2014.... A fresh start

For a number of reasons 2013 wasn't a great year for myself and this was reflected at times with this blog.  As a result blog posts were (intentionally) less frequent and so were my patch visits.  Towards the later third of the year I had almost completely lost my birding/wildlife mojo...almost. 

But as 2014 approaches I feel a renewed sense of positivity and have plans in place to make both my patch visits more interesting and blog posts more frequent. 

So what does 2014 hold in store for myself and the patch I hear you ask.  Well, some aspects will stay the same.  I will still do regular counts/checks on the resident patch birds and look out for passage migrants during the migration period.  But there is a lot of time when an arable patch such as Shenstone can be quite unproductive so in 2014 I have decided to use such 'dead time' and more to focus on a 1km square area of the patch and try and undertake a bio-blitz of the area.

The 1km square area I have chosen is on the Stone side of the patch and I will endeavour to record as many species of fauna and flora I can within the said area. A map of my chosen area is shown at the end of this post.  Fellow wildlife blogger and patch plodder Mark P (http://doorstepbirding.blogspot.co.uk/) is also doing the same on his patch, which is 2-3 miles up the road.  It will be interesting to compare our finds from the two sites and I think it's fair to say there will be a fair bit of banter and needling between us!

So that's the plan...let's see what 2014 brings.


Map of the 2014 BioBlitz area

Click on map to enlarge

More Shenstone Snippets....

Tuesday 17th December 2013

A ♂ Tufted Duck was new in at Captains Pool this morning (TS) and remained for the rest of the day.  Late afternoon a pair of Shoveler were also present (JK).  It just shows what can turn up on the days that the pool isn't being fished.  Other birds of note on the pool were a single Grey Heron and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Tufted Duck

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Wednesday 18th December 2013

Three Cormorants circled over Willow Marsh Fishery before heading south.  There has been a fair bit of Cormorant movement over the patch during the past week.

Friday 20th September 2013

The finches are starting to flock together for the winter with  c.120 Chaffinch, c.40 Greenfinch and c.60 Linnet all feeding together in one field at Shenstone.  Also feeding in said field were c.80 Fieldfare, a single Redwing and a single Song Thrush.

At Butts Lane a pair of Teal flew over mid afternoon heading ENE towards Dunclent.


This will probably be my last post of 2013 but I have some interesting new plans for 2014 that will hopefully kick start my local patch recording and associated blog posts.  So please do check back in the New Year.

Until then I would like to wish you all a  
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Shenstone Snippets....

Monday 8th December 2013

A ♀ Goosander was present on Captains Pool (TS) in the morning and stayed for the remainder of the day.  Also of note was a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was drumming from the adjacent wooded area.


Thursday 12th December 2013

I only had time for a quick whistle stop tour of the patch this afternoon and what struck me during this visit was the sheer number of birds feeding at Stanklyn Lane paddocks. Here there were c.80 Fieldfare, c.120 Redwing and c.110 Starling all feeding on the ground, even though there is still an abundance of Hawthorn berries in the hedgerows.

Also of note, and on a totally different subject, was a rather splendid looking cluster of Velvet Shank fungi. Their stunning orange caps were literally glistening in the damp weather.

Velvet Shank

Saturday 14th December 2013

Today there were an incredible 200+ Fieldfare feeding in Butts Lane triangle and the adjacent hedgerows.   By comparison, Stanklyn Lane paddocks were virtually birdless with no winter thrushes present. 

At Heath Lane, a ♂ Kestrel was busy hunting over the paddock and 8 Redwing were perched in the trees next to the Islamic School.

A long overdue post....Shenstone catch up

Firstly I'd like to apologize for the lack of blog posts over recent months.  I had made a conscious decision at the start of 2013 to decrease the amounts of posts that I would do on the blog, with editing photos and writing the posts it's very time consuming.  That said more recently I have been going through a period of ill heath and have not gone out quite so much or had the inclination to blog about it.  That said I do wish to keep the blog going and I'm hoping that in 2014 I can start building the blog back up with a new impetus.  For now, please do keep checking back as I will still be putting up the occasional post over the next few weeks.

Thanks for listening.  Now on with the blogging.


Sunday 10th November 2013
I started today's visit by walking around the beet field and down the path to Captains Pool.  On the stand of Holly trees there were 6 Redwings feeding on the berries.  Further along the hedgerow a flock of 11 Long-tailed Tits were flitting around. 

Whilst walking the path to Captains Pool I noted 3 Jays and a Nuthatch.  Over the adjacent stubble field there was a flock of c.100 Linnets wheeling about.

The pool itself was dead with very little of note other than the ubiquitous Mallards and 6 Black-headed Gulls.  Needless to say I didn't linger here.  The walk back along the footpath on the other hand was quite productive as I recorded 4 species of fungi including Jelly Ear, Shaggy Parasol and a new one for the patch, Clavulinopsis subtilize.

I then headed over to Butts lane where my walk along the footpath across the field flushed 8 Skylarks.  Nearby, the Eastfields farm area was a hive of activity with 12 Fieldfare and 3 Scandinavian type 1st winter Blackbirds all feeding on the Hawthorn berries.  Also observed in this area were a Common Buzzard, a ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Pied Wagtails.

Shaggy Parasol

Clavulinopsis subtilis

Friday 15th November 2013
I started the day by making a long overdue visit to Tony's CafĂ©.  The tea was of it's usual high standard but the company left a lot to be desired (just kidding Mr Smith). 

Whilst at Captain's Pool a flock of 8 Siskin dropped into one of the waterside Alders and began to feed.  With them was a single Goldfinch.  On the pool itself a single Barnacle Goose had arrived with a flock of 30 Canada Geese.  This goose is most likely part of the UK's feral breeding population but it was still a looker and a welcome addition to the patch.

We then headed over to the fields to check on the Corn Buntings.  We soon located them and the flock had now increased to 14 Corn Buntings.  On the adjacent stubble there were c.30 Skylarks feeding.

Barnacle Goose

Friday 22nd November 2013
I only managed a brief whistle stop visit to the patch today and I focused my attentions on the Stanklyn Lane area.  In the hedgerows along the lane there had been a noticeable increase in Scandinavian Blackbirds, with these winter visitors busily feeding on the abundant berry crop.

Also of note was the slight increase in the bunting flock with 16 Corn Buntings now present in the area.  A small number of Redwing were still feeding in the Holly stand.

On the invert front I spent some time looking for galls on the nearby OaksCommon Spangle Galls were abundant and seemingly on every other leaf and small numbers of Oak Marble Gall were also recorded.

The Common Spangle Gall is caused by a tiny gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum) and can be found on the underside of oak leaves in early autumn. A single leaf can host up to 100 galls, each containing a single larva. The galls fall to the ground and the larvae continue to develop through the winter, and emerging as adults in April. 

The Oak Marble Gall is caused by another small gall wasp (Andricus kollari).  The adult wasp lays its egg in an oak bud. The larva as it feeds secretes a chemical which causes the tree to grow the gall from the bud giving the larva a safe place to pupate until it is ready to emerge as a wasp its self... pretty amazing stuff!


Common Spangle Galls

Oak Marble Gall