Friday 28th September 2012 - Shenstone

Before going to the patch I decided to make a long over-due visit to Tony's Cafe and I would just like to say that the hot beverages was still up to their usual high standards! 

Things were pretty quiet on Captains Pool due to the numbers of anglers present today but near the water's edge there was some cracking clumps of Sulphur Tuft fungi growing on the dead wood.  With my old mate (and sometime cantankerous chuffer) Tony in tow it was off to the lanes.

We headed straight to Heath Lane to check the fresh plough for any new arrivals.  There was a significant increase in the number of gulls present today with counts of 54 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 38 Herring Gulls and 33 Black-headed Gulls obtained.  Also noted in this area of the patch were c.100 Starlings, 3 Common Buzzards, and 2 Pied Wagtails.  A single Skylark flew over heading NW.  A 14-spot ladybird and a Red Admiral butterfly were also recorded.

Next stop was Witch Lane where 48 Lapwing were present on the newly seeded field.  We were hoping that a Golden Plover had tagged on to the Lapwings but no such luck.  A single Cormorant flew over heading SSE,  12 Skylark went through heading NE and 3 Swallow flew through heading South.  A ♂ Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzard were also of note.

We decided to head back over to Heath Lane and have another look through the gulls.  Well you never know there could have been a Yellow-Legged or a Common Gull amongst them.  No such luck but whilst I was panning through them with the scope Tony called to me that he had just had 2 waders drop in at the top end of the field.  I quickly swung my scope around to the area and sure enough there were two Golden Plover!  What a result, I wouldn't have picked up on them dropping in as I was in gull scan mode but luckily TS was scanning that area with his bins at the time.  As I carried on panning across I picked up a 3rd Golden Plover just right of the pair.  I can only assume that it was already present in the field and the pair Tony had observed dropping in had heard it call.  Either way they are a great patch bird and one that is only recorded on a handful of occasions each year. 

Yet another great day.  I'm starting to enjoy my local patch birding again!

Sulphur Tuft

Golden Plovers
(Archive footage taken at the same field in September 2010)

Thursday 27th September 2012 - Shenstone

Today I decided to spend 2-3 hours around the patch.   The weather was cloudy and drizzly to start but as the morning moved into afternoon it brightened up considerably.

I started by checking out Stanklyn Paddocks where 3 Green Woodpeckers (2 adult & 1 juvenile) were present.  Two Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood were also noted there.

I arrived on Heath Lane to find that the large stubble field was being ploughed and, as per usual, there were gulls following the tractor.  In total I counted 63 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 5 Herring Gulls and 3 Black-headed Gulls.  Whilst on Heath lane I also noted a group of 12 Swallows, followed another of 7 Swallows fly through heading SSE. 3 Meadow Pipits and 3 Alba Wagtails were also through.  3 Common Buzzards were up soaring and a Chiffchaff was singing from a nearby hedgerow.

Further up the lane there were c.160 Starlings on the wires next to the paddock. From Heath Lane I headed over to Witch Lane on the South side of the patch. 

Anyway, I am going to digress with a little bit of history.  It's funny really as the Stanklyn/Heath Lane side of Stone/Shenstone has been visited by birders for many years, long before I took it on to work as a local patch.  I started working the area in 2007 when I undertook 2 tetrads for the BTO bird atlas.  Most birders who visited Shenstone would be trying to see it's specialities such as Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge, whilst some of my peers would work it (and still do) during migration periods looking for passage migrants. 

Working the area as a patch gives me the opportunity to cover the area for 12 months a year, not only monitoring passage migration but the comings and goings of it's resident birds and other wildlife.  In 2009 I added the Witch Lane area of the patch.  It was an area which wasn't being covered by birders and during these last 3 1/2 years Witch Lane has been quite a productive area, especially during the Autumn/Winter.  Today proved no exception.

On the cricket pitch there was a single Pied Wagtail present.  Along the lane 4 Common Buzzards and a ♀ Kestrel were noted.  A Grey Heron was sat in the large recently seeded field. 3 Meadow Pipits flew over heading ESE and 9 Swallows passed through heading South.  A ♀ Great-spotted Woodpecker was also noted along the lane.

The highlight of my day though was the walk I undertook along the tree-lined path and back along the field edge.  Here the butterflies were out in force and on the flowers of one 30ft stretch of Ivy I counted no fewer than 15 Red Admirals and 9 Commas!  Nearby I also noted 1 Small Copper, 1 Speckled Wood and 5 Small Whites.  A single ♀ Common Darter dragonfly was also observed.

My final stop of the day was Butts Lane where I undertook my usual walk.  The only bird of note here was a single House Martin that flew through heading East.  A Migrant Hawker dragonfly was present near the drainage pond and small numbers of Nettle Tap Moths were noted on the umbilifer flowers. 

Just before heading back to my car I noticed a stunning looking spider on a Rosebay Willowherb. It was an Autumn Spider (Metellina segmentata), a species that, although not uncommon, I had never seen before.  A great end to a enjoyable patch day.

The Autumn Spider (Metellina segmentata)

Red Admiral


Saturday 22nd September 2012 - Devil's Spittleful & Rifle Range

With the weather forecast looking to turn later on the weekend, Bev and I decided to make the most of the sunshine and do a walk at Devil's Spittleful/Rifle Range Reserve.  This area of lowland heath is split into two reserves the Devil's Spittleful which is owned and managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Rifle Range which is owned an managed by Wyre Forest District Council.  Jointly they have worked to preserve this wonderful fragment of lowland heath that lies between Kidderminster and Bewdley.

We started our clockwise walk on the Rifle Range side where we encountered good numbers of fruiting bodies of Birch Polypore fungi.  A few butterfly species were enjoying this rare moment
of sunshine with 3 Small Coppers, 2 Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood noted on this side.  A number of Harebells with their delicate blue flowers were also noted.

Much work has been done on the reserve to clear invasive scrub and reduce numbers of trees to aid the promotion of heather growth.  This combined with livestock grazing has, in my opinion, already had a positive effect on preserving this scarce habitat.  Although some locals and dog walkers would disagree and moan about such tree felling.  All I can say is on this subject is that heathland is a man made habitat that needs protecting and managing in order to preserve and protect the wildlife that is reliable on it.  There are many areas of woodland in the county (especially dense Silver Birch woods thanks to the Harris Brush company) but few areas of heath land.  It is a worthy trade off to remove some of the trees in these areas in order to protect it for the future.  There are still selected stands of mature trees present on the reserve which our avian friends are using. 

On the Devil's Spittleful stretch we encountered more fungi in the shape of Parasol Mushroom and Common Earthball. 2 Small Heath butterflies were noted as were 3 more Red Admirals and 2 Small Coppers.  A single mature ♀ Common Darter dragonfly was also observed. 

Birds of interest today included 1♀ Sparrowhawk, 1 ♂ Kestrel and 5 Jays.

The reserve runs alongside the Severn Valley steam railway and it really adds to the atmosphere when a steam locomotive comes chugging past.  We sat and ate our lunch whilst one such train went by and it  really felt like you had been transported back to a different age.

Small Heath

Small Copper

Birch Polypore

Parasol Mushroom

Locomotive No. 34053 - "Sir Keith Park"

Tuesday 18th September 2012 - Shenstone

There air felt very cool this morning (and not in a The Fonz way), it really did feel positively autumnal.

At Stanklyn Lane there were small signs of movement with a both a Hobby and a Swallow over heading SW.  Also 2 Skylarks flew over heading West and 4 Mistle Thrushes heading WNW.  A Chiffchaff was in song along the lane, a Jay was present in the paddock and 3 Common Buzzards were up soaring.

At Heath Lane paddock there was a Common Buzzard on the fence posts and a ♀ Kestrel hovering over the adjacent field.  A flock of 15 Linnets flew over heading East and 7 Swallows were also present.

At Witch Lane the Lapwing numbers had increased to 76 Lapwing.  I have taken some rather poor footage panning across to give an idea of the size of the flock (windy conditions are not very conducive to digi-scoped videos).  Also noted at this location were 1 Kestrel, 2 Stock Doves and a charm of 8 Goldfinch.  A single Swallow flew through heading South.

My final stop was Back Lane where I recorded my only butterfly of the day, a single Red Admiral that was feeding on the Ivy flowers.  1 Mistle Thrush and 2 Linnets were on the telegraph wires.

Lapwing Flock (record footage)

The Badger Cull

OK, I'm sure most of you are aware of the governments plans to cull up to 70% of our country's badger population in a half-baked and ill-conceived attempt to try and tackle Bovine Tuberculosis (TB).  Other options such as cattle vaccination are available.

On the 19th July 2011, Tory MP Caroline Spelman announced that the government would carry out two pilot badger culls in large areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset as part of the governments bovine TB eradication programme.

What this means is:
  • Landowners who wish to cull badgers would need to apply for a licence from Natural England
  • The trials will assess the humaneness, efficacy and safety of the free shooting of badgers.
  • Groups of qualified landowners under licence will be able to shoot badgers at night with a high velocity rifle.
  • 70 % of the badgers in any trial area must be slaughtered.
  • Each trial area must be at least 150
If these culls are successful then this would pave the way for further applications. Natural England will issue a maximum of 10 licences each year - with future culls planned

The culls are intended to reduce TB in cattle by some 16% over nine years in the immediate area. Across England though the effect is thought to be much smaller, around 5%.

Even one of the government's own top science advisors has branded the cull "a crazy scheme":

Many wildlife organisations have urged the government to undertake the vaccination route as it is feared the cull may actually further the spread of Bovine TB:

Bovine TB or Mycobacterium bovis or bovine tubercle bacillus is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and of course cattle. Mycobacterium bovis is an aerobic bacterium and the cause of TB in cattle . Bovine TB can jump the species barrier and cause tuberculosis in humans and this is where the problem has historically been. Pasteurisation of milk, immunisation and healthy diet has seen the number of cases reduce dramatically over the last 100 years and in most circles it is consider no longer a human concern. Farming practices have changed and food has become cheaper. Ironically this intensive farming leads to poor condition for cattle causing poor health and could itself be contributing to the increase in bovine TB in herds.

For the farmers it is a different issue. Cattle with Bovine Tb cannot be moved and cannot be sold in Europe causing great financial strain on farmers.   

For more information regarding the cull and what you can do regards it, visit Brian May's excellent Team Badger website where many organisations (including the RSPCA and The Badgers Trust) and individuals are coming together to voice their concerns/opposition to the cull:

One final thing I would ask all lovers of British Wildlife to do is to sign the petition at the below link  and voice your support against the cull:

That's my drum banging over but please do spread the word


Monday 17th September 2012 - Eymore Wood

This afternoon I decided to pay a visit to Eymore Wood near Upper Arley.  It's only a few miles up the road from where live and it's a place that I used to visit regularly, although I haven't been there much since early Spring.

I had heard from a friend that he had seen 6 Crossbills there a couple of days back and, as I think they are smart looking birds, I thought I would do a walk there and see if they were still around.

The walk was reasonably productive on the woodland birds front with Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker noted. 

Fungi were starting to become apparent with a 3 nice clumps of Spectacular Rustgill found on a mossy tree stump and a few Weeping Widow scattered along a grassy path at the edge of the wood.

I had just come to the edge of the wood near the lower carpark and still hadn't had sight nor sound of any Crossbills when I suddenly picked up on the loud bubbling 'jib jib jib'call as a group of 12 Common Crossbills flew over  at tree top height and disappeared into the wood on the opposite side of the road.  I looked back to where they had flown from and to my amazement found 2 more Common Crossbills (1♂ & 1♀) that had remained feeding in the Larch. 

I cannot describe how good looking the all red male is and the green coloured female is none to shabby either. Unfortunately I was unable to get my camera set up on them before they flew so today's photos are from the same location from a previous visit.

Nearby a flock of 9 Siskin were busy feeding.  These were the first I have seen this autumn and were a more than welcome end to an enjoyable walk.  I will have to not leave it so long next time before I return to this splendid woodland.

Common Crossbill ♂

Common Crossbill ♀

Sat 15th September 2012 - Titterstone Clee Hill

Today I caught up with fellow wildlife blogger and supporter of the inferior Black Country football team, Mark P

Our plan was to head up high and see if we could pick up some passage migrants.  The choice of destinantion was the Shropshire high point of Titterstone Clee Hill.  Believe it or not Titterstone is actually closer to Kidderminster (where i live) than the Worcestershire high point of the Malvern Hills (it's a lot easier to get too from here as well!)

Arriving at Clee at around 10.15am things initially seemed fairly quiet, the sky was fairly cloudy and a fairly cold breeze was blowing.  But as the day went on the sun burnt through and things warmed up considerably.

Our walk around the summit produced no fewer than 12 Northern Wheatears.  Titterstone is the site of an ongoing project to ring and monitor it's breeding Wheatear population.  None of the Wheatears that we observed today were ringed suggesting that they were actual passage migrants.  Just below the summit car park a family party of 3 Stonechats (1♂, 1♀ & 1 Juv) was showing well.

As we had anticipated prior to our arrival it was a good day for raptors with 2 Peregrines, 5 Kestrels and 3 Common Buzzards all performing well over the summit. At least 7 Ravens were also present.

There was also steady movements of Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits through during our visit.

The acidic pools on top of the summit held small numbers of Common Hawker dragonflies.  Some of which were seen copulating (having a quickie), whilst some females were observed oviposting (egg laying).
Small numbers of Common Blue Damselfly were also noted

The small pool below the car park also held Common Hawkers as well as good numbers of Emerald Damselfly

Butterflies recorded  at the summit included 5 Red Admiral, 4 Small Copper and 1 Small Tortoiseshell

From the summit area we headed to the working quarry area where another Northern Wheatear was noted.  The small pond to the left of the path also held a handful of Common Hawkers.

Our final stop was Catherton Common on the lower slopes which was, to be quite honest, very disappointing.  The boggy areas of the common had dried out and there wasn't a dragonfly in sight.
Birds were also few and far between and the only ones noted during our walk here were 2 Stonechat (1♂ & 1♀), 1 Kestrel, 1 Skylark and a Meadow Pipit.

A good varied day was enjoyed.  It's hard to name a highlight because there were many but for me I think Mrs P's baps must be up there.  Lunch that is!  ham & cheese...very nice too!

Northern Wheatear

Common Hawkers (Aeshna juncea)

13th September 2012 - Shenstone

No sign of any notable passage passerines on the deck this morning but there was definitely a steady movement of birds flying through.

At one point up on Heath Lane I counted c.80 Swallows and 14 House Martins over the fields.  Small groups of Meadow Pipits flew over heading South East with groups of 6, 3 and 2 noted.  3 Common Buzzards were up over the rear of the model aircraft field.

At the Heath Lane paddock there was a flock of 27 Mistle Thrushes present.  A single Corn Bunting and 2 Meadow Pipits were on the wires.

Next, I headed across to Witch Lane where 4 Pied Wagtails were on the cricket pitch and c.20 House Martins were wheeling about overhead. 

Further down the lane near the concrete pad there was a very showy ♂ Common Darter dragonfly that was perching on a fence in the sunshine in some rather photogenic positions ;-)

Also of interest at Witch Lane were 5 Common Buzzards that were circling and a single Skylark that flew over calling heading South.

Common Darter ♂

Click on image to enlarge

Back on patch...

Sunday 9th September 2012:
I began this afternoons visit to the patch at Stanklyn Lane paddocks. Over the past few weeks it has been the most productive area for passage migrants, but not today.  In fact The only birds of note were an immature Common Buzzard and 4 Swallows.  A single Common Darter dragonfly  was also noted. 

After a spending a while at Stanklyn watching the proverbial tumbleweed blow past me I decided to head over to the south side of Shenstone.  I began by walking the tree lined footpath off Witch Lane.  This turned out to be a fortuitous move as I inadvertently flushed a Little Owl.  The first I have seen on the south side of the patch in 2012.  The footpath has a number of areas of dappled shade so it was no surprise to see a Speckled Wood here.  Also flushed during the walk were 2 Garden Carpet moths.

I then headed to the lower stretch of the lane where the stubble field had just been turned over.  On the deck were 30 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Herring Gulls and 4 Black-headed Gulls.  It's one of the advantages of having a patch that is only a mile or so up the road from the local landfill.  During ploughing the gulls will often follow the tractors, a bit like they would a trawler only they are after the invertebrates as opposed to fish.

Whilst scanning the fresh plough I was treated to the undoubted highlight in the shape of a flock of 52 Lapwing that dropped in.  The first I have recorded on the patch this autumn.  As if this wasn't enough I then picked up the loud "tsweeep" flight call of a Yellow Wagtail.  I managed to get a view on the bird as it flew over heading East.

What a great visit it turned out to be after all.  I wouldn't have thought it possible after the near birdless time spent on the North of the just goes to show!

Monday 10th September 2012:
This morning I headed straight to Witch Lane to see if anything of interest had dropped in on the plough.  As it was there were no passage migrants here (a Wheatear would have been nice) but 27 Lapwing still remained. 

The number of gulls on the field was also up on the previous day with c.50 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 27 Herring Gulls and 4 Black-headed Gulls noted.

Further up the lane there was a pair of Ravens in the field next to the fishery and 2 Common Buzzards were up over the other side of the lane.  The only butterflies noted in this area were 2 Green-veined Whites and a Large White.

At Butts Lane, 7 Swallows were hawking for insects over the fields and a juvenile Green Woodpecker was present at Eastfields Farm.  Also of interest was a single Speckled Wood butterfly and a Silver Y moth.

Stanklyn Lane was again quite but I did observe 2 Swallows and a Speckled Wood.  A Willow/Chiff was 'wheeting' from a nearby hedgerow.

My final stop today was Heath Lane where I found today's highlight, an absolutely stunning caterpillar of a Comma butterfly.  This beautiful spiky white, orange and black larva really is a sight to behold!

Comma Larva

Click on image to enlarge

Silver Y

Wed 5th September 2012 - Lower Smite Farm

Ok so this post is slightly out of sink as my last one was for the 6th September, but I would like to maintain a bit of momentum and I thought this walk was perhaps worth sharing.

As some of you are aware, I volunteer one day a week at Worcestershire Biological Record Centre helping on the admin side of things.  The WBRC is located at Lower Smite Farm next to the headquarters of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. 

The Trust has managed and farmed LSF in a wildlife friendly manner for a number of years now and there is a variety of habitats for fauna and flora here.  There are a number of  walks around parts of the farm and it is really worth a visit at some point if you are a trust member on just interested in arable wildlife.  LSF is especially good during the summer months for invertebrates and the ponds here home to a range of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies to you and I!).

Whilst on my lunch I decided to grab my bins and camera and go for a perambulation around part of the reserve.  I headed across to the thistle field which just looked spot on for a passage Whinchat perched up.  No such luck but I did however note 3 Meadow Pipits flying over heading SSW, a sign of autumn migration.

From the fields I headed over to the Orchard Pools.  Here the dragonflies were performing well with 3 mating pairs of Common Darter seen egg-laying.  3 Ruddy Darters (2♂, 1♀) were recorded and one of which was obliging enough to land on the nearby bench and allow me to take some reasonable shots.  Also present were 1 Brown Hawker and 2 Migrant Hawkers.  The only damselfly species I noted were Blue-tailed Damselfly and Common Blue.

Butterflies recorded during the walk included 1 Holly Blue, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Speckled Woods and reasonable numbers of  Meadow Brown.

For more information regarding Lower Smite Farm click on the below link:

and for more info regarding the Trust click on:

Ruddy Darter

Common Darters (mating)

Back in business

As most of you are aware I had decided to have a blogging break for a that a few weeks or a few months.  Well 6 days in and I have found that I have really missed writing about my experiences in the natural world. 

Its funny really and the old saying is true "you don't realise how much you are going to miss something until its gone"  So, I realise now that the blog and my related trips into the great British outdoors looking at wildlife is actually beneficial to my mental well being whilst I am going through my current employment woes.  It gives me a sense of purpose, routine and enjoyment and to be honest I don't think it was impacting on my job searching as much as I thought.

Thanks to all of you who had contacted me with your kind words.  I never realised when I started this blog that it would mean so much to so many folk out there.

So there you have it...I am back posting again and the blog has been slightly refurbished in the process.  Anyway enough about me, on with the posts.....

Thursday 6th September 2012 - Trench Wood NR:
The fine weather continues and today I decided to pop to Trench Wood Nature Reserve near Droitwich.  In Worcestershire we are lucky to have 3 cracking reserves that are jointly owned and managed by Butterfly Conservation and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.  These 3 woodlands (Grafton Wood, Monkwood & Trench Wood) are a haven for invertebrates and if you are into butterflies, moths or dragonflies then you really should pay one a visit during the Summer months.

I arrived at the woods to an empty car park...fantastic!  Yes I am a sociable guy but there is something to be said for being able to enjoy the sights and sounds of a woodland on your own!

Along the first ride I noticed a huge Dark Bush Cricket sat on a leaf.  These really are brutes to look at.  A bit further down the ride a Common Buzzard flew low across in front of me...stunning birds, I never tire of seeing them.  Also of note along the first ride was a single ♂ Ruddy Darter dragonfly and the first of many Common Darters.

The Devil's Bit Scabious was seemingly everywhere and was absolutely chuffing with bees and hoverflies.  During the circuit round a number of the late summer butterfly species were observed:  1♂ Brimstone, 6 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 22 Speckled Wood and 18 Meadow Brown

Also of interest was the large numbers of Silver Y moths that were present.  In total I noted 26 Silver Y.  For those of you who may not be aware, Silver Y is a migrant moth which arrives in varying numbers from North Africa each Spring.  This time of year numbers are bolstered by the spring breeding population and increased still by further migrants.

During the walk I also recorded 5 Migrant Hawker dragonflies and 2 Southern Hawkers. Rather surprisingly i didn't encounter any Brown Hawkers today.

A single Slow Worm was noted in one area and 2 Marsh Tits were heard calling and seen flitting around the trees along one of the far rides.

All in all an enjoyable walk looking at some of the late summer invertebrates at a superb, well managed reserve.

Dark Bush Cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera)

Brimstone on Devil's Bit Scabious

Red Admiral

Blogging Break

After much deliberation over recent weeks I have decided to have a break from blogging for a while. 

I have been reporting on the comings and goings of my local patch (and a few other away days) for nearly 2 and half years now and to be honest enjoyed sharing my experiences with you.  But I feel that, now I am feeling more chipper with my mental health, I need to focus more of my time on trawling the jobs websites and trying to get back into work.  I have been actively trying since January with little success but I won't give up!

I do however think that a break from blogging may be the right thing at the current time.  This however isn't intended to be permanent and Shenstone Birder will resume in the future.  When, I can't say.  It could be in 2 weeks or it could be in 2 months. 

So please do check back periodically to see when I am up and running again.  If you should wish to contact me or be informed of when the blog does resume then drop me a line at:

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to you...the readers of this blog.  Your comments on the blog, via email or verbally when we have conversed have made the whole exercise well worthwhile and one that, as I have already stated, I will resume again when I feel the time is right.

Thanks for your support!

To be continued.......