Sunday, 5 May 2019

Earlswood all-dayer - Spring 2019

A total of 64 bird species were recorded at Earlswood during the West Midlands spring all-day birdwatch yesterday. When putting this into context with our previous spring all-dayer totals, it's interesting to note that, with one exception, we seem to have a tendency to record a very similar number of 64-65 species each year! Previous totals as follows:
2018 - 64 spp.
2017 - 65 spp.
2016 - 77 spp.
2015 - 65 spp.

The weather conditions yesterday weren't great for migration at this time of year really, with a cool northerly wind, and apart from good numbers of hirundines at the lakes there appeared to be few other new arrivals. The most notable birds reported were Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Raven, Skylark and Common Sandpiper. All of the resident species were recorded, but amongst the visitors that weren't, Common Tern was the most surprising. The full bird list in alphabetical order was as follows:

  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blackcap
  4. Blue Tit
  5. Bullfinch
  6. Buzzard
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Carrion Crow
  9. Chaffinch
  10. Chiffchaff
  11. Coal Tit
  12. Collared Dove
  13. Common Sandpiper
  14. Coot
  15. Cuckoo
  16. Dunnock
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Goldcrest
  19. Goldfinch
  20. Great Crested Grebe
  21. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  22. Great Tit
  23. Green Woodpecker
  24. Greenfinch
  25. Grey Heron
  26. Grey Wagtail
  27. Greylag Goose
  28. Herring Gull
  29. House Martin
  30. House Sparrow
  31. Jackdaw
  32. Jay
  33. Kestrel
  34. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  35. Lesser Whitethroat
  36. Linnet
  37. Long-tailed Tit
  38. Magpie
  39. Mallard
  40. Marsh Tit
  41. Mistle Thrush
  42. Moorhen
  43. Mute Swan
  44. Nuthatch
  45. Pheasant
  46. Pied Wagtail
  47. Raven
  48. Reed Bunting
  49. Robin
  50. Sand Martin
  51. Skylark
  52. Song Thrush
  53. Sparrowhawk
  54. Starling
  55. Stock Dove
  56. Swallow
  57. Swift
  58. Tawny Owl
  59. Treecreeper
  60. Tufted Duck
  61. Whitethroat
  62. Willow Warbler
  63. Woodpigeon
  64. Wren

Three of the team including myself went for drinks at the Red Lion, and I wonder if others might be interested in doing this at a local pub in future all-dayers? For me as a lightweight, a couple of pints meant that birding for a couple of hours afterwards was, erm, interesting but at least now I know Rosie's Pig and Doom Bar taste good! 😁 Here's a few members of Team Earlswood at the causeway!
Left to right: John B, Janet, Jim, John S, Jon C

Earlswood came 15th out of a record total of 23 sites across the midlands that participated, which was pretty good considering most of the patches with better scores are managed nature reserves or gravel pits. Sites and species totals for the day as follows:
  1. Ladywalk - 102
  2. Middleton Lakes - 97
  3. Branston GP - 91
  4. Brandon Marsh - 90
=5. Belvide - 89
=5. Grimley - 89
=7. Upton Warren - 84
=7. Chasewater - 84
=7. Salford Priors GP - 84
=7. Sandwell Valley - 84
 11. Marsh Lane - 82
 12. Doxey Marsh - 70
 13. Venus Pool - 69
 14. Dairy Farm NR - 65
 15. Earlswood - 64
 16. Morton Bagot - 63
 17. Elmdon Park - 60
 18. Avon Meadows - 58
 19. Halesowen patches - 57
 20. Edgbaston Res - 55
 21. Sutton Park - 51
 22. Fens Pool / Saltwells - 50
 23. Trittiford - 47

My thanks to John Sirrett for collating the bird species reported at Earlswood over the course of the day, to Phil Andrews for collating the site totals for the all-dayer overall, and to the following 11 birders who made up the rest of Team Earlswood this spring: John Bishop, Jon Chidwick, Barry Durman, Paul Fitzgerald, Yvonne Heward, Janet James, Mike Jeeves, John Oates, Joe Owen, John Sirrett and Jim Winsper. The next all-dayer in the autumn will probably be in early September.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Earlswood all-dayer - New Year's Day 2019

For the first time ever, some midlands patches including Earlswood competed in a winter all-day birdwatch on New Year's Day this year, like those we've been doing each spring and autumn in recent years. The results with species totals were as follows:

  1. Belvide - 77
  2. Middleton Lakes - 76
  3. Sandwell Valley - 74
  4. Upton Warren - 70
  5. Doxey Marshes - 66
  6. Whitemoor Haye - 61
  7. Morton Bagot - 58
  8. Earlswood - 56

So we came last, but with a superb adult male Common Scoter being found at Engine Pool, who can complain?! A great start for hopefully another productive year. Earlswood day list with initials for single-observer records and scoter as follows:
  1. Mute Swan
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Mallard
  5. Shoveler
  6. Tufted Duck
  7. Common Scoter (JM et al.)
  8. Goldeneye (JJ)
  9. Goosander
  10. Little Grebe (JK)
  11. Great Crested Grebe
  12. Cormorant
  13. Grey Heron
  14. Sparrowhawk (JOw)
  15. Kestrel (JD)
  16. Moorhen
  17. Coot
  18. Golden Plover (JHS)
  19. Common Snipe (TRP)
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  22. Herring Gull
  23. Feral Pigeon (TRP)
  24. Stock Dove (MPG)
  25. Woodpigeon
  26. Collared Dove
  27. Tawny Owl (MPG)
  28. Green Woodpecker (JJ)
  29. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  30. Grey Wagtail
  31. Pied Wagtail
  32. Wren
  33. Dunnock
  34. Robin
  35. Blackbird
  36. Fieldfare
  37. Redwing
  38. Song Thrush
  39. Mistle Thrush (JJ)
  40. Long-tailed Tit
  41. Blue Tit
  42. Great Tit
  43. Coal Tit
  44. Marsh Tit
  45. Nuthatch
  46. Treecreeper
  47. Jay
  48. Magpie
  49. Jackdaw
  50. Carrion Crow
  51. Raven
  52. Starling
  53. House Sparrow
  54. Chaffinch
  55. Goldfinch 
  56. Bullfinch (JJ)
Thanks to John Bishop, Jon Chidwick, Judy Donath, Harry Hopkins, Janet James, James Kenny, Joe Martin, Joe Owen, John Sirrett, Rob Strong, Tony and Barbara Philp for their reports and/or offering to fill in gaps in the list. Rematch in the spring!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Proposal to close Braggs Farm Lane to traffic

Solihull council have proposed to close Braggs Farm Lane to traffic by installing a gate in the middle of its length. Further info is in the screenshots below, kindly forwarded to me by John Sirrett.

I must admit I rarely drive along the road, and the reduced number of vehicles using it could benefit wildlife and make it more pleasant to walk along. However, in case any readers were unaware of this proposal and would like to comment to the council about it, I thought I'd post the information here. Consultation ends on Friday this week.

Sunday, 14 October 2018


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Thursday, 11 October 2018

A personal review of 2016, 2017 & the past eleven years

A really long one, sorry - it's been in the pipeline a while and built up!

Birds of Earlswood 2016

2016 was pretty good, the grand total of 128 species recorded being similar to 2015. Two species were patch-firsts, namely 2 Black Redstarts in private horse pastures at Manor Farm from April 8th-9th (MPG et al.) and an Egyptian Goose at Mereside Pools on December 24th (T.R. Philp). A stunning summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe at Engine Pool from June 6th-7th (MPG et al.) was perhaps the bird of the year though, as it was also the first record at the lakes since 1955, it showed reasonably well and lots of people got to see it. A Firecrest in Little Clowes Wood from December 30th (J. Asbury et al.) was another highlight which I was fortunate to see. On the downside I missed four species which otherwise would've been personal patch ticks: a Pied Flycatcher at Terry's Pool on April 26th (M.J. Inskip et al.) and a Scaup at Windmill Pool on July 5th (J. Oates et al.) were both twitchable if only I hadn't been working during the afternoons they were discovered, whilst an Osprey flying over the Norton Lane area on August 31st (J. Oates) and the Egyptian Goose both didn't stay long.
Black-necked Grebe (John Oates)
Black Redstarts, first-winter male on left (Matt Griffiths)
Firecrest (Jon Asbury)
Egyptian Goose (Tony Philp)

Birds of Earlswood 2017

So on to 2017, it looks like we finished on 126 species, which is very slightly below average for Earlswood. Nevertheless there were several highlights:
  • Great White Egret: our star bird of the year, a first for Earlswood and presumably the same individual was involved on each of the three occasions it was seen, but sadly only two observers got it. It flew over Windmill Pool on October 18th (MPG), then over Engine Pool on October 31st and November 22nd (J. Oates). It was extra special for me as it was an outright lifer and also my 160th bird species for the patch!
    Great White Egret (John Oates)
  • Common Scoter: for a species that was last seen at the lakes in 1996, it was very surprising that there was not one but two records this year! Five males were at Engine Pool on June 29th (J. Oates et al.), and two males with four females were also at Engine Pool on August 21st (M.R. Jeeves et al.). I was immensely relieved to see the August flock after missing the June one - many thanks Mike!
    Common Scoters - June flock (John Oates)
  • Osprey: a satellite-tagged male called "Number 14" flew over the lakes on April 13th (MPG, T.R. Philp, P.C. Stainton). He had been at the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea for most of the 2016-17 winter, started migrating north on March 23rd, and visited Welford-on-Avon (Warks) on the evening of April 12th and the River Dove at Marchington (Staffs) on the morning of April 14th. He then spent the summer in the Lake District - details from Ospreywatch. I'd anticipated seeing this species at Earlswood for some years, so it was great to finally find one, and I've enjoyed reading about his past and subsequent movements.
    Osprey (Tony Philp)
  • Firecrest: the bird from 2016 stayed in the woods to at least March 8th (several observers), and was seen with a second bird on February 11th (J. Asbury). A third bird visited Terry's Pool on October 17th (J. Oates).
    Firecrest in October (John Oates)
  • Barn Owl: one hunting at a private marsh near the lakes on November 15th and 17th (MPG, P. Fitzgerald) was my first at Earlswood since 2010, and followed a sighting of probably the same bird near Shutt Lane about three weeks earlier.
  • Hawfinch: nationally 2017 will surely be remembered as the year of the great Hawfinch influx, and thankfully Earlswood didn't go without. A flock of six over Windmill Pool and a single over Spring Brook Scrubland on October 20th (MPG) were the first, followed by three over Terry's Green on 23rd (MPG), a single over Spring Brook Scrubland on 30th (MPG), a single over Springbrook Lane on November 1st (J.H. Sirrett), two perched in trees at Earlswood Moathouse NR on 4th (J. Oates), calls heard over Terry's Pool lagoon on December 11th (MPG), and a bird perched in trees near Windmill Pool from 26th-27th (MPG). Whether some of these records involved the same individual birds loitering around the wider area is open to debate, but they are always special to see, even though most were brief fly-overs.
    Hawfinch (John Oates)
I ended on 114 species at Earlswood for 2017, my lowest patch total since 2010, sadly due to putting even less birding time in compared to previous years. Embarrassingly I failed to get Garden Warbler and Rook, but on the flip side it was great to add Osprey, Common Scoter and Great White Egret to my patch life list. Outside of Earlswood, the year was an important one for me as I finally managed to get into my desired career - in April I got a new job as a seasonal ecologist, which is just brilliant being paid to do work I enjoy!

10 years of birding at Earlswood

October 5th 2017 marked my 10th anniversary of serious patch-birding. I'd done a little birding at Earlswood during my teenage years, but it was only after my first ever twitch going to see a Grey Phalarope at Windmill Pool on October 5th 2007 that I truly became hooked and fell in love with Earlswood. The last 10 years have mostly been the best years of my life and it has all been thanks to finding purpose and enjoyment at my beloved patch.
Grey Phalarope (Vince Garvey)
There have been so many personal birding highlights for me over this time, but co-finding the Night Heron and watching it over the two weeks it hung around would have to be my all-time favourite, closely followed by twitching that life-changing phalarope. Finding scarce birds on patch is always a thrill, and for me included six more firsts for Earlswood: a Yellow-browed Warbler (2nd county record!), Cetti's Warbler, the two Black Redstarts, a Short-eared Owl, Avocet, the Great White Egret and a flock of six Whooper Swans!
Night Heron (Dave Hutton)
Yellow-browed Warbler plumage notes (Matt Griffiths)
Other finds that particularly stand out in my memory are the Black-necked Grebe, the Osprey, an eclipse male Garganey, redhead Smew, the last two records to-date of Ruddy Duck, two fly-over flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits, a summer-plumaged Turnstone found very early one morning, a Little Tern during very heavy rain, a flock of three Sandwich Terns, single Kittiwakes on five occasions, a fly-over Waxwing clearly very lost, two single Ring Ouzels, two single Wood Warblers both singing their amazing song, four single Firecrests, four flocks of fly-over Crossbills all in the same year, and a Hawfinch in 2015 which flew over the lakes and out of sight only to be relocated in a yew tree thanks to my local knowledge and a bit of a sprint! On the downside, I've dipped quite a few notables, probably the biggest miss being a Hoopoe at Manor Farm, but no species that would require a great miracle for one to occur at Earlswood again!
Hoopoe (Rich Greer)
Patch-birding has brought me into contact with many wonderful people, birders and non-birders alike, and I've struck up friendships and acquaintanceships as a result. It's been a massive help for me in dealing with social anxiety issues I have. My enquiry about putting a tern raft on Terry's Pool led to the formation of the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, a group which has done much good work for local wildlife since. I credit one of its committee members, ecologist Paul Wilkinson, in playing a major part of increasing my interest and experience in surveying bats, reptiles and amphibians, through the surveys and walks he organises and by bringing me into contact with other wildlife enthusiasts. He and several birders, but especially Paul Fitzgerald, and in years gone by Jon Yardley and Jon Bowley, have encouraged me to venture outside the patch boundaries to visit new areas, providing me with valuable new wildlife experiences and personal development that I can apply to Earlswood, my current job and life in general. Three more wildlife people have been really good friends and mentors: Charlene Jones, John Oates and Manda Tomkins. At risk of missing someone out, I'd also like to give special mention to Jon Asbury, Kevin Bates, John Bishop, Jon Chidwick, Rich Greer, Yvonne Heward, Ron Hill, John Hunt, Mike Inskip, Janet James, Mike Jeeves, Martin Lindop, Steve Lloyd, Donna Mallon, Tony and Barbara Philp, Craig Reed, Jenny Renowden, Bob and Cheryl Roberts, John Sirrett, Phil Stainton and Jim Winsper for their good company whilst at Earlswood, even if only on brief occasions or no longer visiting 😊 I'm truly grateful to all birders, ecologists and other wildlife people who I've had positive interactions with on patch and in the wider midlands area, even if I don't always seem to appreciate the company, from brief chats and offers of help to some bigger things, and I'm sorry I can't mention everyone else who've been positive!
Just a few of you - lots more I need for the photo collection! ;-)

Most of the above I wrote earlier this year back in January and now, 9 months on, I've just completed 11 years on patch and it will soon be time to review 2018! All very late I know - time just whizzes by! There has been a significant change in my life this month and it was World Mental Health Day yesterday, so it seems appropriate to publish this reflective post now rather than later. Part of the next bit I was of two minds whether to include or not as I'm not sure how people will take it but feel it has been a significant part of my patch-birding experience, even if not all positive.

Recent and future changes in my patch-birding

A few people have commented on the reduced amount of time I've been spending at Earlswood in the last few years. My usual explanation that I've been busy with uni and work is true, but there have been other reasons.

Firstly, Earlswood gets a lot more coverage by birders these days than it used to, and sometimes I feel less compelled to visit the patch when I know it's been checked already, especially if I have other pressing tasks to do. Having said that though, the increased presence of other birders is great for bird-recording and rare birds being found, and I'm very happy to share the patch with others, and thankful to those who share their finds so that other people can twitch them.

Secondly, in 2015 I met someone at the lakes who for the first time in my life I felt a special connection with. The lovesickness that later followed was the worst kind of emotional pain and depression I've ever experienced and sometimes made me feel too demotivated to go out, I suffered mostly in secret and when I visited the lakes sometimes they seemed to only serve to remind me of her. Some days I just had to give Earlswood a miss and it was easier when I knew other birders had been around already. It took me until about the second half of last year to come to terms with the experience as best as possible, but I got there in the end! I should perhaps add that I don't regret meeting her, and her success in being in her chosen career was inspirational and helped motivate me into returning to uni later that year, to help me achieve similar, although doing a masters during a poor phase in my mental health has been very tough.

I haven't fully finished my masters yet but I think it's played a key part in helping me get into my chosen career. This month I made further career progress by becoming a permanent full-time graduate ecologist! If all goes well it will mean I've achieved one of my life ambitions, and I can start working towards two of my others. Once I finish uni, I have a list of other things I'd like to do, amongst them cracking on with writing my book and seeing some new places around the UK. To be honest, Earlswood alone is no longer enough to make me happy. Unfortunately all this means I'll have less time for patch-birding, but I'm certainly not giving it up and there will be even more scope for other birders to make good finds!

I'm not sure if anyone will have managed to read this far! 😆 As always, many thanks to everyone who has tweeted, emailed, texted or phoned their wildlife sightings to me. All the very best x


Sunday, 9 September 2018

Earlswood all-dayer - Autumn 2018

A total of 69 bird species were recorded during the Earlswood all-day birdwatch yesterday, our best autumn total to-date (cf. 63 in 2017, 57 in 2016, 56 in 2015). Engine Pool currently having probably the best waterbird habitat on patch in living memory helped - a combination of muddy shores, algae blooms and almost no big fish in the water meaning lots of food available.

Many thanks to John Bishop, Jon Chidwick, Janet James, Mike Jeeves, John Oates, Joe Owen, John Sirrett and Jim Winsper for taking part, especially as it rained for a large portion of the day and there is little shelter. Also many thanks to John Sirrett for collating most of the species recorded during the day, the full list in alphabetical order is as follows:

  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blackcap
  4. Blue Tit
  5. Bullfinch
  6. Buzzard
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Carrion Crow
  9. Chaffinch 
  10. Chiffchaff 
  11. Coal Tit
  12. Collared Dove
  13. Common Sandpiper
  14. Coot
  15. Cormorant
  16. Dunlin
  17. Dunnock
  18. Feral Pigeon
  19. Gadwall
  20. Goldcrest
  21. Goldfinch
  22. Great Crested Grebe
  23. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  24. Great Tit
  25. Green Woodpecker
  26. Greenfinch
  27. Grey Heron
  28. Grey Wagtail
  29. Greylag Goose
  30. Herring Gull
  31. Hobby
  32. House Martin
  33. House Sparrow
  34. Jackdaw
  35. Jay
  36. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  37. Linnet
  38. Little Grebe
  39. Little Egret
  40. Long-tailed Tit
  41. Magpie
  42. Mallard
  43. Meadow Pipit
  44. Mistle Thrush
  45. Moorhen
  46. Mute Swan
  47. Nuthatch
  48. Pied Wagtail
  49. Raven
  50. Reed Warbler
  51. Ringed Plover
  52. Robin
  53. Sand Martin
  54. Shoveler
  55. Skylark
  56. Song Thrush
  57. Snipe
  58. Sparrowhawk
  59. Starling
  60. Stock Dove
  61. Swallow
  62. Teal
  63. Treecreeper
  64. Tufted Duck
  65. Willow Warbler
  66. Woodpigeon
  67. Wren
  68. Yellow-legged Gull
  69. Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Earlswood all-dayer - Spring 2018

Team Earlswood recorded a total of 64 bird species on patch yesterday. It was a sunny, hot day with little cloud or wind, and lots of human disturbance in the usual areas, so certainly not an ideal day for picking up migrants. Highlights included our first Whinchat and Yellowhammer of the year, whilst 4 male Reed Bunting was a good count.

Some common species were notable by their absence, but 64 is actually not our worst total: previous spring all-dayers at Earlswood have finished on 56 species in 2015, 77 species in 2016 and 65 species last year. Many thanks to John Bishop, Chris Charles, Jon Chidwick, Janet James, John Oates, Joe Owen, John Sirrett and Jim Winsper for their contributions. Also many thanks to John Sirrett for putting together the following list of species recorded, in alphabetical order:

  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blackcap
  4. Blue Tit
  5. Bullfinch
  6. Buzzard
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Carrion Crow
  9. Chaffinch
  10. Chiffchaff
  11. Coal Tit
  12. Collared Dove
  13. Coot
  14. Cormorant
  15. Cuckoo
  16. Dunnock
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Goldcrest
  19. Goldfinch
  20. Great Crested Grebe
  21. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  22. Great Tit
  23. Green Woodpecker
  24. Greenfinch
  25. Grey Heron
  26. Greylag Goose
  27. Herring Gull
  28. House Sparrow
  29. Jackdaw
  30. Jay
  31. Kestrel
  32. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  33. Lesser Whitethroat
  34. Linnet
  35. Long-tailed Tit
  36. Magpie
  37. Mallard
  38. Marsh Tit
  39. Mistle Thrush
  40. Moorhen
  41. Mute Swan
  42. Nuthatch
  43. Pheasant
  44. Pied Wagtail
  45. Reed Bunting
  46. Robin
  47. Rook
  48. Sand Martin
  49. Song Thrush
  50. Sparrowhawk
  51. Starling
  52. Stock Dove
  53. Swallow
  54. Tawny Owl
  55. Treecreeper
  56. Tufted Duck
  57. Wheatear
  58. Whinchat
  59. Whitethroat
  60. Willow Warbler
  61. Woodpigeon
  62. Wren
  63. Yellowhammer
  64. Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Earlswood amphibian & reptile survey, 2016-2017

At a site in Earlswood last year, I saw a female Great Crested Newt (GCN) in a pond partially covered in ice on February 24th - a very pleasant surprise given how early it was in the year and also because the species appeared to have not been recorded at Earlswood since the 1980s! I was interested in finding out how many GCNs might be using the site, so later in the spring during sunny weather I returned and found two males and four egg-laying females at a different pond but within the same site. There was also at least 32 Smooth Newts at the two ponds on that occasion too, which was impressive! Hoping more GCNs might be present, an evening torch survey was undertaken with assistance from Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team (WART) member Louise Sherwell, but only two males and a female were found.

Smooth Newt and Great Crested Newt (John Oates)

This year, the second pond was covered with duckweed for much of the spring making observation difficult but on May 26th, with the help of Agni Arampoglou and Vicky Philpott of WART, another evening torch survey was carried out and single male GCNs were seen in both ponds at the site - a low number probably because it was late in the egg-laying season for this species. It seems that only a very small population may be present, making them vulnerable, but fortunately the site is managed specifically for wildlife.

Ponds at Clowes Wood meadow and a private farm were also surveyed this year, and although no GCNs were found at these, both held Smooth Newts and my observations elsewhere at Earlswood indicate that "Smoothies" are common and widespread in the area. Most methods of surveying for GCNs require a licence from Natural England, and I am grateful to Louise, Agni and Vicky who are all licence-holders for their help during the last two springs. I hope to get a licence for myself next year, which will hopefully make it easier to arrange surveys with local landowners and potentially allow other ponds supporting GCNs to be detected. If any local landowners have ponds that would be suitable for surveying, please get in touch.

Agni, Vicky and Tony Philp also helped me set up a reptile survey at a private site next to the lakes, using 11 sheets of corrugated roofing material supplied by Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, which I then monitored during the summer. A Smooth Newt was found basking on top of one sheet, and a young Toad was resting under another, but sadly no reptiles were found. The hope is that Slow Worms might be present as the habitat looks suitable for them, and although the sheets have now been brought indoors for the winter, the survey will recommence next year.

Common Toad under reptile refugium sheet (Matt Griffiths)

Smooth Newt on reptile refugium sheet (Matt Griffiths)


P.S. I originally wrote this for Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, and I am grateful to them for allowing me the use of their reptile refugia.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Earlswood all-dayer - Autumn 2017

A total of 63 bird species were recorded during yesterday's Autumn all-dayer at Earlswood, which was a great result considering the pleasant weather and large amount of disturbance at the lakes (cf. 57 spp. in 2016, 56 spp. in 2015). Many thanks to John Bishop, Jon Chidwick, Janet James, Mike Jeeves, John Oates, Tony Philp, John Sirrett and Jim Winsper who also took part, and extra thanks to Mr. Sirrett who collated sightings during the first half of the morning. Species list as follows, highlights in bold:

  1. Greylag Goose
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Shoveler (1)
  5. Tufted Duck
  6. Pheasant
  7. Little Grebe (at private site)
  8. Great Crested Grebe
  9. Cormorant
  10. Grey Heron
  11. Sparrowhawk
  12. Buzzard
  13. Kestrel
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Lapwing (1)
  17. Common Sandpiper (2)
  18. Black-headed Gull
  19. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  20. Herring Gull
  21. Stock Dove
  22. Wood Pigeon
  23. Collared Dove
  24. Swift (5 - quite late)
  25. Kingfisher
  26. Green Woodpecker
  27. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  28. Swallow
  29. House Martin
  30. Grey Wagtail
  31. Pied Wagtail
  32. Wren
  33. Dunnock
  34. Robin
  35. Whinchat (2)
  36. Wheatear (3)
  37. Blackbird
  38. Song Thrush
  39. Mistle Thrush
  40. Blackcap
  41. Common Whitethroat
  42. Chiffchaff
  43. Willow Warbler
  44. Goldcrest
  45. Spotted Flycatcher (1)
  46. Long-tailed Tit
  47. Blue Tit
  48. Great Tit
  49. Coal Tit
  50. Marsh Tit
  51. Nuthatch
  52. Jay
  53. Magpie
  54. Jackdaw
  55. Carrion Crow
  56. Raven
  57. Starling
  58. House Sparrow
  59. Chaffinch
  60. Greenfinch
  61. Goldfinch
  62. Linnet
  63. Bullfinch

Somehow no-one managed to find Treecreeper though!!! Bat box checks with Earlswood Wildlife Partnership were a nice distraction for 4 hours, and the session was probably the best I've attended in the six years the project has been running, as we had five species including two scarcer ones: a Leisler's Bat (for the second consecutive year) and a Whiskered/Alcathoe/Brandt's Bat (droppings collected for DNA analysis to ID later). Later on, I also had a very close encounter with a young Badger at a new sett - all in all, a great day :-)

We had no hopes of beating most of the other patches that also participated, given that they were mainly premier birding sites, but we came second-from-last. West Midlands all-dayer results were as follows:

  1. Middleton Lakes 95
  2. Belvide Reservoir 94
  3. Grimley 91
  4. Draycote Water 85
  5. Ladywalk 84
  6. Sandwell Valley 82
  7. Upton Warren 81
  8. Venus Pool 80
  9. Earlswood Lakes 63
  10. Whitemoor Haye 61

Friday, 28 July 2017

Valley Road car park to be closed

Valley Road car park is to be closed for a 6-month trial, a decision which has been made with no consultation with birders who regularly use it. It was a nasty surprise when I found out, and very disappointing, especially as two people involved in the decision know full well I regularly use the car park and had talked to me about other things in recent months, but not about this! One of the reasons for the closure is fly-tipping, but I can't see how closing it will stop that as there will still be space there for rubbish, albeit behind a fence/barrier. I just hope other birders don't feel discouraged by this like I am...

Some email correspondence below for further info.


I was very disappointed to learn that a decision has been made to close the Valley Road car park for a 6-month trial, without any consultation with users of the car park. I and other birdwatchers regularly use this car park because it is accessible early morning when the other car parks are closed, and it provides convenient close access to the causeway, which is a favoured observation point for us. The car park is also regularly used by C&RT and their contractors, especially those who cut the grass along the dam/causeway and do the monthly safety inspections. Other visitors also use it, and although it has low vehicle capacity I disagree with the statement that it is rarely full of cars as this varies depending on time of day and whether weekday or weekend - generally it is well used at weekends and during nice weather, like the other car parks but on a smaller scale. I took the photo in this link on Thursday evening last week:

With the local population set to increase as more houses are built at Tidbury Green and Dickens Heath, more car parking may be needed in the future, not less. Closing this car park may encourage anglers who currently use it to park more along Malthouse Lane, especially at night when the other car parks are closed - poignant given the possibility of night fishing being allowed in future. It also won't remove antisocial behaviour from the Earlswood area as a whole as undesirables will simply go elsewhere to the dam, other car parks such as the Reservoir pub's, or the quieter lanes. Converting the car park to a planted area also won't necessarily stop fly-tipping there, as people could still drop rubbish on the plants from the road.

Surely if people are willing to take responsibility for closing the car park, they could take responsibility for improving and maintaining it? Perhaps removable bollards could be used there? I could help remove litter if provided with a picker and bags.

Kind regards,


Hi Matt,
thank you for contacting us directly.  I am aware that you have raised this on your Twitter account.

We have worked well together in the past so I am sorry that you are against this trial.
I am also rather disappointed that you don't seem to appreciate that we have monitored and explored all the possibilities that have been open to us.

I am sending the reply that I sent to Janet James, I believe you know Janet. 

However I will add that your suggestion of removable bollards was discussed as an option but discarded as it would not stop fly tipping.
I draw your attention to the fact that C&RT were present at the meeting which made this decision and have offered some financial help towards completing the work.

Your offer of help with litter picking is appreciated but the problem is greater I'm afraid than litter picking.  When we had the meeting in Valley Rd., including District Cllr., our MP, Sgt. Bob Shaw, Ian Lane from C&Rt, Parish Council representative and Res. Assoc. representatives, we had to stand amongst men's underwear, a pair of denim jeans, bags of assorted rubbish and the debris was noted which had accumulated at the back of the site.
Depressing sight.  Residents should not have to tolerate this as I'm sure you will agree.  This of course is the tip of the iceberg of ASB associated with this parcel of land.

You mention people taking responsibility for improving and maintaining the site.  The whole point of this trial closure is because nobody will take responsibility or spend any money on it.
We can find nobody willing to take ownership, we would much prefer it if somebody came forward.
It requires money of course to make it work as a viable car park. Dumped cars set alight, overnight sleepers, fly tipping and acknowledged drug dealing don't make it very attractive for a possible responsible organisation with funding.

Yes, it may put a few more cars elsewhere but that problem already exists and has to be dealt with.
The Causeway is on the list, along with Valley Rd., for the extra police patrols which we have successfully campaigned for over the last 2 or 3 years.
I will say that we have noticed a reduction in the last 6 weeks of fly tipping.  As for the number of cars parking there, I do regularly monitor this, I'm in and out often at different times of the day, as a resident.

There are no easy answers here Matt, we did a clean up there and took away 14 bags of assorted debris, a quantity of bedding from the back of the site, and the human waste issues associated with overnight sleepers. Asbestos panels and loads of broken glass.
There are people living right behind this land.

You mention lack of consultation but, as a Res. Assoc., we do our best to find the best outcome for the local community.  The residents of Earlswood make many compromises to accommodate the visitors to the lakes.
I did speak to users of the car park, most said that if it was such a problem then close it. 

It is impossible to please everyone of course and it is a trial and will be evaluated at the end of it.


Dear Ms. James,

The decision to trial a closure of this car park was taken at a meeting attended by our MP, the police, Canal and River Trust, our District Councillor and representation from our Parish Council.
The suggestion of a six month closure came from the police.  We, as a Res. Assoc. do not have the power to take action without the full support of those people mentioned.
It was agreed unanimously by those at the meeting.
Why do we need to take this action you may ask if you have not fully acquainted yourself with all details.
We can find no trace of an owner of the land.  This means nobody takes responsibility for maintenance or management of the land.
Streetscene, at S.D.C. have been cooperative in cleaning up the area when there has been fly tipping.  This has been a regular occurrence.
We are grateful for this as the land does not belong to S.D.C. therefore they do not have to accept any responsibility towards its maintenance.

We have people sleeping there overnight with the resulting rubbish and human excreta left behind.
We have had recently a car dumped there and then set alight.  There are two mobile homes directly behind and there was great concern for their safety.
The other issue which is ongoing is the use of this area to deal drugs.  This usually takes place in the hours of darkness although not solely.
Whilst monitoring the car park, such as it is, we have noted that it is rarely full, with a maximum of eight cars, mostly there are just one or two cars throughout the day.

I would also point out that overnight fishing is illegal at Earlswood Lakes so there should be no vehicles associated with fishing in the hours of darkness.

Whilst the residents of Earlswood understand the needs of visitors they are entitled to peace and quiet in the hours of darkness and the early hours of the morning.  This is not unreasonable.

Ms. James, you suggest that we improve the area in Valley Rd., but with no ownership, who do you suggest pays for this? Do you think that we haven't explored options?
The Res. Assoc., made up of local residents, is well placed to know all the recurring problems we have accommodating the visitors to the lakes

The residents of Malthouse Lane have to put up with far too much as it is and this area in Valley Rd. attracts anti social behaviour. 
We are trying to remove these unacceptable elements not encourage them.  If you live here I'm sure you would agree with this.

I would suggest that, in the early hours of the morning, you park in the Red Lion car park.  By walking along Wood Lane you can take the path down to the lakes therefore disturbing no-one. I would also suggest approaching Tanworth in Arden Parish Council asking if the Malthouse Lane car park hours of closing in the summer months could be reviewed and a sign for the car park be reinstated.

We do not want anybody parking anywhere in the hours of darkness, residents deserve their hours of peace to live and sleep.

This is our view and we would prefer the area to be taken over and managed but this is not an option that has been taken up by any of the interested parties.