Monday 27th February - Shenstone

I managed to grab an enjoyable couple of hours around the patch this afternoon.  It was good to get back there after recent 'away days' and it proved fairly productive.

I started my visit with a quick whistle stop to Witch Lane where, on arrival, I was treated to cracking views of ♂ Sparrowhawk.  Also noted in this area were a Common Buzzard and 5 Stock Doves.  3 Skylarks were up singing.

Next stop was Heath Lane where 27 Fieldfare were in the trees between the paddock and the Islamic School.  At the model aircraft field there were a ♀ Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzards present.  c.80 Starling were over the playing fields at the Islamic School.

I rounded my visit of by parking on Stanklyn Lane and walking to Captains Pool and back.  This was by far the most productive area as a large mixed finch/bunting flock was feeding on the adjacent ploughed field.  Panning through them I counted 31 Corn Bunting, 14 Yellowhammer, 17 Greenfinch, 1 Goldfinch and c.60 Chaffinch.  Also feeding on the plough were a flock of 23 House Sparrows.  I was going to get some video footage panning through this large flock but, just as I had set up, a dog walker came along with their dog off the lead and spooked them...grrrrr!  

Along the footpath to Captains I also noted a Jay, 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Wren.  The pool itself was fairly quiet but the pair of Great Crested Grebes were still present and occasionally displaying.  A Domestic Goose was a new arrival at the pool.....exciting eh?

Domestic Goose
(can you feel the photographic barrel being scraped!)

Shenstone News

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

Saturday 25th February:
A second Great Crested Grebe returned to Captains Pool this morning (Tony Smith).  

5 Corn Bunting and c.100 Fieldfare off Stanklyn Lane.  A further 4 Corn Buntings present along Heath Lane (Gary Palmer)

Sunday 26th February:
4 Corn Buntings were present on the wires near Heath Lane paddock.  A mixed finch flock of c.80 birds was present along Stanklyn Lane, as were 2 Green Woodpeckers (John Hingley)

More Garden Wildlife

As most of you are aware my birding opportunities are a bit limited at the mo, so I have been spending a bit more time watching my garden wildlife.  During the 9 years that Bev and I have lived in this house we have transformed our long narrow terraced house garden from concrete and lawn into a wildlife haven.  Yet ironically for all the feeding of birds, nectar rich plants we have put in I have been guilty of not monitoring it as much as I perhaps could/should.  Anyway below is is a break down of interesting garden wildlife snippets from the past week or so.

Thursday 16th February 2012
This morning there were now 3 overwintering Blackcaps (2♂ & 1♀) visiting the garden feeding station.

Tuesday 21st February 2012
The first 2 Common Frogs returned to our small wildlife pond.

Wednesday 22nd February 2012
2 Blackcaps (1♂ & 1♀) present at Garden feeding station.

Thursday 23rd February 2012
One of the overwintering Blackcaps was heard singing for prolonged periods on this mild sunny day.   3 Hoverflies (2 Drone Fly and 1 sp) noted.  There were now 10 Common Frogs present this evening.

Friday 24th February 2012
One of the visiting Starlings was heard mimicking a Common Buzzard and a Green Woodpecker.  A  Blackcap was heard singing again and 2 Common Frogs were seen mating on the evening.

Below is a sound recording I took of the Starling mimicry from the 24th.  If you listen closely you can hear the mew of a Common Buzzard, the beep of a car immobiliser setting and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker.

  Starling Mimicry - Kidderminster, 24th Feb 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Tuesday 21st February - Shenstone

After yesterday's 'day out' I decided I didn't want to spend too long away from Danny today and just visited the patch for an hour or so.  I couldn't have managed much longer anyway, as my cold was returning with a vengeance!  this time on my chest.  Roll on the Spring through to Autumn as I don't tend to get ill during that period!

My first stop was Barrs Lane where another field was being ploughed.  There were no large white-headed gulls following the plough today but c.120 Black-headed Gulls were present.  Also in this field were a Common Buzzard and 11 Magpies.  3 Corn Buntings were perched in the tree next to the lay by and a Skylark was up singing over the triangle.

Next I headed over to Heath Lane where a charm of 17 Goldfinch were present at the paddock.  Whilst stood here scanning I was treated to the highlight of the day, a ♀/imm. Merlin flew low through the paddock and into the grounds of the Islamic College.  I was unable to re-locate this diminutive raptor but it probably wouldn't be sticking around as it could well be passing through on its way back towards its upland breeding grounds.    Also of note at Heath Lane were 2 Ravens that were down on the deck in the model aircraft field. 17 Fieldfare flew over heading West.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks there were c.130 Fieldfare perched in the Poplars at the rear.  A Green Woodpecker and c.40 Starling were also present.

To round the day off I walked the accessible periphery of Stanklyn Wood.  Here I noted 1 Redwing, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Jay and 19 Jackdaw.  A Moorhen was seen on the area of wet woodland between the lane and the out of site (and privately owned) Stanklyn pool.  

Also along Stanklyn Lane were some really showy patches of Snowdrops.

Monday 20th Feb 2012 - Out & about in Staffordshire

Today I popped out with TS for a for a few hours birding in Staffordshire. 

The first stop was at Penn near Wolverhampton where a Firecrest has been showing at a small copse adjacent to a bridleway and surrounded by farmland.  On arrival we bumped into a handful of birders and photographers who pointed out where the bird had been showing.  I saw it but it was the briefest of views but unfortunately Tony didn't.  We spent the next hour scanning through the flocks of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests in the area but to no avail.  We decided to call it a day and head back to the car so we could continue our travels.  

We started walking back and connected with a another flock of Tits/Crests along the bridleway between the copse and the lane.  With in seconds I picked up the Firecrest literally just a few feet away and we both enjoyed cracking views of it flitting round nearby for a few minutes..result.  I didn't get any photos but crests aren't really conducive to digi-scoping as they just keep moving....still a lovely looking bird and well worth seeing (its been about 3 years since I last saw Firecrest, last time was when there were 3 at Brake Mill, Hagley)....just need to find one on the patch now!

Also of note at the copse were a 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers that were continually chasing, a Nuthatch and a Coal Tit.  In the adjacent fields were large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing.

From Penn we headed up to the West Midland Bird Club Reserve at Belvide Reservoir.  At the woodland feeding station we were treated to great views of Willow Tit, Tree Sparrow and Treecreeper.  The first two species mentioned have all but disappeared from Worcestershire so it is heartening to see them faring better over the county border in Staffs.

On the Reservoir we noted the 1st winter ♂ Greater Scaup, 100+ Goldeneye, 3 Shelduck,  c.200 Wigeon, 3 Oystercatchers and a Curlew.  The resident Great Black-backed Gull, nicknamed Ted Bundy by Belvide regulars, was ever present as always.

On the walk back to the carpark we were treated to cracking views of a Nuthatch perched in a tree near Gazebo Bay that was busily preening away.  A good end to a good trip out.

For the latest news from Belvide check out




Thursday 16th February 2012 - Back on patch!

This afternoon I managed to grab an hour and pop for a whistle stop visit to Shenstone.  I know I have been cutting down on my birding to spend more time with our elderly dog (which I don't mind doing one bit).  But what opportunity I did have to go out this week was scuppered by a heavy dose of man flu.  Needless to say by Thursday cabin fever had set in and I thought 'blow it, I need some fresh air'. I'm glad I did as it turned out to be a very productive day!

First port of call was Barrs Lane.  I could see large numbers of gulls following the tractor as it was ploughing and thought it may be worth a closer look.  On pulling in at the lay by and scanning the field I could now see the incredible number of gulls that were in the field, most of which were sat in the middle of the plough.  I estimate that there were c.260 Black-headed Gulls, c.80 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and c.40 Herring Gulls.  

I spent a good half hour or so repeatedly scanning through them as there were a lot of immature large gulls there and I was hoping for an Iceland Gull (there are incredible numbers in the country at the moment).  Try as I might I couldn't see an immature gull with white wing tips but all this scanning wasn't completely fruitless.  I picked up an adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst them.  Unfortunately it flew before I managed to get any photos off, heading, with a number of other gulls, towards the nearby Hartlebury Landfill. I was dead chuffed as this was only the 2nd time I had seen one on the patch...although fellow local birder Terry H has also recorded individuals on the plough on a 2 or 3  previous occasions.

Also recorded in this field were 14 Pied Wagtails, c.40 Linnet and 2 Common Buzzards.  One of the Common Buzzards was a very unusual looking individual which I think is probably a first winter light-phase bird.  When you see a bird that is so different looking as this bird you can understand how Misidentifications could possibly occur.  I've put a photo and some video footage of the bird further on down the post.  A single Corn Bunting was also noted perched along Barrs Lane.

Next stop on my journey was Heath Lane.  There were 4 Corn Buntings on the wires near the paddock.  Over the large cereal field opposite there was a flock of c.300 Linnets whirling around.  Elsewhere on the lane a charm of 20 Goldfinch and a single Redwing were noted.

My final destination was Witch Lane, where I recorded 25 Fieldfare, 4 Stock Dove and 2 Pied Wagtails.

Gulls on the plough

Unusual looking Common Buzzard

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge video

Shenstone News

Below is a summary of notable sightings from around the patch over the last week:

The Barnacle Goose that arrived on 2nd February was seen daily until 12th February visiting Captains Pool (Tony Smith).  The same bird was also seen locally at Harvington with c.60 Canada Geese on 11th February (Gary Palmer).

Sunday 12th February
21 Lapwing were seen flying over Heath Lane in the morning.  A singing Corn Bunting and a Yellowhammer were seen near the paddock (Mark Peacock)

Monday 13th February
3 Corn Buntings were on wires near Heath Lane paddock. 9 Red-legged Partridge were noted near The Granary (John Hingley) 

Tuesday 14th February
A ♀ Goosander was present on Captains Pool this morning until 11:30am (Tony Smith)

Garden Birds

As you are many of you are aware I have been unable to do as much birding recently.  I have however taken this opportunity to spend some time watching the birds visiting the feeding station that I have set up in the back garden.  Bev and I live in a terraced house in a built up part of Kidderminster yet over the last few years we have seen the number of birds visiting our back garden increase considerably. 

In the garden we have feeders that contain sunflower hearts, peanuts and homemade fat cakes.  On the table there are more sunflower hearts, dried meal worms and suet pellets.  During the winter months I also buy some cheap apples, cut them into halves and stick them on the branches of some of the shrub. This feeding has reaped its rewards and the local flock of House Sparrows has almost doubled over recent years to around 40 House Sparrow.  Starling numbers have steadily increased too with on average 14-16 Starlings visiting the garden at any one time, although this number has been close to 40 can imagine the noise and mess at times!  

For the past 3 successive winters I have attracted over-wintering Blackcaps into the garden with an incredible 4 Blackcaps (3♂ & 1♀) visiting for over a week during winter 2010/2011.  Also during the winter 2010/2011 I had a flock of 30 Waxwings perched in a tree in the back garden before they descended on a neighbours Rowan

On Tuesday 7th February 2012 between 10:30 & 11:00am I decided to watch the feeders and note down what I saw.  In this short space of time I recorded  1♂ Blackcap, 1 Songthrush, 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 30 House Sparrow, 8 Starling, 1 Dunnock, 1 Blue Tit, 2 Collard Dove and 2 Wood Pigeon.

Other birds recorded in the garden this past week have included 3 GoldfinchGreat Tit, Long-tailed Tit, 1 Redwing and 1 Fieldfare.   

Flyovers this week have included Cormorant, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Sparrowhawk and ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker

Notable flyovers in 2011 included Common Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Peregrine, Raven, Skylark and Swallow.

It just shows what you can attract into the humblest of gardens if you put in a few shrubs and hang up a number of feeders.  Its also worth keeping an eye on the skies above your garden, you would be amazed at what flies over.

♂ Blackcap - Back Garden, 13th February 2012


My apologies for the infrequency of posts at the moment.  I still have a couple of entries to post but have had a fairly rough week due to the declining health of our elderly dog (Danny).  Having been to the vets last week we are now in a position where it will be kinder to say goodbye to him soon, so we are making the most of every shared moment with him.  Obviously something has to give and in this case its been birding and the blog. 

However I will still be going out birding where possible over the coming weeks and posting on the blog now and please do check back.


Tuesday 7th February 2012 - Local Patch Lifer!!!

This morning I had a text off Tony letting me know that a Barnacle Goose was again present on Captains Pool.  This bird had visited the pool briefly on a couple of other occasions since the 2nd of February, so when I had chance later that morning I headed over to see if it was still present.  I know to some folks Barnacle Geese in the Midlands are 'a bit plastic'  because they are part of a feral breeding population but in my opinion they are still a welcome sight on the local patch.

I pulled up at Tony's (who kindly let me park there whilst he was out) and scanned the 90% frozen Captains Pool I began to scan.  There were 22 Black-headed Gulls visible on Ice.  Only 2 Canada Geese and a Coot could be seen on the small area of free water by the island.  I then heard more geese calling from near the dam but they were out of site.  I decided to walk round the footpaths to have a look.

On arriving at the dam I came across a small area of free water in the near left hand corner.   Here, and on the surrounding ice were 27 Canada Geese and with them was the Barnacle Goose.  It was great to see one so close up as  you could clearly see that it was only about 15% bigger than a Mallard...a really small but smart looking bird.  Also in this small area were an adult Mute Swan, 3 Moorhens and 62 Mallards.

I then walked from the dam into the nearby section of Spennells Vally NR but saw little of note.  On my way back over the dam I stopped to view the wildfowl again, only this time I picked up on something different...a cracking ♀ Mandarin Duck.  This was a patch lifer for me and only the 2nd ever recorded at Captains Pool.  It was probably present before tucked away on some roots at the edge of the pool out of sight.  I presume it had ended up at Captains through cold weather movement.

I rang up TS, who was now back, and he popped round to enjoy close views of this bird.  I then rounded the day off by partaking of a hot beverage at Tony's Cafe before heading home...its a good job he had picked up a new box of tea bags whilst he was out! 

♀ Manadarin - Captains Pool, 7th Feb 2011

 Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Wildfowl on a frozen Captains Pool 

Click on image to enlarge

Barnacle Goose - Captains Pool, 7th Feb 2011

Saturday 4th February 2012 - Wyre Forest

As some of you may know I'm a fairly charitable kind of guy and, with that in mind, I thought I would do my bit for care in the community and meet up with fellow local bloggers Mark (Doorstep Birding) and Gert (Wild Stuff) for a walk in the Wyre Forest (just kidding guys). The aim was to catch up with the local Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.  We didn't but an enjoyable walk with a variety of birds was had all the same.

It was a very cold, wintry morning and the walk we did took us around the Uncllys Farm area of the forest.  At one point we went off the beaten track and deeper into the woods where I suggested to the guys that I had only took them there to show them my non-existent puppies!  You should have seen the worried look on their faces!...anyway I digress, back to the birds.

In one area of the forest we came across a very bird rich area.  Here there was a large mixed flock that not only consited of the usual Blue Tits and Great Tits but also included 1 Marsh Tit, 6 Coal Tits, 8 Goldcrest, 3 Nuthatch, 1 ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker and a handful of Long-tailed Tits.  Nearby a flock of Redwing, a Song Thrush, a Jay and a Green Woodpecker were all seen feeding amongst the leaf litter.

Also of interest during the walk was a single Raven that flew over kronking and another Song Thrush we encountered which had no tail feathers (although this didn't seem to be causing the bird too many problems).

By the time we returned to the carpark the first few flakes of snow were starting to fall.  So after an enjoyable couple of hours we decided to call it a day and head back home.

Friday 3rd February 2012 - Trimpley

Today I popped out with Tony to do a walk around the Reservoirs and along the River Severn at Trimpley.   It was an absolutely glorious day considering the time of year, the blue sky and sunshine really lifted my spirits.

On the way to the lower car park we checked out the Larches at the edge of Eymore Wood for Crossbills but there was no sign so we continued our walk to the Reservoirs.   In the woods near the Severn Valley Railway line we recorded Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush and Redwing. A flock of 30 Fieldfare flew over, as did a Common Buzzard.

The drainage pool was frozen over but still held 72 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single Herring Gull all stood on the ice.  A ♂ Sparrowhawk was present near the water treatment works. As were 2 more Song Thrushes, a Mistle Thrush and a Redwing.

The walk along the river was very productive, affording us great views of 38 Mandarin and 8 Goosander (4 ♂).  Whilst here we bumped into a couple of birdwatchers who had also been enjoying the Mandarins.  Needless to say we had a good natter and it turned out they were readers of this very blog.  Its always nice to chat to readers of the blog and receive feedback from them (positive or negative)...but I am useless at remembering folk's I do apologise to this couple (I blame the medication!)

Walking back towards the main Reservoir we had cracking views of a Kestrel perched on a nearby telegraph pole.  Needless to say I took advantage of this photo opportunity and grabbed a bit of video footage.  On the Reservoir itself were c.50 Tufted Ducks, 4 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Cormorants.

On the way back past Eymore wood we stopped again to scan for Crossbills.  Again we drew a blank but there were good numbers of Siskin near the upper Car park feeding in the Larches and kicking up an almighty racket.  Still it was a good way to end an enjoyable walk.

Mistle Thrush

Mandarin Ducks



Tuesday 31st Jan 2012 - Captains Pool & Wyre Forest

There were good numbers of birds on the two thirds frozen Captains Pool today including 112 Black-headed Gulls stood on the ice (TS).  When I arrived at the pool late morning there was also an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a 2nd winter Herring Gull with them.  A party of 4 Mute Swans (1 adult and 3 1st winter) were also new arrivals.  Other birds noted on the pool were 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Coot, 1 Moorhen, 43 Mallard and 37 Canada Goose.

From Captains Tony and I decided to pop into the Wyre took look for Lesser Spotted woodpecker in the Uncllys Farm area.  We had absolutely no joy on that front and other than large numbers of Robin, a few Blackbirds and Carrion Crows, 3 Redwing, a Song Thrush and a Nuthatch, there was little bird activity going on. 

Last stop on our travels was Sturt Common in the Shropshire side of the Wyre.  Here we had saw 2 Common Crossbils (1♂) feeding in the top of the Larches.  The male was a real stunner.  Also noted at Sturt were 3 Siskin, 7 Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Common Buzzard.

All in all nothing exceptional but still, not a bad few hours birding all the same.