17th December - The Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve, Upton Warren
On an overcast day 11 people met in the Upton Warren Sailing Club car park. The reserve is managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT). Members of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust were able to get in free but the rest had to pay for a £3 permit. Walking around the side of the Sailing Pool we soon saw great crested grebes, tufted ducks, mallards, black-headed gulls, coots, cormorants and Canada geese. To the other side of the path in the trees and bushes was a robin, long-tailed tits, blue tits, and woodpigeons, and a raven flew over. A last look at the lake revealed a little grebe and at the far end an eagle eyed member spotted a kingfisher and then a female tufted duck with a white patch at the base of the bill. A quick look at the bird guides suggested a scaup but also possibly a hybrid tufted duck so we really weren’t 100% sure. Now through the gate to the right to head for the flashes. Along the path were blackbirds, chaffinches, jackdaws and a wren. We headed for the large elevated hide overlooking the second flash and immediately saw dozens of lapwings and then moorhens and on the far bank a green woodpecker. A buzzard flew overhead which spooked the lapwings and the flock took off and circled around before nervously landing. We then heard a cetti’s warbler and saw a grey wagtail and a pair of linnets by the edge of the water. Overhead, crows and a magpie but it was now time to move on. Back along the path we added nuthatch, goldfinch and goldcrest and sitting on the top of a mast, a kestrel. Back past the sailing pool the kingfisher flashed by and we headed to the cafe for an early lunch. My sausage and onion sandwich bridged the gap and it was time to head for the Moors Pools.
The reserve is in two halves and you have to walk a couple of hundred yards up the A38 past the garage to find a path on the right though woodland and alongside a small stream which contained a pair of mallards and a grey squirrel jumping through the trees. Now into another elevated hide overlooking the Moors Pools. Cormorants, black-headed gulls, tufted ducks, lapwings, shovellers, little grebes, mallards, pochards, teal, moorhens, coots, a grey heron and 2 little egrets. There are seed feeders below this hide which had a continual stream of goldfinches, great tits, blue tits, a greenfinch and reed buntings and in the bushes, a robin and a dunnock. A cetti’s warbler was heard again and then in the long grass a glimpse of a water rail. Looking across to Amy’s marsh in the distance, 3 gadwall and another kingfisher. Leaving the hide we continued along the path towards North Moors and added a fieldfare, a redwing and a female bullfinch in the trees. It was now just after 3.00pm so we headed back to the cars, very content with a good day’s birding having seen 45 species, or 46 if you count the scaup.
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19th November - Venus Pool
Fourteen of us arrived at 10 am at the car park on what was a cloudy, rather dull day, with a few spots of rain appearing later in the morning.
The group split into two. Half visited the hides, while everyone else walked along the hedgerow in the adjoining field and down to the causeway, meeting back in the main hide later. In total, forty-six species of birds were recorded:
Sparrowhawk House Sparrow Robin Nuthatch Greylag Goose Teal Wigeon Tufted Duck Kingfisher Snipe Coot Canada Goose Mute Swan Woodpigeon Gadwall Pied Wagtail Shelduck Buzzard Little Grebe Mallard Carrion Crow Shoveler Black-headed Gull Lapwing Cormorant Grey Heron Pochard Scaup Magpie Wren Moorhen Chaffinch Great tit Dunnock Greenfinch Blue tit Lesser Black-backed Gull Great Spotted Woodpecker Great Crested Grebe Blackbird Yellowhammer Fieldfare Reed Bunting Goldfinch Starling Bullfinch Long-tailed Tit
As is the custom on our visits to Venus pool, the group afterwards enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Riverside Inn.
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15th October - The Devil's Spittleful and Blackstone Farm Nature Reserve
Parasol fungus. Photo: Chris Bateman
It was raining when I got up but by 10.00am it was dry and brightening up, as 10 people met in the Blackstone car park to the east of Bewdley just as a magpie flew over. We the bypass and headed up the lane towards the reserve which is managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT). In the garden of a cottage there were sparrows in the hedge, a woodpigeon and a robin singing in a fir tree. By the bridge under the disused railway line we could hear jackdaws and a wren and saw a jay sitting on the ground. Further on a couple of crows flew over and on the bank at the side of the lane we saw a number of wild flowers including white campion, cranesbill and white dead-nettle. Looking across the field to the left we spotted 2 rhinoceroses and 2 white tigers. Should we run? No, its OK, they are in enclosures at the West Midlands Safari Park. As we approached the second railway bridge that carries the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) a chaffinch and 3 yellowhammers were sitting on top of the hedge as a train came past pulled by engine number 2857, a GWR 2-8-0 built in 1918. Then a green woodpecker flew over, and a dunnock was sitting on a post whilst a skylark sang overhead.
We now entered the reserve and walked around the perimeter path and could see lesser black backed gulls circling in the distance. We then found a number of different fungi including a parasol mushroom, penny buns (boletus edulis) and turkey tails (trametes versicolor). A group of long-tailed tits flitted by as we stopped for a coffee break in the warm sunshine and watched a buzzard gliding over the trees. At the far side we turn back down the central path and then left to the sandstone mound known as the Devil’s Spittleful. We climbed up the steps to the top where there were good views over the reserve but no more birds. Returning to the perimeter path we passed a group of volunteers from the WWT who were busy clearing some of the gorse and then another train came by pulled by engine number 43106, a LMS Ivatt class 4, 2-6-0 built in 1951. It is the only one of the class remaining and is affectionately known on the SVR as ‘the flying pig’. It was now quite warm and the birds had disappeared presumably having a midday snooze, so it was time to head to the pub for lunch.
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17th September - The Secret Hills
Fifteen people met at the Secret Hills Discovery Centre on a pleasant sunny morning, 12 regulars, 1 new local and a couple who were on holiday in the area and saw the walk advertised in the Stretton Focus. The first birds were 2 crows, a woodpigeon and a magpie flying overhead and a robin singing in the tree. Walking past the Community Garden we saw a house sparrow, a blackbird and some house martins and on towards the Orchard a blue tit and some jackdaws. Heading towards Kingfisher Corner a cormorant flew over, a chiffchaff sang in the bushes and a wren flitted in the bushes by the river Onny. Continuing along the river bank a buzzard circled overhead, a pair of mallards were dabbling and then a kingfisher flashed by and a grey wagtail bobbed on a rock. Moving into the field where there were lots of teasels, a small flock of goldfinches flew over and a few butterflies flittered about: speckled wood, comma, holly blue, large white and small white and in a tree, a nuthatch.
We crossed the A49 and headed up the lane towards Stokesay Castle with house sparrows in the hedge and a mistle thrush high in a tree, and in the churchyard a red admiral and lots of honey bees. On the pond behind the castle were a family of coots, some moorhens and a tufted duck and sitting on a post, a common darter dragonfly. As we walked up the fields towards Sallow Coppice we noted a flock of long-tailed tits, about a dozen pied wagtails and in amongst the cattle about 30 starlings and then a pheasant, a chaffinch and a rook.
Entering the wood the bright red arum masculatum (also known as lords-and-ladies or cuckoo-pint and lots of other names) caught our eye and we then looked for other plants and found enchanter’s nightshade, herb bennet and hedge woundwort and as we left the wood a raven flew over. Walking back alongside the railway we spotted great tits and coal tits in the bushes and sadly a dead sparrowhawk by the tunnel under the railway.
The Butterfly Garden: Photo: Carol Wood
It was now time for lunch in the Discovery Centre and after suitable refreshment we checked the Butterfly Garden at the rear which was now in full sun, and found lots of tortoiseshells, two painted ladies, a cricket and a frog. A pleasant walk, with 31 species of birds as well as the butterflies and wild flowers.
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16th July - Rhos Fiddle
Mountain pansy. Photo: Gail Ellis
A good crowd of birdwatchers met at this nature reserve near Newcastle-on-Clun. Run by Shropshire Wildlife Trust, it is in a remote and quiet area in the west of the county. Bell heather and bilberries grow amongst the wet flushes with sparse grass and heather grazed by sheep and highland cattle. The bracken is rolled to stop it spreading over too much of the drier ground.
Unfortunately it was a rather windy morning and we had to listen carefully for the skylarks and meadow pipits, of which there were many. Avoiding the very wet gullies, we crossed into the drier pastures, but not before finding a sizeable patch of delicate yellow mountain pansies, for which the area is noted. They were growing alongside the tormentil, marsh speedwell and milkwort. Many swifts and swallows were flying over the insect-rich marshlands.
We were surprised to see so many gulls flying over the sheep pasture. We presumed they were lesser black-backed (the ones with yellow legs - greater black-backed have pink legs!) Sharing knowledge is good but these birds were flying too high for any of us to be sure. Buzzards and ravens accompanied the gulls.
Turning left along the edge of a small meadow, we saw redstart darting through the thick hedgerows. Although it was too breezy to hear them we had a fairly good view.
We by-passed Curney Farm through a beautiful wildflower meadow, which was a delight - full of lesser stitchwort, meadow buttercup and yellow rattle. Swallows and martins were swooping over the flowers before returning to the farm buildings. Here we saw meadow brown and ringlet butterflies with orange underwing moths, dancing in the warm air.
No visit to this area is complete without seeing a red kite, and one was visible, if only briefly, after our picnic stop.
We then returned along a track lined with small hornbeam trees and white roses to a narrow lane. Some of us stopped to see if there were stonechat on the gorse among the rushes, and Barbara and Beth were rewarded for their patience, seeing not only stonechat but a linnet and a redstart. The rest of us had to wait for a sighting of stonechat until we were nearly at the end of our walk. There we saw a family, darting back and forth across the lane.
It had been a warm if blustery walk and some of us finished in style by going back into Clun for a well-earned lunch!
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18th June - Stiperstones
Common Blue. Photo: Gail Ellis
It was a drizzly and overcast morning at the Bog car park but 12 hardy souls turned up. The song of a willow warbler greeted us followed by a song thrush and then a great spotted woodpecker. We walked up to the old gunpowder house where there was a nice display of foxgloves and we searched the bushes around the car park and soon found a wren, chaffinches and a pair of bullfinches. There was lots of heath bedstraw alongside the path as we approached the pond where we added blackbird, blue tit, swallow and more willow warblers. Walking up the field to the hairpin bend a pair of magpies and a crow flew overhead. Lots of house sparrows were in the hedge at the start of the path to Pennerley Reservoir and then a greenfinch and a robin.
The drizzle had now stopped and the sun was peeping out as a wood pigeon flew by and then a red kite and a buzzard circled closely above us and some jackdaws flew by. Continuing along the path we saw lots of common cottongrass in the fields, a wheatear, a pied flycatcher and had a good view of a tree pipit while a skylark sang above us. Just before the bend in the path we scoured the many fenceposts and found meadow pipit, stonechat, linnet and redstart all in full view, and a pheasant on the ground. We stopped by the gate for a drink and found thyme-leaved speedwell on the path and a family of stonechats including 3 or 4 youngsters flitting around the gorse bushes. A jay and mistle thrush were also added to the list and more meadow pipits and stonechats as we approached the reservoir. Turning left towards the lower path there was a rabbit in the field and a blackcap singing, and further on by the pond a great tit, grey squirrels and lovely yellow flag iris and wren and willow warbler singing.
We headed bag to the Bog Visitor Centre for a welcome drink and of course couldn’t resist their delicious scones and cakes. A good day for small birds and 31 species in all.
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21st May - The Wrekin
Nine of us met in the car park at the north end of The Wrekin at 10.00am. The sky was overcast but at least the early morning rain had passed over. We scoured the cliff at the back of the car park and soon saw a grey wagtail, a pied wagtail and a robin whilst a blackbird and a magpie flew overhead. A few minutes later a coal tit, a song thrush and a wren were added to the list but it was now time to start the walk. We headed down the road towards the Buckatree Hall Hotel passing a lake with a solitary mallard. Then by a gate overlooking a meadow we heard a chiffchaff and flying overhead were house martins, swallows and a couple of woodpigeons.
We then entered Ercall Wood Nature Reserve and soon saw blue tits and a grey squirrel and then a very loud song stopped us in our tracks. A wood warbler was sitting on a branch right in front of us trilling beautifully interspersed with a strident ‘pu, pu, pu’. This had everyone excited and as we moved on we could hear two more. We then ascended the woods and stopped for a coffee break by an old ruined building and found common toothwort at our feet. At the top of the woods lots of chiffchaffs singing and a song thrush and carrion crow. The path now had lots of wild flowers, yellow archangel, cowslips, sweetscented bedstraw (woodruff), herb robert, dog violets and the scent of wild garlic was everywhere. Leaving the woods there was a lot of common cottongrass in the field and at the road a skylark sang overhead as we admired the distant views of the Stretton Hills. We descending into Wenlocks Wood where the ground was a carpet of bluebells and a great spotted woodpecker was hammering at a dead tree trunk. Rising towards the lower slopes of The Wrekin a starling flew over and as we worked our way around the side of the hill another wood warbler was singing and oxalis (wood sorrel) was alongside the path. We descended to the car park and made our way to the Buckatree Hall Hotel for lunch and conversation.
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16th April - Around Lower Wood from Ludlow
The morning started with sunshine and snow on the hills, Buzzards overhead and Chiffchaffs heard but not seen whilst 12 members gathered on Whitcliffe Common above Ludlow. As we headed off down the common to Lower Wood Road, some of us saw a Song Thrush while the others, lagging behind, were stepping carefully through the mud. Once we were on the road and not worrying about slipping, we started to hear and see many birds besides the usual Buzzard, Blackbird, Robin, Magpie, House Sparrow, Crow, Jackdaw and oh, it's a Blue tit again. Slowly we made our way up the road where we spied a Pheasant and then a lovely, frightened Red Legged Partridge on the other side of the hedge. Further up we turned right into a farmer's lane, where we stopped for tea before cutting across to Halton Lane.
After toasting Beth and Lionel's 50th wedding anniversary, we carried on up the muddy lane, seeing Goldfinch and Swallow on the way. We turned right onto Halton Lane where we continued to see lots of birds in and along the hedge including Great Tit, Chaffinch and once again a Song Thrush. We may have seen a Willow Warbler (having heard one earlier) and finally actually saw a Chiffchaff and a tiny Wren. Near the end of our walk we spied a Dunnock, Grey Wagtail and Greenfinch. Most of us ended up at the Green Café along the River Teme where we sat outside in the cold wind, eating our lunch and watching a mother Mallard with her ducklings. Other wildlife spotted were rabbits, squirrel, and various wild flowers such as Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Primrose and some interesting lichen on a dead tree.
Hopefully the next Ludlow walk will be less muddy allowing us to venture up into Mortimer Forest in search of the Goshawk.
This walk was dedicated to the memory of our friend Clarissa Cooke.
Gail and Richard Ellis
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20th February - Catherton Common
17 of us met on a blustery morning on Catherton Common. Despite the weather,we were encouraged to hear larks singing as we put on our boots. Leaving the windswept sheep on Upper marshes we headed towards Riddings gate, following the southern eastern perimeter of the common, hoping that the birch and beech woodland to our left would yield some bird life. Two robins sang continuously as we clocked up a tree creeper, ravens buzzards, jackdaws, wrens and three of the tit family. We descended towards marshier ground, passing the concrete footings of the aerial ropeway that transported dolerite from Clee Hill to Detton a century ago.
We followed a Wildlife Trust route to ford Cumpsbrook, before climbing to a drier area of mossy turf scattered with bell pits, some showing residues of the coal mined on the common. Here, green and great spotted woodpeckers, song and mistle thrushes, a meadow pipit and goldfinches were added to our list. Threatened with a fine drizzle we gradually made our way back across the common through thickets of gorse. A kestrel gave us a good view of its rufus plumage, and most surprisingly, 6 fallow deer cantered across the open ground. In all we totalled 23 bird species ( seven of the group who came back to my place for a hot drink adding siskins, greenfinch, house sparrows and long tailed tits to their tally!)
My thanks to all who joined me on a less than promising day, and making no complaints about wet feet, contributed to a highly enjoyable couple of hours. Special thanks to Dave Pearce whose ID skills are way ahead of mine, and who updated us with news of the Shropshire pine martens.
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