Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ponds at Earlswood

It seems to be a little-known fact that once upon a time there was a fourth water of significant size in the Earlswood area, though much smaller than the three lakes. Little-known, hence the only information I've been able to find out about it is that which I've gleaned from maps and aerial photos. It was a large pond called Cleobury Pool, situated to the northeast of the junction of Norton Lane and Rumbush Lane. It seems to have been fed by a brook which ran through the pond and out towards Big Cleobury Farm, and was surrounded by broadleaved trees. It was certainly as old as the lakes, being present in the first OS map of the area in 1831, but could have been much older as in an article by B.K. Roberts it's included as a fishpond in a map reconstructing how the local area would've looked in c. 1350! OS maps from the 20th century suggest that the pond was gradually silting up, with the trees becoming woodland and the surface area of water decreasing and, although still present in the late 1950s, by the early 1970s the site is shown as two fields with a little woodland, and it has remained in a similar state ever since. I recently had the opportunity to see these two fields from Rumbush Lane, whilst there are no leaves to obstruct viewing, and there is indeed no sign whatsoever of the pond. I often wonder which bird species might've visited it, and if anything unusual like Teal might've bred there, but suspect I'll never know for sure. Hopefully the fields might come up for sale and I'll buy them and re-create the pond! ;-)

Cleobury Pool, 1887 and 1955

I'd love to hear of any records of birds seen at this pond, and if anyone has any further information or memories of it, do please get in touch. I intend to write about how the habitats and landscape of Earlswood have changed over the years in my book, as it is very relevant to the study of birds.

I just can't stop thinking about the "wildlife pond" that's been proposed, and eagerly await news of whether permission is given or not. It would be 2 acres - a similar size to the extent of the Cleobury Pool in the 1950s, and could potentially be great for wildlife, especially as there is no public access to the field, and many of the best nature reserves for birds in the midlands are centred around shallow pools (e.g. Upton Warren). If part of the meadow was restored and no further trees planted, such a shallow pond would be an ideal breeding ground for Lapwing and Redshank. Another species that doesn't breed at the lakes but might do at this pond is Little Grebe, whilst Green Sandpiper might over-winter. It could act as a refuge for waterbirds fleeing from the lakes at weekends! Other wildlife that could particularly benefit are amphibians and invertebrates, such as damselflies and dragonflies.

At Morton Bagot (about eight miles from Earlswood), there are two shallow pools similar in size to the proposed "wildlife pond". These two pools have attracted over 40 species of waterbird in recent years including White-fronted Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Garganey, Pintail, Little Egret, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff, plus both Water Pipit and Rock Pipit. Lapwing breed there, and in winter flocks of over 100 are frequently seen, whilst large numbers of Wigeon and Teal have also been recorded. This proves how good a 2-acre pond could be for the birds of Earlswood. I'll take this opportunity to mention that Richard Harbird has set up a blog for the birds of Morton Bagot at


Edit: I wrote most of the above a few days ago, but earlier today found out that the planning application for this pond has been refused, although the reasons for this have not yet been given. If the landowner would like to push for a wildlife pond, permission for it may be more likely if it had the backing of the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership; please get in touch if interested.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

2011 summary

Birding at Earlswood seems to get better each year. By my reckoning, a total of 133 species were recorded in the Earlswood area in 2011. I ticked 127 of them, easily beating the 113 species I had in 2010. Painfully, the six species I missed were:
Pink-footed Goose - two of unknown origin (Martin Lindop).
Little Tern - three at the lakes briefly (Martin Lindop).
Hoopoe - one at Manor Farm briefly (Richard Greer), which was the first record at an Earlswood property but the second for my recording area.
Stonechat - one seen from Springbrook Lane (Mike Jeeves).
Grasshopper Warbler - one heard near the pumping station south of Windmill Pool (Jim Winsper).
Crossbill - a pair at Terry's Green (Mike Jeeves), the first confirmed record for my recording area.

Still you can't see everything. The only other major disappointment of the year and a big embarrassment was overlooking the 2 Ruff, even though a number of dog-walkers saw them without binoculars, but at least I saw the one of them.

On the plus side I added 17 species to my patch life list, which were:
Night Heron (had to put this at the top!)
Barnacle Goose
Little Egret
Little Ringed Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Sandwich Tern
Short-eared Owl
(site first!)
Tree Pipit (both birds heard only but still counting them!)

As far as Earlswood is concerned, I'm sure 2011 will be best remembered for the long-staying Night Heron, which allowed numerous midlands birders to see it; a county tick for many Warwickshire birders too. However, it was also a better year than usual for waders (16 species), Shelduck (3 records), Little Egret (4 records), Little Gull (4 or 5 records) and terns (5 species). Another highlight for me (though not in Earlswood) was finding a putative Northern/Continental Long-tailed Tit in my back garden, which if accepted by the national British Bird Rarities Committee would actually be the rarest bird I've found to-date. I intend to put another post on here of 2011 bird photos taken at Earlswood soon...

Having more or less given up on my website, I've learnt how to add a page (rather than a post) to this blog and so have added the systematic list here. This will actually be much easier for me to update than the website, so perhaps this change is for the better. I will give people a couple of weeks to see which species were recorded last year, before updating it for 2012.

So on to this year. The Earlswood Wildlife Partnership have some more events planned (I'm going to start posting their newsletters on here), and the Olympic torch is to make a visit. Work is ongoing with my book.

Potentially the most notable event for the birds of my recording area could be the creation of a large shallow "wildlife pond" in a private meadow near the village, if planning permission is given. In size and depth, the plan for this pond sounds similar to a pool at Morton Bagot (near Redditch), which has proven to be rather good for birds. However, prior to putting the application in the landowner sprayed and ploughed up the meadow allegedly as part of its management, which has eliminated any interesting wildflowers that would've been impacted by the digging and spoil-spreading associated with pond creation - a wildflower meadow removed for a "wildlife pond"!!! Therefore, this proposed pond could turn out to be a very useful habitat for a variety of waterbirds that normally visit Earlswood infrequently and/or in very small numbers (most waterfowl and wader species); or it could turn out to be a pond of little wildlife value, of the "managed, neat and tidy" kind seen in large gardens or, heaven forbid, yet another fishing lake. It all depends on what the landowner's true intentions are and whether they're happy to take advice from people who know how to make ponds great for wildlife. If planning permission is given, I'm hoping the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership will be able to give advice on the pond, and perhaps the restoration of at least part of the meadow.

M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 21 January 2012

January 21st 2012

A slightly better visit than the previous couple, with a Greylag Goose seen over Windmill Pool, and the Little Grebe along the northwest side of Terry's Pool still. I haven't seen the Mandarin since the 18th, but of course she could still be around. Annoyed to see a pair of fishermen at Terry's Pool fishing near the entrance to the woods, where they shouldn't be - evidently it isn't enough that they have the other two pools, the dam side of Terry's and the Mereside Pools to use for their "sport"! I told the water bailiff but I don't think he did anything about it. There is fishing line in a couple of places around Terry's Pool too, which I can't reach. >:-(

Good to meet John Yardley at the lakes, and walking around we had 15 Siskins at Engine Pool and a flock of c. 160 Lapwings over Windmill Pool, the latter being the largest flock of this species that I've seen at Earlswood. Although I haven't seen any in the last few days, Golden Plovers have been flying over the area in large numbers this winter too, with Tony Philp recording a flock of 600+ over the Hungry Horse field (WMids) on the 11th.

Invasion of the Golden Plovers, 11/01/2012 (© Tony Philp)

There have been quite a few more Mute Swans present at the lakes this month, with a peak of 13 so far, though presence/absence of rings and ageing indicates that more individuals than this have visited.

M.P. Griffiths

Friday, 20 January 2012

January 20th 2012

Another fairly quiet visit, though at Terry's Pool I relocated the Little Grebe amongst branches along the northwest side (which I didn't check yesterday) and heard Greylag Goose calls coming from the other pools. At the causeway I had flyovers of 3 Lapwings and a Sparrowhawk.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 19 January 2012

January 19th 2012

A quiet visit, with just a female Teal at Terry's Pool the main bird of note, whilst there was no sign of the Little Grebe or Mandarin Duck.
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

January 18th 2012

A warmer day with less ice on the lakes than yesterday. For the third day, workmen were cutting trees and branches along Valley Road, opening it up more along there, which hopefully will also be beneficial for the flora along the brook. The Little Grebe and Mandarin Duck were still at Terry's Pool along with a flock of 13 Siskins. At Windmill Pool, a Grey Wagtail rose from the Spring Brook and a Raven passed over.

John Hunt reports seeing a presumed Marsh Tit in the woods on the 15th.

M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

January 17th 2012

Even more ice covering the lakes today, but still not as much as on many occasions last winter. There was nothing notable new in but lingering birds included the Little Grebe at Terry's Pool near the weir, the female Mandarin Duck at Engine Pool and a male Teal at Windmill Pool. For me though, this visit's highlight were the Mallard (yes, the Mallard!), and with birds concentrated at the unfrozen patches and hardly any movement between those patches, I counted 478 - probably a patch record!!!
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. I've been trying to update the systematic list of birds and birders' lists pages, but it seems my account has expired and the company want my card details, even though it's free, so looks like I'm gonna have to move this elsewhere.

Monday, 16 January 2012

January 16th 2012

More ice on the lakes than yesterday, and evidently some movement overnight as a few new birds had appeared, namely a Little Grebe at Terry's Pool near the weir, and at Windmill Pool a female Pochard, 2 Wigeon (pair), 4 Teal and a Common Gull. The female Mandarin Duck was still at Engine Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

2 Wigeon at Windmill Pool, 16/01/2012 (© Tony Philp)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

January 15th 2012

During this month's WeBS counts, I saw 2 Kingfishers at Terry's Pool, the female Mandarin Duck at Engine Pool (later at Terry's), and a male Teal and Grey Wagtail at Windmill Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 14 January 2012

2012 so far

Just wanted to wish everyone a late "happy New Year". Late, because I've recently had computer problems, with my computer's mains supply / fan going bang and being forced to use my sister's laptop which is slow and overheats quickly! Having finished the Warwickshire bird news for next month's Birdwatching magazine (been doing it for a few months now), I am now going through a backlog of emails sent to me, so apologies to everyone who I'm late replying to. It's been a better January for good patch birds than usual, but rather than repeat what I'd written, I've included something for the local Residents Association newsletter in the post below. The main bird of note today was a female Gadwall at Windmill Pool, the first female I've seen at Earlswood in ages, whilst yesterday I saw a Marsh Tit around Terry's Pool, my first around the lakes since last spring. I haven't seen the pair of Mandarin Ducks since the 10th, but they can be elusive.

Obviously I'm very excited about what 2012 will bring in terms of birds and it's looking good so far, though it will take a lot to beat last year, which was possibly the best year at Earlswood on record in terms of number of species. I hope to write a summary of 2011 in another post, including the many photos sent to me which I've so far failed to put on here. May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who's sent me their sightings and/or photos - they're much appreciated, so please keep them coming :-)


Winter summary

Here's a couple of paragraphs that I've written for the local Residents Asociation newsletter:


A number of uncommon birds have visited Earlswood so far this winter, and it will be interesting to discover what else occurs in the next few months now the water levels are much higher than they had been. Whilst water levels were still very low back in November, a Shelduck, a Dunlin and a Rock Pipit visited the lakes. This winter's undoubted highlight though was in December when a Short-eared Owl circled briefly over Windmill Pool (a first for Earlswood), whilst other good birds visiting the lakes in that month were a Peregrine Falcon flying over, two Gadwall, a Shoveler and a Little Gull. More recently this year, a Kittiwake blown inland by the strong winds, two Shelducks flying over, a Little Owl, four Wigeon, another Gadwall and another Shoveler were seen. A pair of Mandarin Ducks have been present for a while, favouring Terry's Pool, and several Teal have been seen. A Woodcock appears to be over-wintering in the vicinity of the lakes, as does a Kestrel which strangely has even been seen in Earlswood Common gardens backing onto Windmill Pool. Peaks of 600+ Golden Plovers and c. 110 Lapwing have been seen flying over the area, with flocks being seen on many more occasions than usual. Other winter visitors like Redwing, Fieldfare, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll are also residing at Earlswood this winter, but perhaps in lower numbers than the 2010-11 winter. In the Manor Farm and Hungry Horse area along Norton Lane, the Peregrine was seen on two consecutive days, apparently feeding on prey, and was photographed. In a garden near the lakes, up to five Brambling have been reported visiting.

Talking of gardens, I'd love to hear from residents about interesting birds they see in their gardens or the local area and can be contacted via email ( Perhaps you have a Blackcap wintering in your garden, or you've counted a large flock of House Sparrows visiting your feeders? Maybe something unusual like a Brambling or even a Black Redstart or Waxwing pays a visit? Perhaps on a walk around the local area you find something "strange"? Do please get in touch. (N.B. obviously photos are very useful for identifying or confirming something unusual).

Matt Griffiths