Friday 27th April 2012 - Out and about in Worcestershire

Originally I had arranged today to do a walk in the Wyre Forest with Tony but the weather was fairly lousy and I really do think the dryer weather brings the best out of the Wyre.  So with that said I suggested visiting Grimley as there had been some movement the past few days at the county's wetlands.

On the way out to Grimley I decided to give Shenstone a miss. Terry H had already been around there earlier that morning and bagged 6 Wheatears so I thought my time may be better spent elsewhere.

Grimley and Holt
Our first stop in this area was at Holt.  Over-looking the large field, known locally as Holt prairee, I picked up a ♀ Northern Wheatear perched on a manure pile.  Just down the lane near Holt church I nnoticed a ♀ Common Redstart flicking around a brash pile in the clear felled area.  There were 2 Oystercatchers at Sling Pool.

At Top Barn activity lake we noted a Swift and c.40 House Martins hawking over the water.

At Grimley 'old workings', a single Oystercatcher was the only bird of note.

Camp Lane pits was by far the most productive area and on arrival we quickly picked up the winter plumage Curlew Sandpiper that had been present the day before.  Other waders of note here were 2 Common Sandpiper, a Dunlin, 3 Redshank and 2 Oystercatchers.  The highlight here for me though was the stunning flock of 7 Yellow Wagtails that were feeding and flitting about at the north end.  A Swift went through whilst we were there and an incredible 25 Mute Swans were also noted in the field on the north west side.

We rounded of our time at Grimley was to vsit Wagon Wheel Lane pits.  Things were fairly quite here although we did note a drake Mandarin and 2 Common Sandpipers.

Click on Youtube logo to enlarge

Westwood Pool
Whilst we were at Grimley we had bumped into Terry who informed us that a drake Garganey was present at the privately owned/permit only Westwood Pool.  He informed us that we should be able to see the bird by viewing over the wall.  As I hadn't connected with one last year I thought we would give it ago.  We were in luck and within a few minutes of being there we picked up the stonking ♂ Garganey swimming infront of the reeds.  If you have never seen a drake Garganey before you really should try and catch up with one...they are such smart looking birds.  Also of note at Westwood was a ♂ Mandarin

Upton Warren
Things were definitely moving today and whilst we were out and about we had heard news that a Short-eared Owl was showing on/off there.  As a rule I don't twitch many things but this was a bird that was sadly missing off my county list so I thought I would give it a punt.  On walking past the sailing pool to the flashes we were treated to a flyover Yellow Wagtail.  We arrived at the Flashes hide to be informed that the bird had dropped in behind the archery field and hadn't been seen for at least three parts of an hour.  We gave it a while in the hide incase the bird was flushed or decided to quarter but it didn't. 

The kids had finished shooting at the archery field so Tony and I decided to walk around the back of it to see if we could see the bird.  We bumped into old Upton stalwart Gordon Greaves who had just located the bird sitting in a triangle of rough grassland. I focused my scope on it and there was a very dark looking Short-eared Owl hankered down in the rough!  I was able to take some footage of the's not great due to the poor light and keeping a sensible distance from the bird but it does serve as a record.

After enjoying the Owl for a while we headed over to the Moors pool where 2 Arctic Terns and 3 Common Terns were performing well over the water.  A number of Reed Warblers were chuntering away from the reed bed here and 7 Swifts went over.  We then bumped into Andy Pitt who informed us that a Lesser Whitethroat had been present in the nearby hedgerow earlier and, as if on cue, it started singing it's melodic rattling call.  We soon managed to pick up the bird as it went through the hedge and were lucky enough to hear its somewhat scratchy subsong. 

Just before we were about to head off local tog Bob Hart pointed out that he had just seen a Wheatear perched in the top of thee large tree along the path to the west hide.  I raised my bins to have a look...sure enough there was the Wheatear

What a great end to a great day but I wonder what I missed at Shenstone.  I really must get back there early tommorow!

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Monday 23rd April 2012 - Shenstone

I could only manage the briefest of whistle stop visits to Shenstone today but it was still worthwhile as I picked up my first Common Whitethroat of the year at Heath Lane model aircraft field.  Also of note here were 2 Common Buzzards.

At Witch Lane there was a Moorhen on the cricket pitch of all places...quite what it was doing there left me stumped!  2 Swallows were over and 8 Tufted Duck were at Willow Marsh fishery.

The ploughed field on Back Lane again proved to be the most productive with 2 Wheateasr (1♂) present.

P.S. I didn't then manage to do any birding/patch visits for the next three days due to a series of events:  My Gran's funeral, voluntary work at Worcs Biological Records Centre and dealing with the aftermath of some twat in a transit van smashing into the back end of my motor whilst I was on my way home from said voluntary work! 

Common Whitethroat - 23rd April 2012
(crappy record shot)

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Sunday 22nd April 2012 - Arley to Highly

Today Bev and I decided to undertake a walk along the River Severn from Arley (in Worcestershire) to Highley (in Shropshire).  The idea was that we would walk to Highley and get the Severn Valley railway steam train back.  But as it happens we enjoyed the walk so much we decided to walk back along the other side of the river.

Near the footbridge at Arley we had cracking views of a 2 Goosander (1♂, 1♀).  A further 4 Goosander (2♂, 2♀) were further up river in Shropshire.  A Common Sandpiper and 3 Mandarin (2♂, 1♀) were also noted along the Shropshire stretch of the river. 

Mid way between Arley and Highley we sat and watched the Sand Martins zipping around over the water and occasionally visiting the nest holes in the sandy banks, this was a real highlight.  Two House Martins and 4 Swallows were also noted nearby.

The walk also produced good numbers of singing warblers including 15 singing Blackcaps, 12 singing Chiffchaffs and 4 Willow Warblers

Also of note during the walk was a singing ♂ Common Redstart.  At the footbridge near the Severn Valley Country Park (Highly) a pair of Marsh Tits was showing very well.

Due to the changeable weather there wasn't much to see in terms of butterflies, although 3♂ Orange Tip butterflies, 2 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Speckled Wood were noted.

Orange Tip on Cuckoo Flower - 22nd April 2012

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Saturday 21st April 2012 - Shenstone

Today's visit to the patch was an odd one.  When I first arrived I popped to Stanklyn paddocks to check for the Redstart.  I spent some time there but there was no sign.  Feeling that there had been a bit of a clear  out of migrant birds I headed over to the ploughed field on Back Lane to check if the Wheatears were still present...again there was no sign. My feeling was correct.

I then headed over to nearby Witch Lane where the only notables were 4 Swallows and 2 Common Buzzards

Next stop was Heath Lane which, apart from a Robin on the hedgerow of the paddock, was devoid of birds.  The only other thing of note here was a Green-veined White butterfly.

I fared no better at Stanklyn Lane for birds but at least I saw 3 (2♂, 1♀) Orange Tip butterflies.

It was at this point, as the tumbleweed drifted past, I coined the expression Shenstonus moribundi

I was pretty close to throwing in the towel for the day but the voice of the patch obsessive inside my head was saying "just check the Butts Lane never know what you might be missing".  As Butts Lane was the last major area of the patch I hadn't covered I dutifully trudged over there...and I'm glad I did.

I parked up at Barrs Lane and began walking my circuit across the fields and back along the lane.  The first thing that struck me was the fantastic sound of a Willow Warbler singing from the grounds of Stone Manor...result! a patch year tick.  Shortly afterwards, as the sky was darkening from the impending storm, 3 House Martins came over...another year tick.  The day was suddenly getting better and it was topped of by a cracking ♂ Northern Wheatear that was stood not too far away on the recently scuffled ground.  I also noted a Small White butterfly nearby.

In addition to these I noted a singing Blackcap, a singing Chiffchaff, 2 Common Buzzards, a ♂ Kestrel and a flyover Grey Heron at Butts Lane, making this area of the patch the most productive by a long chalk.  I'm glad I listened to that voice in my head after all.

17th to 20th April 2012 - Shenstone

Right, it's time to play catch up.  I have rolled a few posts in one to try and clear the blog log...failing that I may use Senokot tablets!

Tuesday 17th April
On visiting the patch this morning  I headed straight up Heath Lane to see if the Ring Ouzel was still present.  He wasn't and neither was anything else for that matter.  The ♂ Common Redstart was still present and showing well at Stanklyn Lane paddocks.

At Butts Lane there were 2 Swallows and a Pied Wagtail present. The highlight of the walk was seeing my first patch Specled Wood butterfly of the year.  A Small White was also present.

Witch Lane was also fairly quiet with the only notables being 2 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Swallows and a ♂ Orange Tip butterfly.

Thursday 19th April
For a change I decided to check out the Summerfield end of Stanklyn Lane on today's visit.  On the ploughed fields here I noted 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Herring Gulls and 4 Stock Doves.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks the ♂ Common Redstart was again present, it's now been there for an incredible 7 days.  2 Robins were also present along the same hedgerow. A Raven flew over being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.  A Mistle Thrush and a Swallow were also present.

Heath Lane was very quite although I did discover a stunning Drinker Moth caterpillar along the lane.

At Back Lane there were 4 Northern Wheatears (2♂, 2♀) on the plough.  A Kestrel was also present.

Friday 20th April
I only had time for a whistle stop visit around Shenstone this afternoon so I targeted the two most productive places.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks the ♂ Common Redstart was yet again present.  A Raven, 3 Common Buzzards and a Swallow were up over the lane.

On the plough at Back Lane there were 5 Northern Wheatears (3♂,2♀) present today.  Nearby there were 2♂ Tufted Duck at Willow Marsh Fishery.

Drinker Moth (Euthrix potatoria) Larvae

A short clip of the Common Redstart


My apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.  It's been a hectic time for a number of reasons (which I don't wish to go into here) and, although I have managed to get out and about birding, the blog has been on hold as a consequence.  I hope to rectify this during the coming week so please do check back.


14th, 15th and 16th April 2012 - Shenstone

I seem to be spending that much time outdoors at the mo that I'm falling behind with my blog posts.  So to try and catch up to date here are the past few days patch visits rolled into one post...all I will say is it's been a good few days!

Saturday 14th April
I wasn't intending to visit the patch today.  Terry had been round in the morning and he informed me that the ♂ Redstart was still present at Stanklyn Lane paddocks.  As Bev and i had been out for lunch at a nearby garden centre I thought it would be rude not to pop and see the Redstart whilst we were so close.  On arriving at the paddock we scanned 'redstart hedge' and soon picked up on the stunning ♂ Common Redstart.  I got the bird in the scope for Bev to have a good look at and carried on scanning in case there was anything else present when suddenly a 2nd slightly duller ♂ Common Redstart flew out of the hedge further back and flicked down to the ground....result!

♂ Redstart - 14th April

Sunday 15th April
I was busy in the morning, so I didn't get around the patch until early afternoon.  My first stop was Witch Lane where 5 Northern Wheatears (4♂, 1♀) were on the ploughed field near Shenstone House Farm.  Also of note here were 2 Swallows that were hawking for insects over the adjacent fields.

My next stop was Stanklyn Lane where one ♂ Common Redstart (the brighter bird) was still present.  The Blackcap was still singing from Stanklyn Wood and a ♂ Orange Tip butterfly was also seen.

I rounded the visit off by doing my Butts Lane/Barrs Lane walk.  On the sandy areas of the recently scuffled field their were 5 Pied Wagtails present.  Sadly there were no White or Yellow wags with them (now I'm just being greedy!).  1 Raven flew over and 3 Common Buzzards were up soaring.

Monday 16th April
Today was one of those day's that makes all those hours local patch watching worthwhile.

I started my visit at Stanklyn Paddocks where the ♂ Common Redstart was present for a 5th day at the redstart hedge.  The Blackcap was still singing from Stanklyn Woods and a Green Woodpecker was also noted.

I headed over to Butts Lane and spent some time scanning the Eastfields Farm area, where i was pleased to see that a pair of Swallows had returned and were repeatedly visiting the barn where they usually nest.  The only other bird of note was a single Pied Wagtail.

I was limiting myself to the north side of the patch today and my final location to check was Heath Lane.  On arriving at the paddock I began scanning the right hand hedgerow for any possible perched Redstarts or Wheatears.  There were none but out the corner of my eye I caught a bird moving just in front of the hedge towards the rear of the paddock.  I had a good idea what the bird was and excitedly grabbed my scope to was a stunning ♂ Ring Ouzel.  This was a patch lifer for me so needless to say I was elated!  Ring Ouzel has been recorded at Shenstone in the past but the last record was in 2007 just before I started working the area as a local patch.  It's not the first Ring Ouzel I have found in the county but on a personal level it's probably the most special. 

Ring Ouzel - 16th April 2012

Click on image to enlarge

Below is a bit of footage i took of the bird.  It's not great due to the distance and the heat haze but it does serve as a record of the bird.

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge 

Friday 13th April - The Wyre Forest

Today I went out with Tony to undertake a walk in the Wyre Forest.  The idea was to hopefully connect with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (my Wyre bogey bird) and pick up the Tree Pipits which had been reported a few days earlier.  I have seen a number of Tree Pipits there over the years but today I had taken my sound recorder with me in the hope of getting some recordings.  Needless to say the Lesser Spot remained elusive, although we did hear one calling distantly beyond Uncllys Farm.  As for the Tree Pipits there was no sign either and i can only assume that the ones the previous week had been passage birds as opposed to returning breeders.

The walk itself didn't give up much in terms of birds although good numbers of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were in good voice, so I put my sound recorder to good use.  We also had good views of a singing ♂ Blackcap along the disused railway line.

Butterflies were also fairly inactive today with the only notables being a ♀ Orange Tip at the carpark near Uncllys. A Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell were seen in the Town Coppice area.

That said the Wyre is a fantastic place to go for a walk and usually there are one or two highlights.  Today's came in the form of the forests reptiles.  At Town Coppice we had cracking views of a ♂ Adder.  It must have recently sloughed its skin and was the most wonderful blue/grey colour...absolutely stunning!  Added to that we discovered 2 Slow Worms along the embankment of the disused railway that were basking together.

OK so we didn't get from the forest what we had initially intended but we still had an really enjoyable 4-5 hours.

Chiffchaff - Wyre Forest, 13th April 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Willow Warbler 1 - Wyre Forest, 13th April 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis)

Shenstone News

Below is a summary of notable sightings from around the patch over the past few days:

Wednesday 11th April 2012
10 Sand Martins flew over Witch Lane and a Willow Warbler was singing by Shenstone House Farm.  Swallow was present over the ploughed field at Back Lane  (Jared Tibbets)

Thursday 12th April 2012
The ♂ Common Redstart was again present at Stanklyn Lane paddocks.

Sad News
The pair of Great Crested Grebe on Captains Pool have abandoned their nest this week (Tony Smith).  As it is still early in the year they will hopefully attempt to nest again.

Thursday 12th April 2012 - Shenstone

Today's weather was mixed to say the least and would probably be best described as sunshine and showers.  I arrived at the patch just after noon during one of those sunny spells.

I started my visit at Stanklyn Lane and was immediately greated by the sound of a singing Blackcap from Stanklyn Woo (my patch first of the Spring).  Three Chiffchaffs were singing along Stanklyn Lane and 2 Ravens were present kronking away and perching on the pylons.  The highlight though came whilst scanning the aptly named 'Redstart hedge'.  Within a minute or two of scanning I picked up a truly stunning ♂ Common Redstart...result!  I then watched and enjoyed the bird as it flitted down to ground and back in typical chat fashion.  There were also 2 Robins present along the hedge doing similar to add to the confusion (the old was that another Redstart scenario) but they were soon ruled out.

At Heath Lane model aircraft field 2 Swallows flew over heading NW.  A stunning looking ♂ Yellowhammer was perched up singing on the adjacent hedgerow.  7 Skylark and 1 Meadow Pipit were also noted here.  A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and an Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria) was also seen.  A Chiffchaff was present and singing next to The Granary hotel.

Next stop was Butts Lane, which didn't produce a thing until I checked Eastfields Farm.  Whilst scanning I heard the call of a Pied Wagtail.  On the telegraph wire there was a cracking ♂ White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) perched next to a ♂ Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii).  The day was getting better.

Back Lane was quite today but for a single singing Chiffchaff and a Small White butterfly.

I then headed over to Witch Lane to try and see the 2 Northern Wheatears that had been found earlier by local farmer and wildlife enthusiast Mike Southall.  I only managed to locate 1 Wheatear, but hey even a single Wheatear isn't to be sniffed at...stunning birds!  Elsewhere along Witch Lane I noted 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Jays, 8 Stock Dove and 2 Meadow Pipits.  Many Skylarks were up singing in this area.

Witch Lane was the most productive for butterflies today with 1 Comma, 1 Peacock, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 3 Small Whites noted.

♂ Common Redstart

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Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

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Tuesday 10th April 2012 - Shenstone & Woodrow

I didn't get down to the patch quite as early as my previous visit, in fact it was around mid-day when I arrived.  My thinking was that if it brightened up a bit there would be more butterflies on the wing.

I started my rounds at Witch Lane where on arrival I clocked 2 Lapwing that were flying over heading East. The only other birds of note in this area were a Kestrel and a Common Buzzard.  I did however get good views of another Tawny Mining Bee and also noted a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.

The Butts Lane fields were also fairly empty of birds with the exception of 2 Red-legged Partridge.

Next up was a walk along Stanklyn Lane where, on arrival I noted 6 Common Buzzards up soaring.  The real highlight though was seeing 2 Swallows hawking low over the fields near Summerfield before flying off in a westerly direction.  At last!  my first patch hirrundines of 2012.  As I was walking back past the paddocks I heard a familiar call and looked up.  A cracking Yellow Wagatil was flying right over head heading North West.  This was the 3rd patch Yellow Wag of the Spring so far.

I finished off the patch by spending some time on Heath Lane hoping to pick up a few more interesting flyovers.  I didn't see any but i did note 1 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 3 Linnet and a Kestrel.

Many Chiffchaffs are now singing around the patch, so I will no longer bother to keep posting counts on them.

From Shenstone i headed a couple of miles up the road to Woodrow.  On checking the plough I didn't pick up a single Wheatear or Wagtail.  I was just about to return to my car when I noticed a bird on the ground in the adjacent sheep field.  Bingo! it was a cracking ♂ Northern Wheatear.  I then spent a while just watching and enjoying the said bird.  What a great end to a good day...I wonder what tomorrow may bring?

♀ Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

♂ Northern Wheatear - Woodrow

Monday 9th April - The early bird catches...well not a lot actually!

I was awake incredibly early this morning (by my standards) and, on going down stairs, I could here the Blackbird singing from the back garden.  I then thought "I know I will do the patch nice and early whilst it's still quiet...who knows, I may pick up a singing Willow Warbler or Common Whitethroat".  As it happens I had neither!

I arrived down at Shenstone at 6:20am and began my rounds.  There was very little of note singing around the patch other than 8 Chiffchaffs at different locations and 4 Yellowhammers.  Other than that it was just the more common resident species that were in song.

A highlight did come however at Willow Marsh Fishery which, rather suprisingly, was closed. on one of the pools there were 9 Tufted Duck (5♂ & 4♀). This is a new patch maximum count for me so needless to say I was pleased.  Also noted at the fishery were 2 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 1 Black-headed Gull.

Whilst on nearby Witch Lane I had my second highlight of the day in the form of a flyover Yellow Wagtail.

There was no sign of any Wheatears around the patch today and there was still no sign of any hirrundines.

Sunday 8th April - Shenstone News

I was unable to get out birding today.  Easter is quite a family time for me and Bev so we spent most of  the day over at the inlaws.  Not that I mind in the slightest, the Mother-in-law cooks one of the finest roast dinners I have ever tasted! 

So with that in mind here the sightings from the patch today:

•There were 3 Northern Wheatears (2♂ & 1♀) present in the ploughed field along Back Lane today.  This is the first ♀ passage Wheatear of the Spring for Shenstone.  4 Kestrels and 8 Meadow Pipits were also noted in the area.

•A single ♂ Northern Wheatear was present on the ploughed fields near Shenstone House Farm.

Sightings and photo by Mark P (aka Interlopus maximus)

♀ Wheatear - 8th April 2012

Saturday 7th April - Shenstone, Woodrow & Bluntington

The weather was pretty lousy today and in the morning my get up and go had pretty much gone.  I knew fellow local birder TMH had already been around the patch first thing and picked up a single ♂ Northern Wheatear at Back Lane, so I didn't feel the need to rush out.  By mid-afternoon I started to pull out of my general malaise and decided to brave the elements and see if anything interesting had been put down around Shenstone.

I started my rounds at Stanklyn Lane which was devoid of birds.  The only notables were 7 Stock Doves that were feeding on the plough near Summerfield.

Things were a little better at Heath Lane where 8 Meadow Pipits were perched along the hedgerow at the model aircraft field and 2 Red-legged Partridge were in the field itself.

Next up I popped to Back Lane to see if Terry's Wheatear was still present.  It was and was giving good views near the gateway.  The rain was now starting to abate so I managed to get a few photos of this bird.

Next up was the Witch Lane area.  I decided to pull up and walk the public footpath past the green barn to scan the ploughed fields.  There was nowt there other than 12 Linnet but as I was walking back I was joined by Mark P who after drawing a blank around his local patch had hopped across to see if anything was about around Shenstone.  We then walked back to our motors and stood and nattered for a while whilst stood by the gates to Shenstone House farm.  Whilst we were chatting 4 Wagtails flew over and landed on the roofs of the barns.  There were 3 Pied Wagatails and an absolutely stonking ♂ Yellow Wagtail...result!  They only stuck around for a few minutes before taking flight again but they did give us chance to get of a few record shots. 

Also of note in this area was a Song Thrush and a number of  Greenfinch (including some really stunning bright adult males). 

After a while Mark and I went our separate ways and I decided to make my way over to nearby Bluntington, a  place where I have recorded good numbers of Yellow Wagtail on passage in the past.

The road from Shenstone to Bluntington takes you past an area known as Woodrow.  It is another fairly well known migrant stop of spot and as there was a fair amount of fresh plough here I decided to pull over and have a scan.  I wasn't disappointed almost immediately I picked up 4 ♂ Northern Wheatears on the plough.  A 5th ♂ Wheatear was just to the left perched on top of a seed hopper.  The day was just getting better and as I turned around to return to my car I had cracking views of a Weasel that ran across the road just to my left and underneath the cover of a nearby hedgerow. I really don't seem to see these small ginger mustelids that often, infact its usually their cousin the Stoat that I encounter more frequently.

From Woodrow I continued the short journey to Bluntington.  There wasn't a sniff of any Wagtails but I did pick up another 2 ♂ Northern Wheatear on the plough.  What a great end to a great day....I'm glad I braved those lousy conditions at the start of the afternoon now!

♂ Yellow Wagtail - Shenstone

Click on image to enlarge

♂ Wheatear - Shenstone

♂ Wheatear - Woodrow

3rd to 6th April 2012 - Shenstone

Tuesday 3rd April
Today, I concentrated my efforts on the south side of the patch.  The skies were dull and overcast and the temperature felt noticeably cooler.

I started my visit by checking out Witch Lane.  It was very quiet birdwise and the only highlights were 1 Yellowhammer, 1 Pied Wagtail and 2 Red-legged Partridge.

Again there was no sign of any Wheatear on the Back Lane plough, but 3 Stock Doves and a Kestrel were present.  Whilst scanning the area 9 Meadow Pipits flew over heading WNW.

On the eastern boundary of the patch, in the large fresh ploughed field runs from Curslow Lane towards Winterfold School, there were a staggering 266 Fieldfare all busy feeding up.  Whilst gaining a count of the birds I also noted 2 Redwing with them.  Also present in this field were 2 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Pied Wagtails and 3 Meadow Pipits.

Thursday 5th April
I only had time for a short patch visit this afternoon so I decided to spend some time on Heath Lane.  There is quite a good wide area of view at the model aircraft field and I was hoping to perhaps pick up a fly over Osprey or even my first patch hirundine of the year.  To give you some idea, from this view point you can see Titerstone Clee Hill (Shrops), the TV transmitter masts at Upton Warren (Worcs) and Abberley Hill (Worcs).  Needless to say I saw very little other than 6 Meadow Pipits that flew over heading East and 2 Linnets that flew over heading West.  Still all was not lost as I saw my first patch Comma butterfly of the year and discovered the larvae of a Lesser Yellow Underwing moth.

Friday 6th April
I had been at a real ale pub the previous evening and drank a fair few pints of Hopback Summer Lightening, so I wasn't fit for birding until late morning and even that was a struggle.  There was still no sign of any additional summer migrants in.  In fact the only bird of note was a single Fieldfare that was feeding in Stanklyn Paddocks.  2 Mistle Thrush were also present there.  A Yellowhammer was perched up singing nearby.

Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) larvae

1st and 2nd April 2012 - Shenstone

Sunday 1st April
Didn't really cover the patch today although I did drop into Back Lane, on the way back from a garden centre with Bev, to check if there was any sign of the previous day's Wheatears.   There was just one adult ♂ Northern Wheatear still present.

Monday 2nd April
This morning it was back to the serious business of working the patch.  The weather was definitely starting to turn.  The skies were dull & overcast and the temperature felt considerably cooler.

I started my visit by checking out Stanklyn paddocks.  Feeding on the ground within the paddocks were 1 Fieldfare, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Green Woodpecker.  Two Chiifchaffs were singing in this area and a Peacock butterfly was also noted.

There was no sign of any Wheatears at Back Lane today but a 2 Skylarks and 7 Stock Doves were on the plough.  A ♀ Kestrel was also present here.

Whilst on Witch Lane 10 Meadow Pipits (a flock of 6, a flock of 3 and 2 single birds) flew over.  Two Common Buzzard, a Grey Heron, 2 singing Chiffchaffs and 6 Linnets were also noted.  The only buttterflies observed were a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.  A small number of  Metasyrphus luniger hoverflies were also seen.

Four Tufted Duck (2♂ & 2♀) were at Willow Marsh fishery. These were possibly the 4 Tufteds that were at Captains Pool 2 days before.

My final walk was over the Butts Lane/Bars Lane field.  Things were fairly quiet here birdwise other than a Common Buzzard, 4 Skylark and 2 more singing Chiffchaffs.  I did however see a few Andrena nitida mining bees feeding on the Dandelion flowers.

Hoverfly (Metasyrphus luniger)

Mining Bee (Andrena nitida)

30th & 31st March 2012 - Shenstone

I'm still playing blog catch bear with me!

Friday 30th March
I started today's visit to the patch by walking the lane at the periphery of Stanklyn Wood.  On commencing the walk I had cracking views of 2 Common Buzzards that was soaring above the wood.  A Jay, a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper were all noted at the woodland edge.  In the wood itself the first Bluebells could be seen.  The were also some rather resplendent clumps of Marsh Marigold in bloom.  In the paddock opposite the wood there were 2 Pied Wagtails and a Kestrel was perched on the telegraph wires.  Also seen during this walk were small numbers of 7-spot Ladybirds and a Bank Vole

Chiffchaffs were very much in evidence today with 3 singing along Stanklyn Lane, 2 singing along Heath Lane and 1 singing along Back Lane.

Witch Lane was fairly quite although I did see a rather stunning ♀ Tawny Mining Bee there.

The days highlight though came from Back Lane where I finally recorded my first patch Northern Wheatear of 2012.  A stunning adult ♂ was on the now rather dried out ploughed field.  Also of note in this part of the patch was a Raven that flew over 'kronking away'

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

Saturday 31st March
Early afternoon I received a message from TS informing me that 4 Tufted Ducks (2♂ & 2♀) had arrived on Captains Pool.  This was a patch year tick for me so I set off down there asap.  On arrival all 4 Tufteds were still present.  Also of note on the pool were an imm. Mute Swan and 2 Great Crested Gebes (one of which was sitting on the nest).  A Chiffchaff was singing from the wooded side of the pool and a woodpecker was heard drumming.

From Captains I headed over to Stanklyn paddocks. Here there were 2 Fieldfare, 2 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Green Woodpecker present.  A Chiffchaff was singing at the rear of the paddocks.

My final stop was Back Lane to check the ploughed field where yesterday's Wheatear had been present.  I was in luck, today there were now 4 ♂ Northern Wheatear present...result!  I am a big fan of the 'chat' family of birds (which includes Wheatears, Redatarts, Stonechats and Whinchats) as a number of them are seen on annual passage each year through arable areas like Shenstone.  They really are classic passage migrants and rather pleasing on the eye too!  The only down side was that the heat haze was so bad I only managed a really distant record shot of one of the birds...ah well!

Also of note at Back Lane was a Kestrel, a flyover Grey Heron and a singing Chiffchaff

♂ Tufted Duck - Captains Pool

♂ Northern Wheatear - Shenstone

Important Announcement

Due to the sensitive, fragile nature of their localised breeding populations I will no longer be featuring the details of Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge and Little Owl from April to July.  

If you are a local birder visiting the Shenstone area and you see any of these species please be mindful of putting out any news about them during the breeding season.