16 December - Along the Onny
A group of 8 intrepid birders stepped out from the Discovery Centre on an icy December morning. There were lots of noisy jackdaws around the car park, a few blue tits, a dunnock and a crow.
As we walked towards the river we spotted a blackbird and a chaffinch. A buzzard was sitting in the top of one of the tall trees and a charm of goldfinches chattered in the orchard. We also saw a robin, a great tit, a flock of long-tailed tits and a wood pigeon or two. A wren snuffled around the leaves at the edge of a small stream.
The river Onny itself was full, fast and furious – too fast for water birds. We did, however, see a couple of mallard flying over. A diversion towards the pool again failed to offer views of waterfowl since it was completely frozen. Looking towards the road we caught sight of a kestrel hovering and then dropping into the trees.
Two of the group saw a great spotted woodpecker as we returned to the banks of the Onny. Here we were pleased to watch a flock of siskins hopping from branch to branch in the alders. As we headed up towards the A49 a flashing white rump signalled a bullfinch.
By the road to Stokesay Castle there were several noisy house sparrows. Looking over the fields we picked out two grey herons and a trio of very pale-feathered buzzards while a single magpie flew past. There was a greenfinch in one of the churchyard trees and a collared dove flew by.
The main bulk of Stokesay Pool was frozen. One pied wagtail was heard and then seen flying over. On the far bank a small group of song thrushes pecked in the damp grass.
It was an enjoyable leisurely walk and amassed 25 species.
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18 November - Venus Pool
Photo: Chris Bateman
After an unpromising forecast and a rainy journey the skies finally cleared in time for the start of our walk. David John began by giving an interesting run-down of the history of the site to the assembled multitude in the car park (eighteen plus!) As there were so many of us we made the usual decision to split into two groups: one visiting the hides and the other following the path through the field and over the causeway, swapping over halfway through the morning. There were plenty of the usual water birds and winter visitors visible from the main hide, and one group was particularly rewarded with excellent views of a kingfisher. The woodland hide area seemed much quieter than normal, with various species of tit present but not much else - except for a very welcome great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder. The days when flocks of tree sparrows would appear there seem long gone.
The field path yielded good views of yellowhammers and reed buntings along the hedge line, and someone was lucky enough to spot a brambling here. There seemed to be plenty of winter thrushes around in the distance making the most of the available berries. A pair of gadwall and several tufted ducks were seen swimming on the second lake beyond the causeway. From the hide on the far side of the main lake we enjoyed watching a couple reed buntings performing their ablutions in a large puddle.
We rounded off the trip in our usual fashion by enjoying a relaxing lunch in a nearby hostelry, and comparing notes on the morning's count - 38 for one group, 43 for the other, making an impressive total cross-referenced count of 48 species.
Chaffinch, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tit, Mute Swan, Bluetit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Nuthatch, Snipe, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Moorhen, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Redwing, Green Woodpecker, Great Crested Grebe, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Shoveller, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Goldfinch, Teal, Tufted Duck, Little Egret, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Wren, Jay, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Coot, Kingfisher, Brambling, Starling, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Greylag Goose.
Chris Bateman and David John
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15 April - Whixall Moss
(Apologies for late inclusion - Ed.)
Photo: Chris Bateman
A group of 15 gathered at Morris's Bridge car park on a sunny but breezy day for a walk around Fenn's and Whixall Moss. This is Britain's third largest raised bog and is an unique habitat in Shropshire.
We started our walk along the canal and checked out the flooded fields opposite. Apart from some teal and Canada geese we did see two waders with a distinct sandpiper appearance, one of which was very pale - however they were too far even for binoculars for a proper identification. There had been reports of a wood sandpiper on the fields just prior to our walk, could it have been? Willow warblers and chiff chaffs sang constantly with an occasional blackcap. Further along we saw a greater spotted woodpecker and had a quick view of a treecreeper. While we were having a coffee stop a blackcap was observed in a nearby tree; in a few weeks the leaf coverage would be too dense. At this point we entered the Moss proper and we could see a kestrel hovering nearby and buzzards circling in the thermals. The breeze kept some of the smaller birds down but male reed buntings were singing on top of grasses, with wrens darting between shrubs. Further inland where there are larger pools black headed gull were swooping and screaming around. It's always worth checking gulls out as male hen harriers sometimes appear on the moss but that is usually in the winter months. The smaller pools are ideal habitat for dragonflies and in a few weeks these would be emerging as adults, together with the arrival of hobbies that predate on them.
Bird count includes: swallow, robin, canada goose, wood pigeon, goldfinch, carrion crow, chiffchaff, wren, lapwing, pheasant, buzzard, magpie, blackbird, song thrush, teal, black-headed gull, pied wagtail, moorhen, coot, sandpiper(?), willow warbler, jackdaw, chaffinch, goldcrest, mallard, tree creeper, gt spotted woodpecker, blackcap, kestrel, jay, reed bunting, curlew, marsh
harrier(?), stock dove, nuthatch. 35 species.
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21 October - Whitcliffe Common, Ludlow
Photo: Chris Bateman (taken in better weather!)
Owing to an appalling weather forecast and boggy conditions underfoot we decided to shorten the walk and didn't expect many people to make it to the meeting point - in fact it turned out to be successful as a dozen keen people turned up! Instead of the planned route up into Mortimer Forest we took a gentle stroll down to the river and along the Breadwalk, ending up at Ludford Bridge. All in all we saw 20 species of birds: Crow, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (lots of these delightful little birds), Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Swan, Mallard, Lesser Black Back Gull, Male Goosander, Moorhen, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch (heard), Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren, Starling and, luckily, the Kingfisher(!). We all quite happily fell into the Wheatsheaf Pub next to a roaring fire where we were served an early lunch and engaged in a lively discussion. Good time had by all.
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16 September - Stiperstones
10.00am at the Bog car park and 13 people have assembled on a bright but cool morning. On the top of a tree are 2 mistle thrushes and circling overhead, a buzzard. As we start to explore the bushes around the car park, a woodpigeon, 2 ravens and a jackdaw pass overhead and a great tit is sitting in a fir tree. It is surprisingly quiet with nothing about around the pond and it is starting to drizzle so we don waterproofs and head off up the field to the hairpin bend. In the rowan trees there are 2 robins and a chaffinch singing and a carrion crow flies over. As we head up the path towards Pennerley Reservoir we spot more robins and a stonechat sitting on a fencepost, plus a swallow flying low over the field and a kestrel gliding up towards the Devil’s Chair. Despite all the cloud, long distance visibility is very good and Cader Idris can clearly be seen on the horizon. At the reservoir there are a couple of rabbits in the field and 3 house sparrows sitting on the fence, a siskin in a bush and at the nearby white cottage a blue tit and a great spotted woodpecker. We have a coffee break for 10 minutes and I notice there are quite a few small birds on the fence around the reservoir so I investigate, and find a couple of female stonechats and also a number of meadow pipits. Walking down past the cottage garden we see a goldfinch, a greenfinch, a blackbird and a dunnock, and at the side of the path a red admiral. Turning left onto the lower path a wren is in the hedge as we approach the stables and a magpie is in the field. We stop by the pond where there are sometimes mallards and moorhens but no sign today. We do see a collared dove and hear a bullfinch, and as we continue along the path back to the car park we see a couple of female bullfinches. A fairly quiet day, perhaps due to the cloudy and occasionally damp weather, with the most numerous bird being robins which we see or hear all around the walk, so we have to settle for 24 species.
It is now time for lunch so we visit the Bog Visitor Centre where they kindly allow us to eat our sandwiches if we buy a drink but some of us can’t resist their delicious cakes and scones as well.
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