Sunday, 22 February 2009

22nd February 2009

I did my second WeBS counts at the lakes from 8:00 am to 11:10 am - I'm still spending probably far too much time at each pool, as my predecessor seems to have generally spent 20-30 minutes at each! At Terry's Pool, saw 13 Tufted Ducks and 1 Greylag Goose, as well as 1 Treecreeper, 1 or 2 Nuthatch and 1 or 2 Song Thrush around the edges. At the Mereside Fishing Pools, 2 Jays were seen and a Green Woodpecker heard. At Engine Pool, a Cormorant dropped in briefly. At Windmill Pool, saw a Kingfisher and (later) a Buzzard fly over, and 14+ Siskins north of the sailing club.
With the WeBS counts over, I decided to go to the canal feeder as I'd missed it earlier and was rewarded with a sighting of a Water Rail at c. 11:55 am, albeit about a two-second glimpse of one swimming across the water from one side of the channel to the other; I wonder if it was a different bird to the one I saw two weeks ago? For those interested in locating this species at the lakes, WeBS data that I have access to indicate that as well as Windmill Pool (where 2 were seen once), a Water Rail was seen at Terry's Pool back in December 1995.
At the Hungry Horse during the early afternoon, I saw 75 Golden Plovers, 8 Stock Doves, 2 Rooks (my first at this part of Earlswood!) and 2 Jays in the surrounding field. In another field along Norton Lane, I saw 44 Fieldfares, 7 Redwings, 1 Mistle Thrush and 8 Starlings.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. I also saw 2 Skylarks foraging on the ground in a certain field where I saw 1 or more previously.

Friday, 20 February 2009

20th February 2009

Apologies for the lateness of these last three posts, if anyone follows this blog closely. I went on my bike to Earlswood again during the afternoon. A large flock of Redwings and Fieldfares were seen in a field near Earlswood Railway Station (the same area where Reg saw them on the 15th). A Bullfinch was heard next to the station, and another was heard near the M42 along Forshaw Heath Lane. At the sewage treatment works I saw 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtails, 1 Robin, 1 Redwing and 8+ Chaffinches, and a Goldcrest nearby. Passing the lakes, I saw an adult Mute Swan (newly arrived I assume) and 5 Tufted Ducks at Windmill Pool, and 3 more Tufted Ducks at Engine Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 19 February 2009

19th February 2009

I cycled to Earlswood again today, during the morning and early afternoon. In the field surrounding the Hungry Horse, I managed to count 121 Golden Plovers, 122 Lapwings, 5 Stock Doves and 15 Carrion Crows; and 1 Buzzard nearby. 3 more Lapwings were seen in a meadow further away. At the lakes, I didn't visit Terry's Pool but did see 20+ Great Crested Grebes on the other two pools, as well as 4 Jays along Valley Road. Rooks were seen in fields at Waring's Green again, though this time I counted 10+ (I would be interested to know if there's a rookery near here). My best sighting today though was a Skylark (first definite sighting of one!) performing its song-flight over a field in the area; there were possibly two other Skylarks with it but I couldn't be certain. I also saw a female Indian Peafowl (!) in front gardens along Rumbush Lane, though she eventually jumped onto someone's garage and moved towards their back garden so I assume this was not a feral bird.

Surrounding areas
From now on, I hope to report on here anything notable that I see at areas near Earlswood, because the full title of this blog has always been "Birds of Earlswood ...and surrounding areas", yet I've hardly ever reported the birds that I see in areas adjacent to Earlswood. I live in Tidbury Green, one such area, and quite often see bird species that would get a mention on this blog. In the last 4-5 months, off the top of my head these would include Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Common Pheasant, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Raven and Brambling; today during the morning, 2 Goldcrests and 1 Coal Tit visited my garden, whilst 1 Stock Dove, 1 Collared Dove, 3 Dunnocks, 1 Song Thrush, 4 Starlings (usually just one or two seen), 4-5 Greenfinches, 3 Siskins (my first definite sighting of this species here this winter!) and 2 Bullfinches were seen or heard in surrounding gardens.
I occasionally visit nearby Dickens Heath "village", which was once mainly greenbelt farmland but has now been redeveloped, to look at the "nature reserve" and a few ponds there, but Siskins and Bullfinches are about the most notable birds I've seen there; however, in the 1990s Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a Hoopoe were reported seen there, and as a young boy I believe I saw a Lapwing with 2 chicks in an area now lost to houses.
Reg The Birder (other main contributor of this blog) also lives near Earlswood at Wythall and often reports on his blog what he sees in that part of Worcestershire. Wythall is most notable for being the only place in the West Midland Bird Club recording area where a Lesser Grey Shrike has occurred, in 1987.
Anyway, these settlements aside, one area that's good for birdwatching is Blythe Valley Park, situated less than 1.5 miles ENE of Earlswood Lakes at Junction 4 of the M42. Apart from the buildings and roads, the park consists of small pools, reedbeds, grassland and woodland, and has a bird feeding station and a hide that overlooks one of the larger pools. Quail and Wood Lark are two particularly notable bird species that have been seen at this wildlife haven in recent years, and some wildlife sightings up to 2007 can be viewed here. Today, after Earlswood, I visited this park for only the second time (my first time this year) though 2 Little Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 22+ Goldfinches and 1 Reed Bunting were my best sightings there.
M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

17th February 2009

During a brief visit to New Fallings Coppice during the afternoon, I saw 2 Stock Doves among a small flock of Woodpigeons in a field near Earlswood Railway Station.
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 16 February 2009

15th February 2009 [Reg The Birder]

I also visited the lakes on Sunday 15 February 2009, arriving at Terry's Pool at around 9:15am having made my way through a very muddy New Fallings Coppice. Terry's Pool held one grey heron, plus some long-tailed tit, a song thrush, several mallard, one male goosander and three tufted duck. A few black-headed gulls perched on the ice were checked for scarcer species to no avail.

Two greenfinches were noted in the trees that divide Terry's Pool and Engine Pool, and a cormorant flew over. Seconds later, a flock of about half a dozen small birds headed northwest from the approximate direction of Windmill Pool. At least one of the birds was a siskin, as I suspect the rest of the flock were. A couple of pied wagtail were spotted as I headed down the path towards Windmill Pool. In total, I estimated that there were about 10 great crested grebes on Engine Pool. A herring gull was heard, but only seen fleetingly.

The path around Windmill Pool was especially muddy, particularly on the area bordering Warren Farm. A single greylag goose flew in from the south, accompanied by a Canada goose, but neither were located later on. A couple of redwings were seen in the grounds of Warren Farm. There were probably a further 10 great crested grebes on Windmill Pool, plus more mallards, tufted ducks and black-headed gulls. Sailing commenced at around 9:30am, which inevitably caused some disturbance to the wildlife.

There was no sign of any common gulls, shoveler or pochard as reported recently. The muddy paths around Windmill Pool made any semblance of good fieldcraft difficult, but I didn't see or hear any water rail.

As I left the lakes, I noted at least 10 meadow pipits in Manor Farm's paddocks, and three nuthatches further down the road on the left hand side.

Travelling home, the fields adjacent to Earlswood Station held a mixed flock of redwing and fieldfare, consisting of at least 100 birds. Earlier in the morning, a common buzzard had been spotted in this general area. Further redwings were also in the fields of Langabeer Farm, along with two mistle thrush.

Other sightings consisted of common passerines, corvids and the occasional moorhen or coot.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

15th February 2009

Got my bicycle out for only the second time in recent years, to go birding on it at Earlswood for the first time and managed to cover much of the Earlswood area from the early morning to the early afternoon. My first good sighting of the day was a Meadow Pipit over Norton Lane near the Hungry Horse. Due to mud and the risk of a puncture, I didn't go all around the lakes but did see a distant male Goosander at Terry's Pool. Along Malthouse Lane, I saw 10 Greenfinches and 4+ Collared Doves, as well as a Raven at c. 9:25 am that I reckon was flying north or northeast over Windmill Pool again.
Earlswood Sewage Treatment Works was my next stop, a place which I suspect few, if any, birders are aware of and have visited. I myself have only ever visited this sewage works on one previous occasion (a few months ago), during which I only passed its southern side but still saw a Grey Wagtail in the vicinty; little of interest to the birder can be seen from the southern side. However, this time I looked at the site from its western side and was able to see its three filter beds. On and around these beds, I saw 2 Pied Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Goldcrest and a few other birds, but nothing exceptional; definitely a site that I'll be keeping my eye on though. I also saw 2 Stock Doves and possibly another Goldcrest nearby.
Back up Malthouse Lane and having only just turned into Springbrook Lane, I saw what might've been a Raven fly over at c. 11:15 am, quite high up and silent. Also along Springbrook Lane, near its junction with Earlswood Common, I saw 13 Starlings and 19 Collared Doves (before today, I'd never seen more than two of this species together!). I eventually reached Waring's Green, an area of Earlswood that I've never birdwatched before, and saw 6 Rooks (an Earlswood tick for me!) in a field along Lime Kiln Lane.
Whilst cycling along Shutt Lane, I noticed a Rowan tree in someone's front garden with just a few berries left on it - I wonder if the birds that had eaten the berries were Waxwings, which have been recorded at Earlswood during past years. As the tree is no more than 400 metres away from the lakes, I really wish I'd known about this tree a few months ago (Argh!). Other birds observed in the Earlswood area included 6 Lapwings in a meadow and 40+ House Sparrows along various roads.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 8 February 2009

8th February 2009

Went to Earlswood during the early morning and left during the early afternoon, and had one of my best birding trips to the lakes ever! My first decent sightings of the day were a Bullfinch at Little Dickens Wood and a Rook flying over a nearby field, though these birds were just outside the Earlswood area. Walking along Rumbush Lane from Cleobury Lane to Wood Lane, I saw a Goldcrest, a House Sparrow (I usually only hear this species!) and 2 Starlings (one of which took some nesting material under the roof of a building!?). I also saw 2 Treecreepers in trees near Earlswood Methodist Church. In New Fallings Coppice, 2 Nuthatches and 8+ Blue Tits were the most notable birds seen, whilst the drumming of a woodpecker could be heard.
Terry's Pool was almost entirely frozen over, with few waterbirds present. However, the pool's sides were alive with passerines, including another Treecreeper, another Nuthatch, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Chaffinches, 3+ Goldfinches, 3 Greenfinches, just 2 Siskins and 2 Bullfinches. I also heard a Green Woodpecker call from near the Mereside Fishing Pools.
I met a birder who I've met on previous occasions, and he told me that he'd seen a Common Gull at Engine Pool. Just to digress slightly, one of the other things he told me was that he hadn't seen any redpolls around the lakes this winter (me neither, but I believe one was seen late last year in the scrubland south of Windmill Pool) - anyone observed any recently? Anyway, at Engine Pool, sure enough there was an adult Common Gull there (lifer for me, believe it or not!), and a little later I saw 2 adults (possibly 3 in total) there. Although I don't always pay Earlswood's gull visitors as much attention as I probably should do, I'm pretty sure that I've never seen anything like a Common Gull at the lakes before since late 2007. This leads me to the conclusion that this species is a scarce visitor to Earlswood. Among the other birds seen at Engine Pool were 1 Shoveler, 16 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Herons and 1 Kingfisher; and I had a close encounter with a Kestrel along the pool's northwest side.
I moved on to Windmill Pool, still pleased with my first lifer at Earlswood in ages; little did I know things were gonna get even better! Windmill Pool seemed to be a little less frozen than the other two, perhaps because the sailing boats may have been out before I got there, which would also explain why almost all of the waterbirds were resting amongst the vegetation on the western side. With nothing noteworthy visible, I thought the Common Gulls would be my "sighting of the day". But as I was trying to count some Moorhens in a horse paddock, which was almost entirely covered with snow, there at the edge of the paddock on snowless ground next to the hedge was a Water Rail (lifer!). I couldn't believe it, even though I know this species has been seen at the lakes in the past, because I thought this species preferred reedbeds yet there it was on short grass, though it did keep close to the hedge. Then, having barely been able to see the rail through my bins and get over the shock, I heard a few slightly familiar calls and turned to see what I believe was a Raven flying over Windmill Pool, heading northeast. Though I've probably seen/heard Ravens before at Earlswood, this was the first time that I was reasonably sure I'd seen one. The Raven passed over quickly, but I was able to watch the Water Rail for about 20 minutes, sometimes without obstruction, before I had to head home.
Two lifers in a day - that hardly ever happens to me! If only all visits to Earlswood were like today's...
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

4th February 2009

I went to Earlswood during the late afternoon. After all the snow we've had recently, much of the ground was covered with the stuff but the lakes didn't have much ice covering them. The most notable birds at the lakes were 1 Pochard and 10+ Tufted Ducks. An unusally large number of birds were seen at the horse pastures near the canal feeder along Valley Road, including 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Meadow Pipits, 9+ Redwings, 10 Starlings, 2 Chaffinches, 6+ Goldfinches, 4 Greenfinches and 2 Siskins.
M.P. Griffiths