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Crows, Starlings and Sparrows (11/17)

OK, I realise that the corvidae (crow family) are not the most charismatic of birds so I will try to keep the profiles for these short and punchy. Sorry if the rest of the birds in this profile seem uninspiring too, but if a jobs worth doing...

Acorn Jay - Garrulus glandarius
This is about as good as it gets at Clayhanger, a strikingly beautiful bird that is hard to accept as a crow. Jay is a reasonably regular species that probably occurs most days but is certainly more prolific in Autumn and Winter. I suspect that birds breed at Grange Farm Woods but most of the birds on the marsh seem to originate from the neighbouring woods at Coppice Side and on Brownhills and Wyrley Commons.

Magpie - Pica pica

EVERYWHERE! Some of the evening roosts of Magpie can involve more than thirty birds and they are both noisy and prolific locally.

Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
I probably make more fuss about Jackdaw than they actually deserve, but that is probably because I can remember a time, not that long ago, when you had to go to Barr Beacon to guarantee seeing Jackdaw locally. They occur on the local farmland most days but are still quite noteworthy as anything other than a fly over at the marsh and mere. Occasionally there will be an incursion such as the 23 birds which flew in from Wyrley Common one morning (30/10/2011) but these types of encounter are few and far between

Rook - Corvus frugilegus
Despite the fact that there is a large roost of Rook near to Great Wyrley, this is another very casual bird at the marsh and mere that is at least noteworthy. Even birds flying to and from roost seem to give the direct fly-over a miss! At least one bird currently shows on the farmland occasionally, I think it has delusions of being a Carrion Crow!

Carrion Crow - Corvus corone

Well, as you would expect, a very common bird locally. Some unusual albinistic specimens occasionally occur however a bird with a buff-nape and some pale areas in the flanks (23/08/1998) could possibly have had at least some Hooded Crow genes?

Raven - Corvus corax

THE BIG BOY! - Raven has occurred on a number of occasions and as it seems to be an increasingly common species in the midlands, we can perhaps hope for more records in years to come.

Unbelievably I was standing at the bus stop in Clayhanger Village (24/02/1995) when I saw what I at first thought was a Cormorant coming toward me across the Marsh. It eventually came over my head at about thirty feet and made me feel very guilty. You see, a friend of mine who was, (to be kind) not as accomplished a birder as he generally thought he was, had told me that he had seen a Raven in the Pelsall/Wyrley area a few weeks before (and I'm afraid that I had dismissed it) but the bird that went over that morning was indisputably a Raven.

One Sunday morning in 2004 or 2005, I lay in bed half asleep when two distinct 'Kronk' calls were heard from over the house. By the time I got out of my 'pit' and to the window it was too late to see it but interestingly Tony Stackhouse saw a probable Raven over the marsh a week or two later. The next record was not until the autumn of 2008 when a party of four birds flew in to land on local farm land early morning (K.C.) and this was followed in spring 2009 with two birds that performed for more than twenty minutes over the farmland (C.M.).

The following winter two more birds flew over calling at the end of January (31/01/10) and surprisingly they were the only record for the year. This seemed strange as Raven are definitely increasing in frequency and regularity. The following year got of to an early start though with a bird overflying the Mere on 16/01/2011 (R.F.), with another bird was seen in earl February (K.S.) and two early morning on 25/02/11 (KMcC). I was to see birds over the village during the following weeks, most of which appeared to be heading for the landfill site at Shelfield. On one Sunday later in the year three birds overflew Church Street and the recreation ground (30/10/2011) at lunchtime (12.15) and these were probably returning from the same site (which would not be working on a Sunday). In fact it became apparent during this period that Raven was becoming an almost daily visitor in Clayhanger with singles and pairs regularly over the Marsh, the village and on one occasion, perched in the trees of my back garden!

Raven continued to be a reasonably frequent visitor, usually over-flying with their "Kronk-kronk-kronk" call. Recent records include three sightings from 2012, four from 2013 and a single record on 11/01/14. Interestingly the site maxima seems to be three birds and this has occurred on 24/07/12 and 16/07/13, both occasions suggesting a family group perhaps? Two males were seen in flight together on 04/04/2015 (C.M.)

Common Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Generally not as common as they used to be, but that might seem hard to believe in autumn when our post-breeding birds are joined by migrants from Europe. And yes, they occasionally do the 'Bill Oddie' thing although a thousand birds doing it is not really the same spectacle if I'm honest!

House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Another species in national decline, but even when your garden was full of them they were never a common species on the marsh and mere proper. If you stick rigidly to the geographical perimeter I described at the beginning of this project, you might find it surprisingly difficult (although far from impossible) to get them on your site list (try the north side of the Mere during the breeding series as a pair has nested in lake-side vegetation for several years).

Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

Yes I remember the good old days when this was a relatively common species that we took for granted but it is now an out-and-out local rarity.

I only have three marsh records in the last ten years or so. a male that was present on the 24/05/1997 a singing male on territory during April 1998 (possibly the same bird) and one (or possibly two?) birds seen by Anita Scott on the fourth or fifth of December 2007. Although these later birds could not be relocated at the time there was a subsequent record from the same area of a bird carrying nesting material on 02/04/2008 (I.P.)