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Pigeons, Parrots and Cuckoos (11/17)

Having dealt with all of the large species that have been recorded on the marsh we now begin to look at the smaller perching birds and their allies.

Pigeons and Doves

Feral Pigeon - Columba livia

A species that most people would expect to see on the site, but one that few people truly have! Most encounters with domesticated Rock Dove are actually records of Racing Pigeons that fly over. There are some local feral specimens however, on the industrial estate at Coppice Side and these do occasionally put in an appearance.
Stock Dove - Columba oenas

A species unfamiliar to none birders but easy enough to identify with its dark trailing edge to the wings and tail and the absence of any white in the plumage (in fact they often look quite blue). Not a common bird but one that breeds on the site and has done for a long time (the earliest known record was in 1977 but they had probably been a resident breeding species for a long time before that). Ones and twos of Stock Dove can be seen on any visit, but larger concentrations used to occur in the winter. Breeding still takes place on local farmland but the species does seem to be declining and may already have dropped into single figures locally. For those wishing to see this species, a pair can usually be found sitting on the railings of the old sewage tank.
Wood Pigeon - Columba palumbus

Possibly one of the commonest birds in the area. If you don't see one of these on a visit I would give up!
Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto

How do you want to deal with this? If you count the houses on the periphery of the site, Collared Dove is a common bird that is very easy to see. If we are to stick to the parameters I described when I began these profiles, then Collared Dove is at least note-worthy if not down-right uncommon.

To put this into perspective, I can look out of the window of my house any day of the week and within a few minutes I am likely to see a Collared Dove. Genuine Marsh and Mere records for the last three years amount to five records involving 7 specimens!
Turtle Dove - Streptopelia turtur

Probably the saddest species for me to record as this used to be a site speciality.

Turtle Dove were once a common species but have suffered from illegal hunting in southern Europe until they are now severely endangered in Britain as a whole and a noteworthy to rare species in the midlands,

Until 1998 Turtle Dove was still a breeding species at Clayhanger with at least one pair recorded annually. Since then I have only seen one single specimen that flew through on 22/04/2006 (although I believe another specimen was observed flying through a few years earlier by Pete Newman). If you see one of these at either site you have had an excellent day.
Parrots and related species

Obviously cage birds occasionally escape from captivity and can be encountered in the wild almost anywhere. These records usually relate to the common Budgerigar (Melopsitacus undulatus) and Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) both of which have been recorded in the past at Clayhanger. There have also been records of escaped Canary (Serinus canaria) and even an African Grey Parrot (psittacus erithacus)!

There is however one species of Parrot that can be legitimately recorded in Britain and it too has occurred on at least one occasion at Clayhanger.

Ring-Necked or Rose-Ringed Parakeet is a familiar species in west London with flocks of up to two thousand birds being recorded. It is still uncommon in more northerly areas although a few pairs breed here and there and occasionally turn up even in the midlands.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet - Psittacula krameri

I have a sad tale to relate about the only Clayhanger record, are you all sitting comfortably?

It was an August bank-holiday Monday and I had been conscripted by the 'other arf' to paint the recently treated back wall of the house. One coat had already been put on the previous day and I decided to get up early and finish the job so that I would have the opportunity to do something more enjoyable on my day off.

I had made a good start and had even seen a late Swift fly over while I was doing the 'finicky' bits but by nine-o'clock was ready for cup of tea. I sat on the stairs enjoying the cup that cheers when the phone rang. It was a birder who used to live at the other end of the village.

"Chaz, your not going to believe this, but I've just had three Ring-Necked Parakeet fly through the garden!"

Very jealous to have missed such a local rarity I grudgingly congratulated him and went out to pass the news (and my disgruntlement at having to paint the house when my mates were having good birds in their garden) on to the wife;

"Pete's just had three Parakeet fly through his garden".
"That's funny (said she) I just heard a sound like a parrot calling".

At this point one of my neighbours, overhearing decided to chip-in and make my day complete;

"You did, they just flew across your roof!"

When I finally stopped sobbing, I ascertained that they had come in from the direction of Pelsall and had apparently flown across the marsh. Not only did I manage to miss a new species for the site, I also missed a brilliant garden tick! - and I still had to finish painting the B****Y wall!! (as I said before, "Story of my life")

It was to be almost twenty years before the next site record, three Parakeets which appeared in gardens adjacent to the recreation ground on the evening of 11/07/2016 (C.M. - L.R.M.)
Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus

When I first moved to Clayhanger, Cuckoo was still a comparatively common bird, usually arriving in early May and breeding locally every year. Unfortunately it has now gone into a serious decline and has become a noteworthy species anywhere in the midlands.
Up until 1997 I recorded this species annually and did not even bother to take note of specific dates as it was so common it could be seen almost anywhere at the appropriate time of year.

Between 1997 and 2010 encountered Cuckoo just once at Clayhanger and Ryders Mere and that was a distant calling bird somewhere beyond Grange Farm that had apparently been forced down by a blustery shower (20/04/2006). However in 2011 a bird was found frequenting the perimeter fence of Ryders Mere and remained in the area for up to three weeks (being seen well on 20/06/11 and 09/07/11). A bird was heard on the 12/05/2012 from the Railswood area and a bird was heard calling four times from the north end of the Marsh on 06/05/2013 and was followed by several weeks of calling birds including at least one pair seen in courtship display. The first bird of 2014 was heard calling from the farm land on the evening of 22/04/14 (K.C.) and birds could still be occasionally heard in early June. On August 16th however, a juvenile specimen was discovered in trees at the north end of the main swag and its reluctance to fly and general behaviour suggested that it could have been a locally bred specimen, perhaps resulting from parisitism of local Reed Warblers? (C.M.).
The first bird of 2015 arrived overnight and was seen on 21/04 (K.C. - N.T.)- the frst bird of 2016 was found on 27th April (R.F.) and constituted the only reported occurence. The spring of 2017 was completely bereft of the species although it seemed to be holding its own in other localities.