Friday 21st February 2014 - Hopwood & the Lickeys

Today, I caught up with my sometime partner in crime and curmudgeon of legend Tony S.  We decided to pop over to Hopwood to see the long staying Great Grey Shrike that has been wintering there.  Hopwood is situated near Southwest Birmingham and lies just within the Worcestershire county boundary. 

On arrival, we parked in the layby and headed over to the gate that it is recommended to view over the field from.  It's not a location I had been to before but I can see why a Shrike has turned up there as the mixture of rank grassland and scrub looked ideal.  The bird wasn't initially visible but we set up our scopes and started scanning.  Within a few minutes I had picked up the Great Grey Shrike perched up in one of the Oak trees a fair distance away.  It was quite a blowy day and the bird was just content to sit up there the whole time we were there.  So on this visit we never really got any exceptional or closer views...ah well, that's birding.

Great Grey Shrike
(photo from my archives)

From Hopwood we stopped off briefly at the nearby Lower Bittell Reservoir to see if there was anything of note.  Both Tony & I were both amazed at just how quiet it was there with the only birds of note being 2♀ Goosander, 3 Pochard, 16 Teal and a handful of Tufted Duck.

From Bittell we popped across to the woodland at Twatling Road (great name!) in the Lickey Hills to see if we could see the flock of Brambling that has been feeding on the Beech mast there.  After a short walk we picked up c.30 Brambling perched up in the trees.  They remained for a fair while before taking off and heading to another part of the wood, allowing me to at least get a few record shots off.

Our final stop off of the day was Tony's CafĂ© where tea & toast made for a fine lunch, bringing an end to a decent day's wanderings.

Brambling - 21st Feb 2014

Coach Trip to RSPB Newport Wetlands

Hi Folks,
Just a quick notice to any local readers of this blog to let you know that there are still a small number of  places left on the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust - Wyre Forest Local Group's forthcoming coach trip to the RSPB Newport Wetlands Centre on Saturday 22nd March 2014. 

The trip costs £19 per person and includes a guided tour of the wetlands.  From RSPB Newport Wetlands their will also be a visit to Monmouth  (I know I'm looking forward to sampling a quick pint of Kingstone ale whilst there!)...anyway, I digress.  RSPB Newport Wetlands is home to a variety of interesting species of birds including Bearded Tit and Cetti's Warbler.  It is also home to an array of waders & wildfowl.

The coach leaves from Station Drive, Kidderminster at 8:45am and will return at approx. 5:30pm.

To book a place please contact David Howell. Click on the following link for contact details:

For more information regarding RSPB Newport Wetlands visit:


Bearded Tit
(image ©RSPB)

Cetti's Warbler
(image ©RSPB)

Back on patch (again)

Well, considering I was supposedly going 'Wild and Wandering' this year I haven't actually wandered that fair this past week.  In fact most of my birding time has been spent back on the patch.  Anyway here is a round up:

Sunday 8th February:
This afternoon I decided to spend a bit of time over at Witch Lane.  On the way there I cut through Butts Lane/Barrs Lane where c.50 Linnet were again present in the trees by the pull in.

At Witch Lane I parked up by the concrete pad.  In the large field opposite there were c.80 Fieldfare and a Common Buzzard present. A ♀ Sparrowhawk also flew through

I decided to have a mooch around the old rotting railway sleepers next to the concrete pad to see if there was anything off interest.  Underneath the one was a snail known as a Strawberry Snail (Trochulus striolatus).  It is named so as it likes to feed on Strawberries amongst other things and can be a garden pest.  That said, you are just as likely to encounter them in the wider countryside. 

Also of interest amongst on one of the railway sleepers was the alien looking golf tee shaped fruiting bodies of a lichen known as Cladonia fimbriata

Strawberry Snail (Trochulus striolatus)

(Cladonia fimbriata) Lichen

Tuesday 18th February:
This afternoon I decided to walk the beet field looking for the ever elusive Corn Buntings.  Whilst walking the stubble field I put up 3 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit, when a small group of birds perched in a tree top caught my attention, result it was 2 Corn Buntings and an absolutely stunning Yellowhammer.

The rest of the walk produced little else but, on returning to my car I, a flock of a further 30 Corn Buntings flew up from the opposite field and into the adjacent tree tops.  With a couple of them even singing their unmistakable jangly song.

The buntings had been feeding down amongst the weedy vegetation and had been out of sight until they had perched up. They hadn't been alone in feeding there as, shortly afterwards, something spooked the birds feeding there and c.60 Redwing and 16 Goldfinch flew up.   At this point in time the majority of the Corn Bunting flock flew towards Summerfield leaving just a handful remaining in the tree tops. 

Wednesday 19th February:
On driving through the patch late afternoon I picked up on a familiar shape perched up in one of the trees.  I pulled over my car a bit further up the lane and walked back to take a good look.  Result,  it was a Little Owl...I am always happy to see them on patch (or anywhere else fort that mate)...stunning birds.  This individual didn't want to play ball when I was trying to take a record shot and flew across to a nearby tree and partially out of sight.  Still it was great to see one again.

There was no sign of the Corn Buntings around the Stanklyn Lane area today.

Little Owl - 19th February 2014

Thursday 20th February:
Had a quick drive out this afternoon between the showers.  Shenstone had become virtually birdless compared to recent days.  That said, the flock of c.50 Linnet still remained at Butts Lane and Skylarks could be heard singing from a number of locations.

Just off patch there was a flock of 48 Lapwing wheeling about over the fields off Ryeland Lane, Podmore.

Back on patch: Shenstone & Captains Pool

Well, as I said in a previous post I am taking a more laid back approach to the patch this year and just visiting when the mood takes me.  As it so happens I have visited a few times this past week undertaking walks to try and locate the patch's Buntings. Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers have been noticeable by their absence so far in 2014.  Both myself and Terry H have put in a number of visits over the weeks and neither of us has seen one (or heard one for that matter) this year.  There have been a couple of reports from fellow birders but, so far this year, we just haven't connected with any.  Personally I think they may have formed a mixed flock along with a large number of the local Chaffinch and are roaming about spending most their time feeding in one of the inaccessible fields that run between Heath Lane, Stanklyn Lane and the A450. Anyway back to my visits.... 

Friday 7th February:
Today I decided to walk the footpaths along the Stanklyn Lane fields from the 'gallops field' at the Stone end to the railway line down at Summerfield and back.  The field I call 'the beet field' was the most productive with 23 Linnet, 10 Chaffinch, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing and 1 Mistle Thrush of note.  Also of interest were 2 Skylarks that were up singing.  Such a glorious sound... a real treat to the ears!

On completing this walk I headed over to Back Lane where a male Sparrowhawk was showed well as it flew down the lane in front of me.

At Witch Lane there were 5 Stock Dove feeding in one of the fields.  Two Common Buzzards, a Song Thrush and 5 Redwing were also noted.  It was also good to see the Snowdrops along the lane finally in bloom.

Saturday 8th February:
I focused today's walk was around the Butts Lane/Barrs Lane circuit. There was no sign of the Corn Buntings reported the previous day but, whilst walking the public footpath, I flushed a flock of c.50 Linnet, 3 Skylark and a single Meadow Pipit

Thursday 13th February:
Today I undertook a walk from Stanklyn Lane to Captains Pool to check out the fields that lie between the 'carrot field' and the pool.  In the hedgerow at the rear of the carrot field there were c.80 Linnet, 10 Chaffinch, 6 Greenfinch, and  6 House Sparrows present.  These all went up when a ♀ Sparrowhawk went through.

Linnets - 13th February 2014

Along the dam at Captains Pool I was treated to good views of a Lesser Redpoll flitting about in an Alder with a couple of Goldfinch and a Nuthatch climbing along the branches of one of the Oaks.

On the pool itself a single Great Crested Grebe was present, possibly one of the breeding pair returned early or possibly just passing through...either way it was nice to see.  Also of note on the pool were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 33 Black-headed Gulls.

Walking the footpath back to Stanklyn Lane I noticed some nice patches of Snowdrop flowering and some Coral Spot fungi.

Snowdrops - 13th February 2014

On arriving back at Stanklyn Lane I observed that the paddocks were now full of winter thrushes busily feeding away with c.80 Redwing and c.40 Fieldfare present.  On 'redstart hedge' 18 Goldfinch were also showing well.

Redwing - 13th February 2014

Tuesday 4th February 2014 - Chelmarsh Reservoir

Today I decided to pay a visit to Chelmarsh Reservoir in Shropshire.  It is a large Reservoir situated close to the River Severn between Highley and Bridgnorth.  Views of the reservoir can be obtained from the causeway at the NW end or via walking the section of the Jack Mytton Way that runs parallel to the body of water.  On the other side of the causeway (at the NW end) is a small reserve that consists of a scrape and large areas of reed bed. 

This scrape reserve was formerly leased out to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust but nowadays it you require a permit issued by the Shropshire Ornithological Society (SOS).  For more details see the SOS website:
On arriving at a dull and very windy Chelmarsh I spent a fair while scanning through the gulls and wildfowl with my spotting scope.  The first birds of interest I picked up on were 7 Goosander (4♂ & 3♀).  Shortly afterwards I picked up a 2nd winter Common Gull that was close to the west shore line.  Despite the name Common Gulls are not as Common as you may think...Ok, so they are not a rarity (or even a scarcity for that matter) but they are no where near as numerous in the Midlands as Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

As I continued panning across the water I picked up on 2 Great Crested Grebes and a smaller Grebe that immediately caught my attention.   This compact looking Grebe was larger than a Little Grebe yet smaller than an Coot.  This Grebe’s forehead was steeply sloped with noticeable peaked shape on top.  Its bill was all black,  fine and pointed.  The bird’s plumage was black, white and grey with no sign of  the brown hue that you would expect to see on a winter plumage Little Grebe.  The Grebe’s head  was black with a dark patch coming down into its light grey cheek.  The bird’s neck was dark grey, as was its back.  It had a fluffy rear end similar to that of a Little Grebe that was white/light grey colouration ).  It was a winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe, I was chuffed to bits!

Unfortunately I was unable to get any photos of the bird as it was just too windy to digi-scope.  Still I was just happy to have found it so I didn't get too down hearted!  For the purpose of this post I have used a photo of the Black-necked Grebe that I saw at the same site in November 2012

Once I had finished viewing the main body of water I headed down to the scrape.  Here, 4 Siskin were flitting about in the Alders near the hide but there was very little else of note.  The scrape itself was virtually devoid of birds with a single Moorhen being the only exception.  Still, it was an enjoyable change of scene and I'm looking forward to returning there again in the near future.

Black-necked Grebe - Chelmarsh, 23rd November 2012
Click on image to enlarge

Sunday 2nd February 2014 - Holt & Grimley

Today I decided to pop to the gravel pits at Holt and Grimley to see if there was anything about.  Both of these areas are North of Worcester and situated in close proximity to the River Severn.  Subsequently there are also a lot of flooded fields in the area at the present time.
My first stop was at Sling Pool (Holt).  On arriving to view the site I was immediately struck by how much water there was present with much of the adjacent field flooded.
Sling Pool flood - 2nd February 2014

Despite the flooding though, this was to be the most productive visited.  On the grassy islands amongst the flood water there was an incredible 443 Lapwing present.  These were not the only waders there as a Curlew and a Dunlin were also noted.
The area also held a good mix of wildfowl with 7 Wigeon, 12 Shoveler, a pair of Pochard and 8 Tufted Duck of note.  Also present on the floods were c.120 Coot, 1 Little Grebe and 4 Mute Swans.  In the adjacent field a flock of c.400 Starling were busy feeding.

Lapwing - Sling Pool


Next stop was the Activity Lake at Top Barn.  I scanned the lake but there wasn't much of note here but for 14 Tufted Duck and a shed load more Coot!   Then as I had finished scanning I noticed a Peregrine flying reasonably low towards me.  It looked absolutely stunning in the afternoon sunlight.  Great birds, I never tire of seeing Peregrines....the day I do is the day I need to hang up my binoculars!
From Top Barn I checked out the area around the Island Pool at Grimley Old workings.  There was nothing of note on the pool but nearby a flock of 40 Chaffinch and 6 Greenfinch were feeding in the Christmas tree plantation.

Last stop was a rather disappointing Camp Lane Pits. There was little here of note but for 4 Little Grebes and yet more Coot and a handful of Tufted Duck.  I was unable to locate the female Goldeneye that had been present for a while.  That said on the whole it was an enjoyable change of scene.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Ironically, for the first post of this new era of the blog I didn't actually wander very far...I fact as far as the spare bedroom window to undertake the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on Sunday 26th January 2014.  This is an annual survey that takes place in late January each year and helps build up a snapshot of the state of Britain's garden birds.  Anyone can take part (it only takes an hour of your time) and I can only encourage you, if you don't already do so, to join in next year

Our back garden is a narrow garden on a terraced street. Over the years I have tried to maximise on this space and create a variety of habitats for the wildlife.  There are currently two bird feeding stations, one at the rear of the garden and one near the front and we provide homemade fat cakes, mealworms, peanuts and sunflower hearts.  In the winter months we also put out apple halves.  Some may say this is expensive, and yes we could put out cheaper alternatives, but the variety of birds that we get in our humble garden is very rewarding so it far out ways the cost.  Add to that the fact that our feeders are mostly visited by House Sparrows and Starlings it is more than worth while!

I started the survey at 10:30 am and soon picked up the 2 ♂ Blackcaps that have been visiting our feeders.  At one point this winter we had 4 Blackcaps (3♂ & 1♀) but as they have got more aggressive and territorial (as Blackcaps do) we now only have 2 males, one at the front feeding station and one at the rear.    Shortly afterwards 6 Blue Tits and a pair of Blackbirds were added to the list.  Then things went quite.

Blackcap (♂)

Thankfully the lull only lasted for about 20 minutes before things went frantic.  The next arrival at the feeders were 9 House Sparrows followed by a handful of  Starlings.  But it didn't stop there, as the whole local flock of Starlings landed in top of one of the trees.  I quickly counted them and recorded an incredible 73 Starling...not bad for a small terraced house garden. 

It wasn't long before I added Collared Dove, Robin, Woodpigeon and best of all Song Thrush to the hour's total. 

Song Thrush

Just after I finished a Goldfinch arrived in the garden and started to feed on the sunflower hearts, the first one I have recorded in the garden this winter.


Regular garden visitors that didn't put in an appearance during the survey were Dunnock and Great Tit.  Still even without these two species it wasn't a bad hour's garden watch and certainly better than some years!