve a purpose..

Little Owl

Shenstone News

Saturday 9th July 2011
The Whinchat was still present at Heath Lane paddock (CRe and JC).

Please Note:  for the past 2 weeks I have been having problems logging into the Shenstone Birder Flickr account.  The Flickr team are supposedly sorting it out.  I will let you know when it is back up and running and new photos have been added.


Friday 8th July 2011 - Shenstone

Today's rather interchangeable weather looked good for a possible early autumn migrant on the patch.  Ok, so its called Autumn migration but really this return passage of birds runs anywhere between July and October.  Anyway the day didn't disappoint.

Late morning TS recorded a Common Sandpiper at Captains Pool.  2 Common Terns were also present.  By the time I was able to get to the patch (late afternoon) there was no sign of either species from the dam.  Sod's law but great records all the same.

From Captains Pool I headed over to Butts Lane. The pair of Common Whitethroats that have bred bear the drainage pond were busy feeding 3 fledgelings.  The walk along the set-aside didn't produce any new additions to the previous days butterfly list, with only a single Gatekeeper again present.  I did get a nice photo of mating Small Whites and I also took the opportunity to take some more photos of the patch flora.

I then headed over to Heath Lane and shortly after arriving at the paddock I picked up a stunning Whinchat that was flicking down to ground a back from the right hand fence line.  This is the first patch Whinchat of the year, there were none recorded on Spring passage. It was a stunning individual with a lovely white supercilium and not too far off what you would expect fresh spring plumage bird to look like.  This Whinchat is probably a failed breeder making an early migration but during these dead days of summer birding it was a welcome sight indeed.  Other notable birds in this area were 40+ Common Swift, a Kestrel and 5 Linnets on the wires.

Whinchat (a distant record shot)

Click on photo to enlarge

Small Whites

Evening Primrose (Oenothera erythrosepala)

Birdsfoot Trefoil 

Common Vetch



Thursday 7th July 2011 - Shenstone

My first stop off on my late morning visit to the patch was the 'beet field' at Stanklyn Lane.  There was no sign of any Purple Hairstreak activity today, which isn't surprising with the sunshine and showers weather.  There were however good numbers of hirundines hawking low over the cereal field with c.60 Swallows and 16 House Martins present.  A Sparrowhawk and 1 Common Swift were also present.

At Heath Lane there were 11 Common Swifts and a Kestrel over the model aircraft field.  I also noted an interesting wildflower called Weld that TMH had made me aware of.

I then headed over to Butts Lane to undertake an insect walk.  I finally picked up my first Gatekeeper butterfly of the year. There had also been a noticeable emergance of Essex Skipper with 30+ on the wing along the set-aside. Other butterflies recorded included 1 Red Admiral, 1 Small Copper, 8 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 Large Skipper, 1 Large White, 4 Green-veined Whites, 1 Speckled Wood, 6 Meadow Browns, many Ringlets and Small Whites.

Also of great interest on the insect front was a Roesel's Bush Cricket, which over recent years has moved into Worcestershire as it expands its range from its stronghold in the South East of the country.  Other notable invertebrates included a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly and many Episyrphus balteatus Hoverflies.

I also started looking at a few more of the plants in this area including a nice patch of White Bryony (TMH) that was climbing through the Bramble on Barrs Lane.  Also of note was Redshank (no not the bird...if only!) at the edge of the field in this area.

Double-click on any of the below pictures to enlarge.

Roesel's Bush Cricket (Metrioptera roeseli)

Essex Skippers

Meadow Brown

Small White

Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

White Bryony (Bryonia alba

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Monday 4th July 2011 - Shenstone

I arrived at the patch late morning today and decided to walk the fields along Stanklyn Lane.  On arrival there were 7 Mistle Thrush in the paddocks opposite.  Walking the Gallops field there were large numbers of Ringlet Meadow Brown and Small White butterflies, with few Small Skippers and a single Large White also present.

I then checked out the set-aside strip in the adjacent field.  The Ox-eye Daisy's were starting to go over but the Knapweed was looking stunning. In addition to the previously mentioned butterfly species there were a couple of Small Tortoiseshell here.  The Knapweed was attracting good numbers of both Six-spot Burnett and Narrow-bordered Five-Spot Burnett Moths.

The final area I checked out was the beet field (although its full of cereals this year).  Here there were 2 second-generation Holly Blue butterflies on the wing as well as a Red Admiral. The highlight came with the discovery of a small colony of Purple Hairstreaks that were flitting around the tops of a couple of mature Oaks and an Ash along Stanklyn Lane.  This is a patch first and a welcome addition to the species list.  I will endeavour to get some photographs during the course of the week (weather permitting).

As if that wasn't enough I was treated to the site of 2 recently fledged juvenile Corn Buntings that perched up for a while at the top of a nearby tree.  They seemed quite young birds as part of the gape flange was still showing at the base of the bill.  There was a slightly scruffy look to some the birds crown feathers and the tail feathers did not quite fully developed either.  Yet the still seemed to be flying fine and decided to take off and fly over the lane to the opposite cereal field.  Heartening indeed!  what a great day on the patch.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnett Moth on Knapweed

Shenstone News

Thursday 30th June 2011:
The original pair of Great Crested Grebe have hatched 2 chicks from their 2nd brood.  This takes the total number of Grebe chicks born at Captains Pool this year up to 8 (JK).

Saturday 2nd July 2011:
A Little Owl was present on Witch Lane this evening (TMH).

Monday 4th July 2011:
2 adult Common Tern were present at Captains Pool late afternoon (TS).

Friday 1st July 2011 - Oversley Wood (Warks)

Today I had what I can only describe as my best butterfly day in a long time.  Myself and TS had popped across the county boundary into Warwickshire to visit Oversley Wood near Alcester.  I visited here just under a year ago as it is one of the few places in the Midlands where Purple Emperor butterflies occur.  In total were recorded 16 species of butterfly on this visit.

A short way along the track from the car park we came across a stunning White-letter Hairstreak that although in pristine condition seemed to have very little energy left.  Also along this section we had our first White Admiral and first Silver Washed Fritillary of the visit.  The target species was Purple Emperor and we managed to see 3 chasing around the tops of the pines along the ridge.  One Purple Emperor kept returning to the same area to perch whilst waiting for a passing female to hijack. This allowed for some good scope views.  At times we were able to see the purple iridescence on the wings when they were blown by the breeze.

Other species recorded on the walk were Purple Hairstreak, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large White, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Red Admiral.  The 3 Red Admirals we saw were all crisp individuals and most likely part of the large numbers of migrant Red Admirals that join the overwintering residents this time of year.  Talking of migrants, I also saw my first Silver Y moth of the year.

All in all it was an enjoyable day at an excellent area of woodland.  I'm looking forward to returning there in the future.

White-Letter  Hairstreak

Purple Hairstreak

Small Skipper

Silver-washed Fritillary

Purple Emperor 

Click on photo to enlarge