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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Are they gone for good?

After doing a full circuit yesterday I decided to turn my attention to one of our more elusive species and spent an hour up on Clayhanger Common and around O'Grady's Pool in the hope of finding one of our remaining Willow Tit.

Photo: Jim Almond (Shropshire Birder)
As many of you will be aware this cool climate species has gone through a catastrophic decline nationally and has recently been sited as one of the lowland species that we are most likely to lose as a direct effect of global warming.

Clayhanger has so far bucked this trend with a breeding population holding on at Clayhanger Marsh and (presumably) a different pair on Clayhanger Common but without wishing to be a 'Jonah' this has to be the furthest into a year that I have gone without at least hearing one locally! So far nobody has responded to my request to report any sightings and there has not been a record from Chasewater so far this year (the last record I can find was on 18th December so there may still be one or two birds at that site?).

Unfortunately, even if my downbeat assumptions are wrong (which I sincerely hope will happen) in the long term I suspect we will have to accept that this (like Corn Bunting before it) is one of those species that we will have to come to terms with losing.

My advice would be see them while you can!

Have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A full circuit on Saturday

Yep - did the whole lot today and although Spring has not yet arrived there is every indication that from the birds point of view, winter is more or less over. Wildfowl numbers have dropped drastically and although I still have not seen a Meadow Pipit, I at least heard three today as well as some unexpected Redpoll at the south end of the Mere (I will assume that they were Lesser Redpoll as there have not been any reports of Common (Mealy) Redpoll locally this winter).

Clayhanger Marsh

Teal (24) - Stock Dove (3)

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (10) - Pochard (14) - Gadwall (14) - Goosander (26) - Shoveler (1) - Lapwing (50+) - Oystercatcher (2) - Redwing (9) - Lesser Redpoll (3+)

Finally - I forgot to say earlier, the Barn Owl was hunting at the back of the village last night, I didn’t see it but heard it calling from either the Set-Aside or possibly the Recreation ground. Been a while since it was close enough to pick up on call so keep your eyes (and ears) open!

Have a good Sunday - Chaz

Ten days until Spring

Just a quick update at 11.00 - there have been visits to the North Common this morning (Per.R.F.) although so far no further sign of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Apparently there have been previous reports at this site recently (prior to yesterdays discovery by Anita) so it should be worth persevering.

I  will be doing the Marsh and Mere at some point this weekend (either later today or tomorrow) and will keep you posted if there is any further news from Pelsall. - Chaz

Friday, 17 February 2017

*** Scarce Bird Alert ***


I received a text from Anita Scott today regarding an exceptional find on Pelsall North Common, I will allow the text to say it all:

"TWO Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers! Pelsall North Common, by the boardwalk at the side of the bridle path leading down to Fishley Lane"

Those of you in the know will appreciate the significance of this record as LSWP is without a doubt one of the most difficult resident species to get to grips with (to put it into perspective, Wryneck is now an outright rarity in the U.K. and I have probably seen two to three times as many Wrynecks as I have seen Lesser Spotted Woodpecker)!

Ray Fellows was up there this afternoon and did not connect with them but that is actually typical of the behaviour of the species, as in my opinion the only time they can be obliging is when they are at the nest.

Several Crossbill were seen at Upper Longdon today and yesterday (thanks to Chris and Graham Weston and John Holian for the updates) so even with little movement going on there are several things to have a look for this weekend. - Chaz

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Crossbills provoke some interest.

Its funny how some birds always pique the interest of birders and it has been nice to get some responses to my posting yesterday.

Mike Pittaway from Walsall RSPB was also on the Chase yesterday and seemed to do a fair bit better than we did:

Hello Chaz,
I too was at Upper Longdon on Tuesday and had very good views of Crossbill, I would say around 20 between there and Wandon. Interestingly I only saw one juvenile, the rest being males, most of which were singing. I thought maybe the females were still on the nest.

Sheila Norris on the Isle of Man also got in touch with some interesting information about Crossbill Breeding:

Just got in from a fantastic presentation by Chris Sharpe on Bird Ringing in Sweden - a job he does for 8 months of the year. He is author of the Manx Bird Atlas and also a friend. After the talk I asked him about Crossbills and he said they do indeed breed early. He's seen parents feeding young here on 26th December! 

Thanks to both for the information which I hope you also find as interesting as I did. If you are looking for something to do this weekend I would suggest that a trip to the Chase may be a worthwhile exercise? 

Have a good Thursday all- Chaz

P.S. - Mike I did try to respond to your e-mail but it bounced back as undeliverable! Anyway, hope to see you over the Marsh during the spring?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Does a mild winter mean early breeding?

Steve Hill and I had a tour around this morning which for the most part was disappointing (no Mandarins at Dunstall  and Whitmore Hay bereft of everything that once made it a spectacular place to visit). We did however score a late victory at Upper Longdon on Cannock Chase where a party of Crossbill was discovered in the plantation at the far side of the recently cleared area.


The birds were first seen in silhouette feeding in the tree tops but a closer approach provided some brief flight views which appeared to include several recently fledged juveniles.

In some years I have seen juvenile Crossbill in Wales in mid-March but apparent breeding a fledging by mid-February is a first for me, particularly in the midlands. The birds were elusive but also quite noisy so not too difficult to find if anyone wants to check them out.

Big thanks to Steve for a nice morning out, two weeks remaining until the official start of spring and the arrival of our first migrants returning. Can't wait! - Chaz

Monday, 13 February 2017

A nice walk in the mud

Happy now? I must have weighed twice as much when I got home, just because of the mud clinging to my boots! Was it worth it? Well a coach load of ramblers cant be wrong, they seemed to be having a good time squelching along the mineral line. I did bump into another couple and had an interesting chat in which they confirmed the anecdotal information that Ring Necked Parakeets have been active in the Park Lime Pits area for several year and they themselves had seen multiple birds on site which also supports Steve Hill's experience.

Clayhanger Marsh

Teal (8) - Gadwall (8) - Redwing (1) - Linnet (2 - amongst the Goldfinch flock).

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (14) - Shoveler (2) - Pochard (12) and Goosander (10). I also took the opportunity to say my first 'hello' of the year to our returning Oystercatchers, both of which were together on the northernmost island.

There we are then, job done. I might be out and about tomorrow, it all depends on the weather! - Chaz