Some very common and familiar species and one or two slightly more exotic to look for. Keen birders please note that Black Redstart has never been recorded at either site (unless you know different?).
--Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
We are all familiar with the small bird that makes a disproportionate amount of noise - but enough about the wife! Wrens are all over the place, possibly the commonest bird in the area but often difficult to get good views of due to their skulking nature and quick movements.
--Dunnock - Prunella modularis
We are supposed to call it a Hedge Accentor these days, but a rose by any other name is still a Dunnock. Very common at both sites and easy enough to find.
--Robin - Erithacus rubecula
Britain's favourite bird - but not mine! Every time something interesting sits in a bush, what comes along and chases it off? Yep a bloomin Robin! All over the place, if you cant find one of these, take up train spotting!
--Common Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus
A well known and very beautiful species which breeds in mature woodland and that passes through the sites during spring and autumn. Very uncommon at Clayhanger with the earliest records being from Graham Evans (18/04/1977) and Bernard Smith (13/09/1995). I am only aware of the following subsequent records: a male birds in April and August 1998. a singing bird that showed well in April 2006, an interesting report of a male seen carrying food by Ian Phillips on the 18/07/2007, a singing male at Ryders Mere on 20/04/2008 and the following year a Redstart found on the 05/08/2009 (PN). The most recent records were of a moulting Autumn adult that as present near the north stile on 22/08/2010 a female that was seen flying over the mineral line on 30/07/2011 (B.S.) and a breeding plumage male on the Marsh on 15/04/12 (K.S.) Three Redstart were claimed on the Marsh on the 10/08/12 and a female and juvenile were discovered together in the same area on 14/08/12 (C.M.)
The following year two males were found on 17/04/13 (G.C.) and an autumn adult male was seen on 16/08 (C.M.). There were no spring records in 2014 but again on 16/08/14 (exactly one year since the last record) a Redstart was found, this time a juvenile but in exactly the same area of bushes below the pit mound as the bird in 2013. This area seems particularly attractive to this species and another two were active in this area on 29/08/2014 (C.M.).
The first male of 2015 showed briefly on15/04 (K.C.) and a singing male was showing well on the set-aside on 19/04 (C.M.). Another male was found on the set-aside on 12th August 2015 (C.M.) and on the same day either the same or possibly a different bird was found between the Marsh and Mere (K.C.) while a third male was seen on 17/08/15 (G.C.) a fourth on the 24th (G.C.) a fifth on the 26th (G.C.) a sixth on the 30/08/15 another pair on the 31/08/2015 (C.M.) a male and two females on 05/09/15 (K.C. - G.C. -C.M. ) two more seen around the pit-mound on 08/09/2015 (J.A.S.) which all seems to confirm that this is a regular passage species through the sites. The first record of 2016 was a stunning breeding plumage male on the mineral line on 10/04/2016 (C.M.).
--Whinchat - Saxicola rubetra
Always a noteworthy species in the area with a trend toward decrease since the landscaping of the mere. April/May and August/September are the main times to encounter this species with the earliest known site record going to Graham Evans (01/09/1991). There have been twelve subsequent records involving birds more or less evenly divided between males and females, the most recent being 27/07/2011 (S.H.) 05/09/2011 (A.S.-C.M.-D.G.), a male on 25/04/13 (G.K.),two birds on 28/08/2014 (J.A.S.) and another two in the same area on 04/09/2014 (C.M.). The following spring did not provide much in the way of activity with just one bird seen on 04/05/2015 (K.C.) although a nice breeding plumage male was present on 01/09/15 (C.M.) another bird was seen on 05/09/15 (K.C. - G.C.) another on the 13/09/15 (C.M.). A single bird was found on the 17/09 and a final pair of specimens for that autumn were present on 18/09/15 with one remaining to the 20th (Glen - K.C. - C.M. - L.R.M. - S.L.). Spring 2016 began with an early record of a bird on 22/04/2016.
--Stonechat - Saxicola torquata
This species was once significant or noteworthy, but with the protection and restoration of local heathland in recent years, it now seems to be doing well in the midlands. One or two pairs have occasionally been active in the area during the winter months but tended to occupy quite a large territory, so you were always lucky to see one. Following a run of hard winters they once again became locally noteworthy with spring and autumn being the most likely periods to locate a specimen such as one that occurred on Ryders Mere on September 15th 2014 or the family party that was seen on 03/10/14 (R.F.) A female lingered through the winter into 2015 and although often being elusive was eventually seen paired with a male and collecting nesting materials (typha seeds) on 08/03/2015 raising the hope of on site breeding? The following week saw two pairs active on the western side of the site (10/03/15) A male present on 18/09/2015 was the last of that year. January 2016 saw a bird nar the pit mound on 19/01/2016
--Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
A regular spring and autumn passage species, often present in good numbers such as the 22 birds at Ryders Hayes seen by Graham Evans in 1977 or the 14 birds at Grange Farm in 2004. Birds belonging to the Greenland Race of Wheatear have been recorded on at least three occasions (May 1996 - May 2010 - April 2013) but are sometimes difficult to identify and may have occurred at other times.
--Ring Ouzel - Turdus torquatus
Another spring and autumn passage bird and one that is quite rare and sought after by birders. First honours again go to Graham Evans with a bird in 1974 after which there were no more records until a major influx of Ring Ouzel occurred between 17/03 and 04/05/2003 (with birds seen by myself on fourteen different days) surely Ring Ouzel must have gone through several times in between these dates, but alas, unnoticed!. There have so far been three subsequent records; a juvenile male seen by myself and Paul Jeynes in 2006, a bird found at Grange Farm on 19/03/2009 (AJS) followed by a stunning male on 03/04/11 (C.W.) which stayed around to be twitched by a number of birders from around the region (See Photo).
It was to be two years before the next record, a male on 19/04/2013 (GC - RF - CM - SH - AS).
--Blackbird - Turdus merula
All over the place - I refer you to my comments about Robins!
--Fieldfare - Turdus Pilaris
A regular winter migrant in varying numbers with at least one exceptional record, well outside of the normal and expected period of occurrence. My earliest recorded date is October 20th. and my latest is 29th. of March. I will say that Fieldfare seem more prone to disappear mid-winter than do Redwing. My largest recorded flock so far, involved 150 birds on January 20th. 1996.
--Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos
Once a common bird but now quite difficult to get to grips with outside of the spring when they can easily be found by the regularly repeated phrases of their song. Probably always present in small numbers but difficult to connect with at times.
--Redwing - Turdus illiacus
The commonest wintering thrush with birds often heard overflying the area at night from mid October. Redwing seem to be more prolific locally later in the winter, perhaps working their way back north and eastward? My earliest recorded date is October 5th. and my latest is April 20th. Flocks of over 100 birds are not an uncommon sight at certain times.
--Mistle Thrush - Turdus viscivorus
A common local breeding species with numbers sometimes supplemented by migrants from Europe (some very grey-toned adult specimens that were present in November 1997 may have originated in Scandinavia).