Thursday, 29 December 2011

Seven duck species

At the lakes today were seven species of duck. Apart from the usual Mallard, Tufted Duck and a species that shall not me named(!), there was a pair of Mandarin Ducks at Terry's Pool along with the long-staying 2 Gadwalls and Shoveler, with 2 Teals at Windmill Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Two patch ticks in two days!

Three uncommon bird species that I'd had in mind to target seeing at Earlswood next year were Woodcock, Curlew and Peregrine Falcon. Woodcock is one of my bogey birds, as a number of other observers have reported seeing them at Earlswood in recent years, but all I'd managed was a sighting of one in flight at nearby Blythe Valley CP and even then I'd have missed it if it hadn't been pointed out to me. Curlew is another bird I've had rotten luck with, as although I've seen them several times in the midlands and even found the rarer Whimbrel at the lakes this year, I've had three Curlew-/Whimbrel-type birds fly over which I've been unable to ID to species. And with the Peregrine, there were several previous documented records, so it seemed to be a bird I'd eventually encounter.

Well, on Christmas Day I went to the lakes a little earlier than usual to avoid the inevitable crowds, and standing at the causeway at c.8:50 am, bingo: an adult Peregrine Falcon flew southeast over Engine Pool and the Valley Road area. Then next day, Boxing Day, I was walking through a marsh when a pigeon-sized bird flew over, apparently coming from the nearby scrubland, and I got my bins on it as it flew over the southeast corner of Windmill Pool and saw that it was the bird I'd been most wanting to add to my patch list - a Woodcock! Two patch ticks in two days, putting me on 138 species for my Earlswood life list and 127 for my Earlswood year list. Very pleased!

I've added 18 species to my patch life list this year, but very much doubt I'll add more than half this many in 2012 - new species just get harder and harder to find. Curlew is of course now the species I most want to tick, but I'll need excellent views or better yet have one calling. I'm also expecting to see Red Kite one of these days, as they expand their breeding range in the midlands further.

M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Just wishing everyone who reads this a happy Christmas! Main birds of note at the lakes today were the 2 Gadwall and single Shoveler still present at Terry's Pool, though strangely I couldn't find the Gadwall yesterday. As all regulars to the lakes will have noticed, the water levels at Engine and Windmill have risen rapidly in the past couple of weeks. The submerging of the "mudflats" has meant the Teal flock left a while ago, but all of the submerged plants on the shores seem to be attracting a large number of Mallards, which in turn might bring in something interesting.
M.P. Griffiths


One of the Gadwall, 21/12/2011 (© Tony Philp)

Medal for Clowes Wood warden

Ron Hill, warden of Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice SSSI, is the recipient of the 2011 Christopher Cadbury medal. Read more here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Little Gull again, plus a year-tick

With lots of long shifts at the warehouse I work at and not many days off recently, what with the busy run-up to xmas, I've missed visiting Earlswood some days this month. Most unusual for me these days, was only being able to make one 20-minute visit to the lakes in a period of five days - very depressing! Please get in touch if you've seen anything interesting at Earlswood recently, as I could easily have missed it, and many thanks to those who have reported their sightings to me already.

Terry's Pool has been more productive than usual recently. Firstly Robin Moore alerted me to an interesting duck there, which is likely to have been the female Mandarin Duck that I saw in the same area today. Then Jon Chidwick texted me about two Gadwall there, a species I've been waiting all year to see at the lakes for my patch year-list, but alas it was a day that I was working a 6am-5pm shift so definitely no chance of twitching! Not expecting them to still be there based on past experiences, I managed to see them (two males) during a brief visit yesterday, my 125th bird species seen at Earlswood this year! Even more surprisingly, they were still present for a third day today when I did this month's WeBS counts, and also seen by Tony Philp. With rain forecast tonight there's a fair chance they'll still be there tomorrow. Also seen at Terry's Pool today was the long-staying male Shoveler and a flyover Mistle Thrush, with a male Common Pheasant showing briefly on the path along the south side of Windmill Pool. Another surprise yesterday was a first-winter Little Gull flying around the lakes, viewed from the causeway, with rather worn black markings on the wings and tail, which I think was a different bird to the one seen on the 10th; not certain though as the first bird was not seen as well given fading light so tricky to compare, and as I said I've missed visiting some days, when a bird wandering the local area might have made other visits. Interestingly a report of Little Gull came from nearby Bartley Reservoir today, but I don't know the details.

M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

St. Patrick's Church

Back in the autumn, St. Patrick's Church (along Salter Street) was featured in the latest series of the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" programme, in the episode featuring artist Tracey Emin. The churchyard (which some of you will know I am gardener of) was shown briefly, and it was really nice to see something I'm so familiar with on the telly. Unfortunately I forgot to put anything about it on here, and actually almost missed watching it myself. A clip can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0161hmn, and hopefully the full episode including the local scenes will be put on the iPlayer when it's no doubt repeated.

Sadly I'll be finishing working at the churchyard at the end of this month, due to lack of time and other reasons, but I have really enjoyed working there and thank the churchwardens for taking me on.

Below is an article from a recent issue of the local church parish magazine, updated and amended, by Tony Philp.

Matt

------------------------------------------

GOD’S ACRE – ST. PATRICK’S CHURCHYARD CONSERVATION PROJECT

The term ‘God’s Acre’, which is often now used to describe conservation areas in churchyards, probably has its origin in a poem of the same title written by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow in 1841 – around the same time as the first burials at St. Patrick's. Ours though, is much more than an acre (2.15 to be precise), as Matt Griffiths, the gardener can testify, but it is proving to be a real ‘living sanctuary’, providing a refuge for a rich diversity of plants and animals.

For the past two years, both old and new parts of the graveyard have been sympathetically maintained to allow wild flowers to flourish, with selected areas being left un-mown until the plants have seeded, whilst providing food and shelter for insects and birds.

Interpretation boards have been made and strategically placed around the site, pinpointing what can be seen and giving information on particular plants currently in flower. These have created much interest and have been appreciated by many visitors to the graveyard.

So far this year, over 50 different wildflowers have been identified, with fine displays of primrose, bluebell and wood anemone in spring; ox-eye daisy and hawkweed in early summer; and in early autumn, tansy, teasel and knapweed.

In May, Dr. Adam Bates came to tell us the results of his bee survey and confirmed that out of all the churchyards that he surveyed, ours was outstanding in providing an ideal habitat for bees. He also presented us with two ‘Bee Hotels’ which have been placed on the south facing wall of the graveyard and have already been colonised by a number of solitary bees.

Insect life abounds and observations kept by myself and Matt over the past few months have recorded 16 different species of butterfly, with the grassland species of ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper and small skipper being the most numerous.

Recently, with the help of Earlswood Wildlife Partnership (who lent us the traps) we have begun a survey of moths in the churchyard. It is amazing how beautiful and numerous these mainly nocturnal insects are. To date we’ve caught and identified 28 different species, bearing some intriguing names like Hebrew character, ruby tiger and antler moth. A few, too, have been seen on the wing during daylight hours, including the five-spot burnet, cinnabar and chimney sweeper – all found among the grassland.


Birds are increasingly attracted to the site by the diversity of habitat and this year alone we have recorded 28 different species, with blackbird, robin, blue-tit, wren, long-tailed tit and wood pigeon all nesting, summer visitors like the blackcap and whitethroat singing in the hedgerow and a rare lesser-spotted woodpecker passing through.

We’ve yet to survey the area for amphibians, reptiles and mammals, but have already encountered the common frog, toad, rabbit, bank vole and grey squirrel during general maintenance work on the site and it is clear that the bat population is quite high – something that we intend to investigate further with the aid of bat detectors that will enable us to identify the species from the frequencies and sound patterns of their calls.

All the observation and research carried out this year has confirmed beyond doubt that maintaining parts of our churchyard as a conservation area has been beneficial, not only to the wildlife, but to many of the visitors tending graves in the churchyard, who now, often pause to take in the peaceful surroundings of a nature reserve and observe the wildlife at close quarters.

If you would like to take in this experience or help with surveys, feel free to contact me or Matt for a personal tour, or just come and sit on one of the benches in the middle of the churchyard on a sunny day and listen, look and marvel at the nature around you.

Tony Philp
(All photos taken in the churchyard this year) © TRP

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Little Gull

It was good to do some birding this evening after having done none during the previous two days due to long work hours. I thought it'd be yet another quiet visit, save for 4 Lesser Redpolls and a male Shoveler at Terry's Pool, but heading back to the causeway I got a call from "Midlands Birder" (thanks mate) saying there was a first-winter Little Gull resting with other gulls at Windmill Pool, so a bit of running got me there quickly and I enjoyed decent views of it in flight (despite fading light - it was late evening) over Windmill then Engine for a few minutes, before it disappeared towards Terry's. I think this is the fourth occurrence of this species at Earlswood this year, following the birds that visited in the spring, and the first ever winter record. It shows that the pre-roost gathering of mainly Black-headed Gulls, usually congregating at Windmill Pool each evening in winter, is worth checking for something unusual.
M.P. Griffiths

Update: A video of the gull now uploaded by MB below.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Short-eared Owl

Yesterday, me and Jon Chidwick saw what we think was a Short-eared Owl briefly circling over Windmill Pool before vanishing somewhere to the east/northeast at ~9:45 am. My impression was that it was a migrant getting its bearings. Amazingly this seems to be only the fourth owl species reported at Earlswood, so perhaps another area first! It would be worth checking areas of rough grassland nearby, maybe Blythe Valley Country Park?

Other birds seen this month include a small long-staying flock of Teals currently favouring the "mudflats" (which are disappearing) at Windmill Pool.

M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Night Heron update

Don't worry, the Night Heron hasn't been re-sighted! I finally got a reply from one particular zoo in Staffordshire, after emailing them for the third time asking if they'd had any of their Night Herons escape this year and it seems they haven't. I'd heard rumours of herons and storks escaping from there earlier this year, which as you can imagine got me worried! Elsewhere in the midlands, Twycross Zoo and Cotswold Wildlife Park were quick to confirm that none of theirs had escaped, whilst I don't think any other public collections in the midlands keep this species. Therefore, I'm very pleased to report that there's no evidence to suggest the Earlswood bird was anything other than a genuine wild bird. :-)
Matt

Friday, 23 September 2011

Ruff at Earlswood

There was a juvenile Ruff at Engine Pool today, favouring the mudflats near the reed islands but flying short distances when disturbed - an area that I'd least expect a wader to frequent given the level of disturbance there, but according to locals two waders had been present in this particular spot for at least the past week, and I'm told there was a Ruff report on Birdguides from the lakes in the last few days. Although grateful to have seen today's bird (my 135th species at Earlswood), I feel dead gutted and incompetent to have probably missed two birds. In my defence I've not been able to spend much time birding since getting another job last week, and so have mainly been checking Engine Pool from the dam (opposite end) and concentrating on Windmill. Since this is an important record, being only the fourth Earlswood occurrence that I'm aware of, I'd like to document it as best as I can for my book, so if anyone has any further details please email me. I'd particularly like to hear from the birder who put the report on Birdguides. Dave and Jackie, please see my reply to your comment in previous post.
Matt

P.S. The Barnacle Goose and female Mandarin Duck reappeared at Windmill Pool today.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

11th September 2011

Whilst standing at the Malthouse Lane causeway with Jon Chidwick this morning, I was very pleased to pick out a Barnacle Goose flying in with Canada Geese to Windmill Pool, where they landed. It was still present late this evening, and I think it roosted with the other geese at Engine Pool. This is yet another scarce waterfowl species that I've managed to add to my patch list this year, following on from the Shelduck and Garganey. It seems to be only the sixth record for Earlswood, the last record being a single bird on March 31st 1986. It also brings my patch year list up to 120 species, which is the same number that my patch life list stood at at the end of last year!!! What a great birding year 2011 is proving to be at Earlswood!

Also seen this morning were 2 Common Sandpipers at Windmill Pool, and a total of 28 Siskins flew southwest over Engine Pool in two flocks. A Yellow Wagtail was heard flying over too.

M.P. Griffiths

Moth and Bat night

Here are the Anabat recording results from Earlswood Lakes (SP1073 & SP1074) Saturday 3rd September 2011, 8.45pm to 10.51pm:

Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus = 293 sonograms

Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus = 77 sonograms

50khz Pip (Com or Sop) = 138 sonograms

Nathusius Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii = 2 sonograms (peak frequency 40.3khz and 40.0khz)(needs validation)

Noctule Nyctalus noctula = 4 sonograms

Daubenton’s Bat Myotis daubentonii = 21 sonograms (Probable, but with good observations to support)

Myotis spp = 11 sonograms

Brown Long-eared Bat Plecotus auritus = 1 sonograms

I challenge anyone to find a more active site for Soprano Pipistrelles! And the possible Nathusius! I recorded a pip here last year at 40khz too, I believe that common pips only get down to 41khz? The foraging is that good over the water bodies here that I am not surprised that a Nathusius might be tempted to make this a stopping point, we will have to scrutinise all the Pips found in any of the bat boxes now.

There were also larger Myotis flying across the main causeway but I have not picked up enough recordings to have been able to pin them down to a species, there was nothing this time to suggest Natterers, but we missed most of the woodland out this time.

Regards,

Paul Wilkinson (06/09/2011)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Moth & bat walk

Sorry for the short notice, but a moth and bat walk has been organised by the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership for tomorrow:

Saturday 3rd September Moth & Bat night - meet at 8:30 pm Malthouse Lane Car Park. Come along for an informal short Bat Walk and to see how a moth trap works.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Kayak fishing update

It is with much relief that I found out today that British Waterways have decided to cancel the kayak fishing trial at Terry's Pool with immediate effect, and crucially that:
"The Earlswood site will not be considered for Kayak angling in the future."
Many thanks to everyone who contacted British Waterways with their comments on this issue, and a big thank you to British Waterways for coming to the right decision.
Matt

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

European Bat weekend at Earlswood Lakes

Thanks to all those that turned out last night (32 people signed in) to witness a spectacular storm, a lightning bolt that must have blown the tern-raft out of the lake and got the local Tawny Owls talking, and a bit of rain to make sure we went home wet. Oh, and quite a few bats performed for us too.

The evenings tally on the Anabat recordings were:

Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus = 173 sonograms

Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus = 19 sonograms

50khz Pip (Com or Sop) = 10 sonograms

Noctule Nyctalus noctula = 3 sonograms

Daubenton’s Bat Myotis daubentonii = 6 sonograms (probable)

Natterer’s Bat Myotis nattereri = 1 sonogram (probable)

Myotis spp = 3 sonograms

Brown Long-eared Bat Plecotus auritus = 2 sonograms

As you can see, the Soprano Pipistrelle is by far the commonest and would have been the species flying around our heads and dive bombing towards our faces all around the lakes (non caught up in hair though).

The Myotis are a difficult group to separate from calls and I have given it my best guess, only checking the bat boxes will allow us confirmation of which Myotis we have on the site.

Thanks again,

Paul Wilkinson (27/08/2011)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

More on Kayak fishing

I've just found the website of the kayak fisherman I saw at Terry's Pool on August 4th, with his account of the day here.

You can see the boat this guy is using, a bright orange one just perfect for scaring birds with. He also writes that his blood was boiling after loosing four big fish. Well my blood is really boiling at the thought of three of those fish with hook and line still in their gobs, which will no doubt cause further problems to wildlife once dislodged or the fish die, plus line was caught in "weed" - problems caused by just one fisherman here but all too easily exacerbated by others. Also the big fish were only carp, which can be caught at comparable size and more easily at the other two pools without needing a boat.

Most concerning though is the choice of wording in the last paragraph about the Angling Trust "securing" Terry's Pool for kayak fishing.

Reading this account, I realise that kayak fishing is going to cause even more problems:
  • Terry's Pool has many overhanging trees and aquatic plants that fishing line and hooks can get caught on, which if left are a major threat to wildlife, birds especially which I've seen suffering or killed by this on numerous occasions. Also, who would tidy up fishing line and hooks left behind - the volunteers (who do all litter-picking) don't have a boat.
  • I suspect one of the main causes of Earlswood's blue-green algae problem is the large amount of groundbait that is put into them, because it is more of a problem at Engine Pool and Windmill Pool - the amount of groundbait I've seen thrown in by some people is staggering! I can't say I've noticed anywhere near as much algae at Terry's Pool, but that could change if the amount of fishing increases.
In my previous post on this subject, I neglected to mention the tern raft, which of course will have no chance of being used if even just one kayak is allowed on the water in the 2012 breeding season.

I urge anyone opposed to this to write a letter to British Waterways.

email: enquiries.westmidlands@britishwaterways.co.uk

British Waterways, Peels Wharf, Lichfield Street, Fazeley, Tamworth, B78 3QZ.


Matt

25th August 2011

Excellent morning, with an eclipse male Garganey feeding with Mallards on the "mudflats" at Engine Pool for about an hour before being disturbed and flying to Terry's Pool, where still present at 8:50 am. Being the first wild individual I've seen, this was a lifer for me! Also the first Earlswood record I'm aware of since 2003, and another example of how important Terry's Pool is as a refuge for birds disturbed at the other pools.

Also seen were the female-type Mandarin Duck at Terry's Pool; plus a Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sandpipers, 4 Teals and a Greylag Goose at Windmill Pool.

M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

St Patrick’s Church open day

St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street

“A striking & unexpected accent in a wholly rural landscape” (Quote from English Heritage)

Earlier this year, St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street achieved Grade II*listed status. The beautiful Victorian church, designed by Bidlake, had finally been recognised as the very special place it is; there are intricate carvings, ornate decorations, stunning murals and a wonderful ceiling.

To celebrate this, recently, there have been three open days allowing many people to come in and see the treasures for themselves. This will be repeated on:

Bank Holiday Monday 29th August

Visitors will be welcome between 10am-4pm. There will be

· accompanied tours

·
a chance to sit quietly

·
the Millennium Tapestry to see

·
books for sale

·
refreshments to enjoy


Tony Philp

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Kayak fishing at Terry's Pool‏

On the 4th of this month, I was surprised to see a man in a kayak fishing on Terry's Pool and assumed this was just a one-off instance of rule-breaking, as I knew for a fact fishing was only allowed along the side adjoining Engine Pool. However, two days later I found a Shoveler at Terry's Pool, then all of a sudden it flew off rapidly with a few Mallards, leaving the lakes. Walking round a bend I found the reason - there was a kayak with a fisherman in it again, and he was fishing next to one of the Amphibious Bistort beds.

It's only during the past few days that I've found out what is happening here. British Waterways are allowing Kayak fishing at Terry's Pool for a trial period of 12 months, after which they will review the situation. This trial has been started (3 months ago???) apparently with no consultation with anyone local, and certainly not with the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership.

A significant number of lakes in Warwickshire have been spoilt for birds due to the introduction or intensification of fishing, and there is bird count data to prove this. Naturally I am very concerned about the effects these kayaks will have on the waterbirds that breed at Terry's Pool - Great Crested Grebes, Coots, the Mute Swan pair and other species. Terry's Pool is also used as a refuge by visiting and resident birds, which are often disturbed by activities at the other two pools. My other concerns are damage to the Amphibious Bistort clumps, which are favoured feeding areas for waterbirds and I assume the fish too, and soil erosion on the banks used to access the water, since there is no slipway. There is also the danger of people seeing the kayaks on the water and going on the water with their own boats, homemade rafts, etc. which could be dangerous for them.

I appreciate that British Waterways is due to become a new charity next year, and will need to look for more ways to earn money from its waters, but this is a very bad idea in my opinion, for wildlife and human reasons.

If you have any comments on this please leave a comment on this post or send them to my email address, and I'll pass them on to the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership, who'll need to receive them before August 26th.

Matt

Warwickshire Bat Group walk

The Warwickshire Bat Group have organised a guided bat walk at Earlswood lakes and Clowes Wood next week, on Friday 26th, 8:45 - 10:00 pm, at the Wood Lane car park near the engine house. From their website:

European Bat Weekend! Go bat spotting at Earlswood Lakes on a guided walk with British Waterways ecologist Paul Wilkinson. A great chance to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat and find out more about them. Wear outdoor clothing and sensible shoes. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the car park For more information, call Paul Wilkinson on 07919 552527. Grid ref: SP 11257438 Postcode: B94 6AD

(http://www.jwaller.co.uk/batgroup/bat_diary.asp)

Friday, 5 August 2011

Summer 2011

Yet another long-overdue post! Hard to believe that it's over two months now since the Night Heron was at the lakes, lastly on the evening of May 28th. Since then I've seen a number of other good birds at Earlswood, not nearly as rare but they're making for another great patch year. As expected with the low water levels exposing much lakebed, a number of waders have visited the lakes during July, signaling the start of the autumn passage, and so far I've recorded a Whimbrel, three lots of Black-tailed Godwit (only two previous Earlswood records!!!), Oystercatcher, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper (up to 12+ reported!) and Lapwing. In all 14 wader species have been recorded in the area this year to date, of which Woodcock is the only one I've failed to connect with; I'm expecting Greenshank to occur, but would most like to find Wood Sandpiper as it'd be the first since 1949! The only problem is that many people are walking on the lakes' beaches and scaring things off, with many of the waders disappearing by 8:00 am, and hardly any seen since the summer holidays started. One female dog-walker particularly annoys me, always allowing her Alsatians to run off lead and chase birds from the shore, and on one occasion I believe these dogs caused a few nesting Great Crested Grebes and Coots at Windmill Pool to desert as their nests were dangerously close to the falling water's edge at the time. Those two species haven't had a good year at the lakes this year, but Mallard have had an excellent one with many broods seen.

Also frustrating in the last few days have been a couple of sightings that I've had to let slip: 2 possible Crossbills over, which would've been the first record at Earlswood in over 100 years, and a probable Gadwall, which otherwise would've been the first recorded this year. However, I was very pleased to find a juvenile Shelduck at Windmill Pool one morning, which was my 130th bird species at Earlswood, and in the last few days a female/juvenile Mandarin Duck has been present, the well-watched and long-staying male being last seen in eclipse plumage early last month. From memory, other particularly notable sightings in the last few months have been a Little Grebe, the odd Hobby, up to 2 Little Owls, a Yellow Wagtail and 2 pairs of Spotted Flycatchers. I've recorded 115 bird species at Earlswood so far this year, already smashing my previous personal record of 113 that I set last year, and the best months of the autumn passage are still to come - very exciting! This is out of a total of 122 bird species recorded at Earlswood so far this year.

Earlier today I walked all the way around Terry's Pool for the first time since late May - the path improvement work along the northern sides of the pool appear to be finished and I think they've done a good job. I was particularly pleased to see that the path has been raised so that damage to tree roots has been kept to a minimum. Already quite a few walkers were using it, which from my point of view and the birds' could be a bad thing, as disturbance here could now increase. We shall see...

M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Warwickshire Flora Group field meeting

Note the following Warwickshire Flora Group field meeting is being held at Earlswood this Saturday:

Saturday 28 May - Clowes Wood and Earlswood Lakes

The reserve is about 5 miles south of Solihull. Please park in small reserve car park at SP101743 in Wood Lane or carefully outside in the road. Ron Hill, the warden, will lead us around the site.

Targets: rare sedges, Wood Horsetail, Heath Spotted Orchid, Lily of the Valley, Bitter Vetch, Marsh Violet, Northern Yellow-cress.

Meeting will start at 10 a.m. and finish at about 3.30 p.m. or when everybody has had enough.

Please bring sandwiches and drinks. Walking will be limited to a couple of miles.

Weekday meetings will start at 10 a.m. and finish at about 1 p.m.

You do not need to be a member of the BSBI or anything else to come along. You can be a beginner or an expert, or just interested in identifying and finding plants. Please bring field guides and a lens if you have one.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Night Heron present for ninth day

The Night Heron put in a very late appearance yesterday at 9:15 pm, flying over Windmill Pool towards the canal. I was therefore pleased to see it fly over the lakes from that direction at 7:00 am this morning, hopefully having just had a good night's feeding. There's a chance it may leave Earlswood tonight or tomorrow night, as the next two nights are forecast to be clear according to www.xcweather.co.uk

A Garden Warbler appears to be holding territory along the west side of Windmill Pool at the moment.

Matt

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Night Heron present for a week

The Night Heron was seen flying over the lakes this morning at 6:40 am and this evening at 8:30 pm, both times viewed from the causeway by patient birders. How long will it stay? Here's Dave Hutton's excellent photos of the little stunner:

Adult Night Heron, Terry's Green, 18/05/2011 (all © Dave Hutton)

Note that one of the head plume feathers is visible in photo 3.

Not much else of note was around today, though a Garden Warbler singing along the railway in Clowes Wood was my first in those woods. Nearby, saw a Cinnabar moth at the Railway Scrubland (my first for a couple of years).

Matt

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Night Heron still in area

Arrived at the lakes this afternoon after a long rest, and was directed to a rather confiding Ringed Plover at Windmill Pool by Jim Winsper - another wader patch tick! Pete Walkden took some excellent shots of it which I'll try to put on here soon. It was also great to see that the Engine Pool island has just started to appear today, so it could be a brilliant year for waders at Earlswood - 10 species recorded so far! With five tern species and perhaps Earlswood's rarest bird ever found, 2011 looks set to be a smashing year for the patch.

The Night Heron was seen again this afternoon, and twice flew over Springbrook Lane, lastly at 8:55 pm which was the only time I saw it. So far the bird has been flushed just a few times, but I'm concerned that it could be excessively disturbed, so please search areas where it might be flushed after 5 pm to a) let the bird rest and b) allow more birders a better chance of seeing it. Around another 20-30 birders saw it today, and I think most of the people who've made more than one attempt have now seen it.

Matt

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Night Heron makes a third showing

Great afternoon! Night Heron was refound late afternoon by Mike Doughty in roughly the same area of the Spring Brook Scrubland where it was last seen perched yesterday late evening. After visiting Windmill Pool it flew off, where by an amazing stroke of luck it was seen flying over Springbrook Lane by Richard Harbird as he was driving along there! He located it in a tree at a large pond, where I finally managed to get a brilliant view of it perched, and Dave Hutton got some smashing shots (now on web). The bird then relocated to around a wooded marlpit at Springbrook Farm (Terry's Green), where patient birders waiting at the gate near the junction of Malthouse Lane and Small Lane eventually were rewarded with a couple of decent flight views, last seen flushed by a crow and seemed to fly down to the area near the two bridges along Springbrook Lane (near where Mike first had it), sometime around 8 pm. This is the last definite sighting I know of.

Many of the birders who've put the hours in have been rewarded now. Over 30 people have seen it so far. I hope more see it, but please keep disturbance at the scrubland to a minimum (breeding birds) - try scanning trees next to water. I still think the causeway is worth staking out too, though the bird is covering a large area (at least 1 x 2 km).

Everyone who's thought about the age of the bird agrees it's an adult.

Another highlight for me today was a Redshank over Engine Pool this morning, which John Sirrett put me on to (another patch tick).

Matt

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Night Heron reappears!

After no sign yesterday, I saw the Night Heron fly over from the northeast (probably from the canal), over the Malthouse Lane causeway then fly down to Terry's Pool at 10:05 am today. This is the 3rd time I've located it from the white railings at that causeway, so clearly the place to go if anyone's interested. Maybe best to get there 7:00 pm or earlier, as on Sunday evening the bird appeared at 7:20 pm. Fingers crossed...

Also finally saw a Hobby over Engine Pool, and the Mandarin Duck and a Common Sandpiper were at Windmill Pool.

Matt

Sunday, 15 May 2011

NIGHT HERON!!!

I found a Night Heron at the lakes c. 9:00 am this morning briefly from Malthouse Lane causeway, when last seen flying towards Terry's Pool. Bird was also seen by Jon Chidwick (who ID'ed it) and Kevin Bates - a lifer for me and Kevin, and a first for Earlswood!!!

The bird reappeared this evening, when I confirmed age as adult, first seen over Engine Pool before disappearing along Valley Road. It then rose and was back over Engine Pool, where it perched for a few minutes in a tree along the northwest side, and although distant the head plumes could be made out. It moved to Terry's Pool, where it was seen once or twice, lastly around 8:15 pm. Unfortunately when I refound it I was only able to text Mike Inskip before my mobile's batteries went dead (really sorry), after all the texts/calls I made this morning! Mike tried to contact some birders but none could make it. He was able to see the bird, making just four birders who've done so.

There's a good chance it'll still be there tomorrow if anyone's interested. Terry's Pool is the smaller, western one. Closest car park is at Malthouse Lane. Long overdue path maintenance work along the north side of Terry's Pool is due to start tomorrow, but not sure if this will mean less or more disturbance there.

M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 1 May 2011

93+ arctic terns through, and an adult-summer little gull at the lakes today!!!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

St. Patrick's Church open day

For anyone who'd like to have a look at the wildlife of St. Patrick's Church, Salter Street, an open day has been organised:

The Church will be open on
Bank Holiday Monday 2nd May
From 10 am. - 4 pm.
Bring friends & family to see:
  • the beautiful Grade II* listed building
  • the decorations in church
  • the Millennium Tapestry &
  • the wild flowers in the churchyard
Refreshments will be served
Anyone wanting just to come in & sit or light a candle in remembrance will be most welcome

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

2 arctic terns at lakes today, but no sign early evening.
mandarin duck still at windmill, with female teal there early morning, common sandpiper, swift over, yellow wagtail heard overhead
reed warbler singing from engine pool reed island

In case I don't update blog in next few days here's a few events organised by Earlswood Wildlife Partnership

Sunday 1st May - Dawn Chorus Walk - meet at Wood Lane car park (Clowes Wood) at 4:30am
Friday 6th May - Bat walk around Earlswood Lakes - meet at Anglers car park (bottom of Wood Lane near Red Lion) at 8:45pm
Sunday 15th May - Bluebell walk through Clowes Wood - meet at Wood Lane car park (Clowes Wood) at 2:30pm (cost £2 towards upkeep of wood)
Monday 16th May - EWP Annual General Meeting - Earlswood village hall at 7:30pm
Saturday 21st May - Bluebell walk through Clowes Wood - meet at Wood Lane car park (Clowes Wood) at 10am (cost £2 towards upkeep of wood)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

along springbrook lane, male whinchat and wheatear on fence posts along brook, plus male yellow wagtail at "earlswood stables" fields.
mandarin still at windmill pool, and 2 whitethroat in scrubland to south
sedge warbler singing at one of the engine pool reed islands

Friday, 18 March 2011

little egret at terry's pool today, still present c1:40 pm but no sign later in afternoon, mandarin still at windmill pool

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

12th February-15th March 2011

Finally, an update and it's a long one. News first:

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The birding walk on Feb 19th went okay. I was joined by Tony and John H, and despite it raining from the start, things started off well with the Water Rail in the usual place at Engine Pool. Two of us saw a Kingfisher at Terry's Pool, and there was a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings in a field beside Big Clowes Wood. However, we got a good drenching and failed to see the Pintail or a Marsh Tit during the rest of the walk around the lakes and through Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice. For those that couldn't make this walk, I will be happy to do another or maybe a migation watch one day this spring, if people are interested?

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Construction of the tern raft started on Feb 12th, with Ron, Bob, Barrie and myself making good progress, then Ron and I did further work on Mar 4th. Much work was done on the 13th, when about 13 people (mainly Clowes Wood volunteers) helped put the raft together at the playing field and then Terry's Pool dam before floating it. Next day, Paul and another guy from British Waterways used a boat to move the raft and anchor it into place (BW article). Unfortunately only a few people got to watch this work on the 14th, but I filmed most of it - links to videos:
Part 1
Part 2
These videos will take a few minutes at least to load (took at least 9 hours to upload the two you know!!!). The raft looked fine today, and I'm really pleased with the result, and how what started as just an idea has come to fruition and is now floating on Terry's Pool ready for the terns, due early next month - exciting! On behalf of the terns, many thanks to Ron, Izumi, Bob, Cheryl, Andrew, Barrie, John H, John, Paul, Robin, Simon and about four others whose names I'm afraid I forget or don't know, all of whom helped at some stage.

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Don't want to dwell on this too much, but I was rather annoyed a few weeks back to see that someone had defaced a sign about the SSSI status of Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice with the words "stop cutting tree,s" in what looks like permanent marker, like they know how to best manage a woodland for nature. Warden Ron Hill and the other hard-working volunteers have been trying to make an area of hazel coppice to attract certain types of wildlife. See this article Managing Woodlands for Biodiversity (7 pages) to see how cutting a few trees down can benefit wildlife by letting more light reach the ground.
However, tree-cutting is obviously bad if done excessively, and the Earlswood area has lost three significant woods in the last 100 years, including Forshawpark Wood and Small Lane Coppice. Astonishingly, the third seems to have been cleared secretly in the last decade, and I'll be posting evidence of this in another post soon.

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Other news is that I've set up an Earlswood wildlife slideshow/gallery for photos taken by anyone who sends them to me, visible in the righthand column of this page - will try to add more pics soon. Also, I have on loan the diaries of a birder who visited Earlswood in the late 1940s and 1950s, plus at long last a copy of "A survey of the birds of Earlswood" (1955), all of which make fascinating reading and will be most useful for my books. Turtle Doves, Tree Pipits, Willow Tits and Hawfinches all breeding, plus Nightingales and a Woodlark singing, all back then but how times change!!! Many thanks to John Sears for posting these to me.

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On to sightings. Apart from long-stayers, it's been a fairly quiet period until the last few days, when migrants have started to arrive. Highlights:
Greylag Goose: one over Engine Pool on Mar 11th and 2 at Terry's Pool on 12th.
Mandarin Duck: a confiding male at lakes from Mar 4th to today, favouring Windmill Pool but has been seen at other two pools.
Pintail: long-staying female showing on and off, usually at Terry's Pool; last seen on 14th.
Shoveler: a pair at Terry's Pool today.
Teal: pair at Terry's Pool on Mar 3rd, male at Windmill Pool on 4th-5th, and a pair over Terry's Pool on 6th. Two on Mar 11th (Yvonne Heward)
Wigeon: male at Terry's Pool on Feb 14th.
Pochard: female at Windmill Pool on Mar 5th (Tony Philp), and subsequently seen at Terry's Pool up to today.
Goldeneye: 4 (inc. a young male) at Terry's Pool on Feb 27th - good number for Earlswood.
Little Grebe: one at Windmill Pool on Mar 13th.
Water Rail: long-staying rather confiding bird seen most days. Still present today (John Hunt). Many people including fishermen and walkers have seen it now.
Golden Plover: 80+ quite high over Windmill Pool on Mar 11th.
Lapwing: Singles over lakes on Feb 22nd and Mar 11th. At Hungry Horse field, one on Mar 4th and 9 on 6th.
Common Snipe: a couple flushed on two occasions.
Little Owl: one in area since Feb 14th (Tony Philp). Seen/heard for myself on Feb 18th.
Stock Dove: Peak of 11 in Hungry Horse field on Feb 22nd.
Kingfisher: up to 2 seen at once.
Grey Wagtail: finally, one over Windmill Pool today just before I left.
Redwing: 64+ in field along Wood Lane on Feb 15th.
Fieldfare: 60+ around Terry's Pool on Mar 2nd.
Chiffchaff: an early bird at Spring Brook Scrubland on Mar 13th, then singles noted at Windmill Pool and along Springbrook Road today.
Marsh Tit: At least two found in Clowes Wood on Feb 14th with two also seen on Mar 11th (John Oates). I've only managed to see one in there so far this year.
Greenfinch: 20+ at Spring Brook Scrubland on Feb 22nd (Tony Philp) - good count for recent years.
Linnet: 4 at Railway Scrubland today.
Lesser Redpoll: peak of c. 12 at Spring Brook Scrubland on Mar 13th.
Reed Bunting: a pair are present at Spring Brook Scrubland.
Also, on 14th, 106 adult Common Frogs spawning and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen at Terry's Pool, with 7+ more Common Frogs at Windmill Pool (peak number evidently occurred earlier there with much frogspawn present).

Patch year ticks were Marsh Tit, Common Snipe, Little Owl, Lapwing, Goldeneye, Mandarin Duck, Golden Plover, Little Grebe, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Grey Wagtail, bringing my personal Earlswood 2011 list up to 76. Many thanks to Tony Philp, John Oates, Phil Block, Yvonne Heward, Mike Holt and Des Ridge for their recent sightings.

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Well done if you've made it to the end of this essay! Here's some of Tony Philp's recent photos taken at the lakes, some of which may be useful for identification purposes.

Female Pintail (front) with female Mallard and Mute Swan (© Tony Philp)

Local celebrity, the Engine Pool Water Rail (© Tony Philp)

Ground-creeping Treecreeper (© Tony Philp)

Black-headed Gull - first-winter bird (© Tony Philp)
For ageing gulls, look at head, wings and tail

Black-headed Gull - adult winter (© Tony Philp)

Black-headed Gull - adult nearing completion of moult into summer plumage (© Tony Philp)

Long-tailed Tit (© Tony Philp)

Common Frog hoping to "make babies" (© Tony Philp)

M.P. Griffiths

Friday, 18 February 2011

Birding walk this Saturday

Just to confirm, the birding walk is taking place tomorrow (19th). Meet at the car park along Wood Lane near the engine house at 8:00 am. Unfortunately the weather is forecast to be cold and rainy, so please dress appropriately, and bring wellies and binoculars.
Matt

P.S. John H, you're welcome to join the walk (I had my reply to your email returned).

Friday, 11 February 2011

14th January-11th February 2011

I hope this isn't too short notice but I have decided to do my birding walk of the lakes on Saturday 19th next week, probably around 8:00 am before the crowds arrive. Meeting place will be at one of the car parks, hopefully the one near the engine house if the Engine Pool Water Rail continues to show. Will confirm closer to the time. Thanks to Tracey, Kevin and Dave for expressing interest - others are welcome to tag along but as this will be the first time I've led a walk anything I'd like to keep numbers small. If it goes well, I may lead other, more official walks for the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership later on.

Other news: Mute Swan "V72" had fishing line and a hook for a while recently but was caught and the hook/line removed at the lakeside, so hopefully the pair will now be able breed again this year. Anyone who's visited Windmill Pool recently will have noticed that a number of trees along the east side have been cut down about a couple of months ago; I suspect this is for the benefit of fishermen, but it will be interesting to see how this area develops for wildlife now that more light can reach the ground there. The tern raft is going to happen, and construction is due to start tomorrow! Finally, the dark domestic duck that has been resident at Windmill Pool for several months now has recently been confirmed as a Muscovy Duck x domestic Mallard hybrid (see http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=190116).

Request: Could the person who reported the following on December 5th last year please contact me:
c25 Waxwings near Earlswood Lakes at Warings Green Wharf in oak tree briefly then flew off.
Waxwings are quite rare in the midlands most years, and I will need a description to accept this record, subject to acceptance by the county recorder.

Now for the sightings. It's been fairly quiet since my last post, except for some waterbird movement. Most notable was Tony Philp's Little Egret (now confirmed), with perhaps a second bird, seen with the naked eye flying along the canal feeder channel towards the lakes on Feb 6th - the second patch rarity of the year and I've missed them both!!! Sightings at the lakes during January included a female Pintail on 17th, 22nd-23rd and 28th-31st, with a flock of 4 briefly on 24th; peaks of 4+ Teals on 16th, 5 Shovelers on 24th-25th and 2 Wigeons on 28th-29th; a male Pochard on 19th-20th and a female on 31st; the Water Rail at Engine Pool on a number of occasions up to 31st; and a peak of 30+ Siskins on 25th.

February sightings so far include the female Pintail on 3rd and 8th-9th, 2 Wigeons today, 2 Shovelers on 8th-9th, a male Pochard on 10th (also seen by Tony Philp), a male Sparrowhawk on 1st, a group of 7 Jays on 3rd and 6+ Lesser Redpolls also on 3rd. After an absence the Water Rail reappeared in the channel along the north side of Engine Pool on 9th, and much to my astonishment saw it grab a Nuthatch from a nearby tree trunk and pin it down in the water before I intervened and the Nuthatch escaped; though I've read of Water Rails preying on smaller birds this is the first time I've witnessed it and thought it only happened during harsh winter weather (it was a mild day). In hindsight I have mixed feelings about whether I should've intervened (I did it without thinking), but I doubt the rail will starve as a result given the good weather at the moment, and it was still present today. Away from the lakes, the most notable birds I've seen were 4 Stock Doves at the Hungry Horse field on Feb 1st, and 2 Mistle Thrushes at Forshaw Heath on Feb 3rd. Personal patch year ticks besides the Pintails, Wigeons and Pochards were a first-winter Common Gull on Jan 16th and a Meadow Pipit roosting at a marsh next day - increasing my list by just five to 65 for 2011 :-(

M.P. Griffiths


P.S. an interesting Long-tailed Tit with a light head visited my garden on a number of occasions from Jan 18th-31st, and was also seen by my mom on 4th this month. Further details, pics and links to videos at http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=190334

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Egret

1 probably 2 egrets flying along canal feeder channel near lakes this morning, seen by Tony Philp. Hopefully more details to follow...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

1st-13th January 2011

Seemed a good time to update the blog now that the "ice age" has passed, for the moment at least, with practically all of the ice at the lakes gone today. I've had interest expressed in a birdwatching walk around the lakes, so if anyone else is interested please send me an email.

I was gutted to learn that a Shelduck was seen on the ice at Engine Pool on New Year's Day by at least three people, one of whom has shown me a photo of it on his camera. I didn't think there'd be much at Earlswood that day because of all the people that tend to be there on bank holidays, plus I had a headache and the flu, so chickened out - best bird of the year so far and I missed it! As far as I'm aware, this is the 12th record for the lakes, the last in 2007.

As you can imagine, I was at the lakes early on the 2nd but the Shelduck had gone. Engine Pool was good though with 4 Teals, a male Shoveler and the Water Rail. 7 Siskins were seen at Windmill Pool. In the vicinity of the lakes, 2 Ravens (over), up to 3 Rooks (over) and 11 Greenfinches were notable, with a pair of Common Pheasants and 2 Stock Doves in a field along Gypsy Lane. Springbrook Scrubland was pretty good, with 118 Fieldfares (trees along Earlswood Common), 3 Bullfinches, 2 Reed Buntings, a Skylark (over) and a Lesser Redpoll (over) noted. I moved on to Earlswood Train Station, where the decent-sized Bullfinch flock was still present nearby, with 8+ counted, as well a Goldcrest and a Coal Tit. In Little Clowes Wood I saw another Goldcrest but the numerous dog-walkers in there put me off exploring the rest of the woodland. It was quite a good visit to Earlswood, and I managed 52 species for the year list - not a bad start.

A brief visit to the lakes on 3rd produced 25 Siskins and the Water Rail at Engine Pool; I was joined by the recently elusive Kevin Bates who got to see the latter bird.
I then moved on away from Earlswood to an area of farmland near Studley called Morton Bagot where I joined John Yardley and Chris Lane, and not long into the visit we found a Corn Bunting - a rarity in this part of Warwickshire and a lifer for me! Richard Harbird joined us near one of the pools there, and we subsequently saw 2 Mandarin Ducks, a Little Egret, 79 Wigeons, a Goosander (unusual there), 3 Great Black-backed Gulls (over), 6+ Bramblings and a Marsh Tit - another really good day, but a pity we don't have farmland or wetland habitat anything like that at Earlswood...

Subsequent visits to the lakes produced little, but notable birds (mainly additions to the patch year list) were:

04/01/2011: a male Kestrel over the Malthouse Lane causeway.

05/01/2011: a Green Woodpecker near Gypsy Lane, and a Tawny Owl (heard) near Reservoir pub.

06/01/2011: a Kingfisher (finally, but heard only) at Terry's Pool, and 2 Greylag Geese over Springbrook Scrubland. 135+ Fieldfares at fallen apples in an Earlswood Common garden viewable from Windmill Pool.

08/01/2011: 2 Mistle Thrushes low over Engine Pool, but highlight was the Water Rail taking Lynda's thrown bread!!!

10/01/2011: a Great Crested Grebe at Engine Pool was great to see at long last! Also 21 Lesser Redpolls at Springbrook Scrubland. Total of 16+ Bullfinches noted in Earlswood area (good winter for them it seems).

11/01/2011: A Sparrowhawk (over), the Great Crested Grebe and the Water Rail all seen at Engine Pool. A Kestrel distant over Malthouse Lane gardens (nice garden tick if anyone saw it!).

Other sightings included a Mink along the Spring Brook beside Windmill Pool on 9th. Rob Field saw a Kingfisher along the brook beside Clowes Wood on 9th - a good record for that area.

The Water Rail along the north side of Engine Pool has been seen a few times this month; today (13th) I saw it and also managed to see the second more-elusive bird at Terry's Pool for the first time this year. There was no sign of the grebe.

My 2011 Earlswood bird list now stands at a modest 60. I haven't seen anything particularly unusual yet, and there's still some common-ish species to be added before things kick off in the spring.

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Addendum for 2010:
Tony Philp had 2 Shovelers at Engine Pool on December 31st.
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M.P. Griffiths