Friday, 28 August 2009

28th August 2009

Braved the rain and got pretty wet again during the late afternoon, but there were good numbers of hirundines present with 140+ Swallows, 10+ House Martins and 2+ Sand Martins counted. Also seen were 2 Tufted Ducks and a Grey Wagtail at Windmill Pool, a Mute Swan at Engine Pool and a Kingfisher at Terry's Pool.
Leaving the lakes in a hurry after realising the time, took one of the sharp corners at the causeway too fast on my bike and hit the kerb, went over my handlebars a little and was saved from falling down the slope to Valley Road by the barrier fence - luckily the idiots who have been removing bits of the lakes' barriers haven't removed any on that side so far, or I might've been a goner! There was a car behind me, saw the whole thing but didn't stop to see that I was okay :-(
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

26th August 2009

Braved some windy conditions and the risk of rain, and cycled to the lakes during the afternoon. I got moderately soaked (in comparison to past soakings), but at the causeway was rewarded with a Hobby flying over heading towards the Red Lion pub at c. 4:45 pm and a little later a Sparrowhawk over, both probably attracted to the 80+ Swallows present but neither attempted a catch. Also seen were 7 Common Terns. At Terry's Pool, heard a Kingfisher but there was no sign of the Teal.
M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

25th August 2009

Spent quite some time at Earlswood today. First up as usual were the lakes, with a Tufted Duck at Windmill Pool, 1 or 2 Mute Swan at Engine Pool, and 7 Common Terns counted. A Teal and 1+ Tufted Duck were still at Terry's Pool, and also a Kingfisher. I then went to Earlswood STW where I saw 3 Grey Wagtails and 2 Pied Wagtails on the filter beds, a Fox along Malthouse Lane after the first gate, and a dead Buzzard on the railway close to the M42 bridge. At Forshaw Heath, eventually determined that there were 50+ House Sparrows at a field.
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 24 August 2009

24th August 2009

The lakes were quite good again during the late afternoon today, with a Teal still present at Terry's Pool along with 5 Tufted Ducks, and a Hedgehog observed foraging in daylight in a newly cut field next to the channel that runs around the pool - was amazed that it had survived the tractor's grass cutter which had only just finished, and that the time of day didn't seem to concern it. Also noted at the lakes were 7 Common Terns, a Kingfisher, 40+ Swallows and 1 or 2 Mute Swan. Coming home along Norton Lane, saw 2 Kestrels over the Hungry Horse field.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 23 August 2009

23rd August 2009

Overslept, so had to do my WeBS counts during the early afternoon. However, the lakes were surprisingly productive, especially Terry's Pool where a Teal, a male Pochard, a Tufted Duck and a Greylag Goose were seen, and a Chiffchaff heard. At Windmill Pool, another Tufted Duck and 64 Black-headed Gulls were seen, and a Willow Warbler heard.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. After the counts, went to Upton Warren (Worcestershire) with John Yardley hoping to see a roosting Sabine's Gull. It had come into roost there for the previous three evenings, and I think one has also showed on all subsequent evenings up to the time of writing (27th - sorry this write-up is late), but the one evening it didn't show was this one - argh!

Friday, 21 August 2009

21st August 2009

Cycled to Earlswood during the early morning. From the causeway, noted some Common Terns, 40 Black-headed Gulls, 5 adult Herring Gulls, 1 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Buzzard. At Windmill Pool, saw a Kingfisher and a Tufted Duck, and noted a second Great Crested Grebe brood (2 chicks). Around the lakes, heard singing 2+ Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

I then proceeded to Blythe Valley Country Park and over the Stratford Road to the new "Fore" development, where a man told me that the country park will not be open to the public 'til the end of the year and that I'd have to leave. The newspaper article that drew my attention to this future park should've mentioned something about public access! Disappointed, I returned to Blythe Valley and noted 2 Little Grebes, a Buzzard, 4 House Martins, 2 Reed Warblers, a Chiffchaff, 2+ Jays and a juvenile Bullfinch.

Coming back through Earlswood, saw a Kestrel and 4 Stock Doves along Wood Lane.

M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

18th August 2009

Blythe Valley Country Park

Went on a tour of this park (near Earlswood) with Humphey Miller and Barbara Oakley as part of a nestbox maintenance and monitoring project that the West Midland Bird Club's Solihull Branch has recently become involved with implementing there. 2 Ravens, 3 Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Treecreeper were among the birds noted whilst there.

At present just the three of us are involved with this project but more volunteers will be needed if it is to be successful. More information should be appearing in the next WMBC Bulletin, but for non-members wanting further information or interested in participating please contact Humphrey (Solihull Branch Chairman).

The park is situated adjacent to Junction 4 of the M42, less than 1.5 miles ENE of Earlswood Lakes, and includes small pools, reedbeds, grassland and woodland, as well as a bird feeding station and a hide that overlooks one of the larger pools. Quail, Wood Lark, Waxwing, Black Redstart and Common Crossbill are amongst the species that have been recorded. Its location makes it easily accessible not just to Solihull bird lovers but also to those living elsewhere in the West Midlands region. More information about the country park can be found here. A number of relevant maps can be found here; the site map is particularly useful but since this was made the bird feeding station seems to have been moved to next to the hide.

M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 17 August 2009

17th August 2009

I'd hoped to be able to find Reg's Lesser Whitethroat (which would've been a site tick) but was only able to spend an hour at Earlswood and spent too much time at the Malthouse Lane causeway, where just 2 Common Terns, a Tufted Duck and a Mute Swan were seen.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. Yesterday, went to Upton Warren in Worcestershire with John Yardley and saw a Wood Sandpiper (lifer!), a Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpipers and a Little Egret.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

16th August 2009

I was at the lakes between 8.15am and 9.30am today. Bird sightings were broadly similar to those reported recently. However, of particular note were a Common Sandpiper that I flushed near the sailing club, and a Lesser Whitethroat spotted fleetingly in the southwest corner of Windmill Pool in the hedgerows adjoining the paddocks.

Butterflies consisted only of Speckled Wood and Small White, whilst dragonflies and damselflies were limited to a few suspected Common Blues and one probable Brown Hawker.

It was nice to see a few juvenile Great Crested Grebes and one juvenile Common Tern on site.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

15th August 2009

Had a text from Craig Reed saying he'd seen a Hobby along Norton Lane flying towards the lakes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get out around then and a visit to the lakes during the late afternoon produced little, apart from a few Common Terns, 15+ Swallows and a Mute Swan. Venturing to the area near Junction 3a of the M42, I had 8+ Mistle Thrushes and 2 Stock Doves. Then I returned to the lakes during the evening, and picked out a Greylag Goose amongst a large number of Canada Geese on Engine Pool.

M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

12th August 2009

A Sparrowhawk visited my garden for 6-8 minutes during the early afternoon, attracted to my mom's aviary as is often the case here.

A late afternoon visit to the lakes produced 7+ Common Terns, with a Tufted Duck and a Kingfisher at Windmill Pool, and a Mute Swan still on the water at Engine Pool. Giving Terry's Pool a miss, I proceeded on to Earlswood STW where I counted 11 Grey Wagtails on the filter beds (beating my previous record of 8 there last month). I then finished off at Forshaw Heath, where the largest field there had recently been harvested and had attracted hundreds of birds, amongst which I managed to pick out a Greylag Goose, 4+ Stock Doves, 1 Feral Pigeon and 2+ Rooks.

Coming home along Dickens Heath Road, saw a Muntjac Deer cross over and enter Big Dickens Wood - the second I've seen in the local area this month!

M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 10 August 2009

10th August 2009

There was no sign of the Black Tern when I visited the lakes during the late morning. At Engine Pool, a Mute Swan was still on the water but when I looked closely at one of the reed islands I saw the white feathers of probably a second bird which I think I noted earlier last month in exactly the same place when I last saw two there - if this is an incubating bird, they're rather late breeding. Also, the two birds on the water a while back both had a few grey-brown feathers indicating first-summers, which would further make this breeding unusual (though maybe an adult pair could've chased them off and quickly nested?). At Terry's Pool, saw a Greylag Goose amongst a flock of Canada Geese, and a Kingfisher (perched and showing well). Again, I came back along Wood Lane and saw flocks of c. 30 Swallows, 22 Starlings, 6 Pied Wagtails and 3 Linnets - this lane has been pretty good for birds lately.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 9 August 2009

9th August 2009

Earlswood was more productive than usual today. Whilst cycling along Cleobury Lane on my way to the lakes during the early morning, I stopped at the farms and at Big Cleobury Farm saw 3 Yellowhammers, which had only a hint of yellow on their heads so I guess they were immatures. This was an Earlswood tick for me, and has become the only record of this species in the area in the last decade that I'm aware of - very saddening.

At the lakes, I noted up to 9 Common Terns from the causeway. However, at c. 8:20 am I heard an unfamiliar call and then amongst the terns saw what I eventually identified as a juvenile Black Tern - I reckon it arrived at that time. Another birder (who I've met at the lakes on previous occasions) arrived not long after I spotted the tern, and confirmed the identification. Also seen were a Kingfisher at Windmill Pool and a Mute Swan at Engine Pool; whilst a Chiffchaff was heard singing along Valley Road. The Black Tern was still present when I left at c. 11:30 am. Coming home along Wood Lane, I noticed that a field had been recently ploughed and another harvested, whilst a combine harvester was at work in a field near Earlswood railway station.

I returned to the lakes during the late afternoon, and saw that the juvenile Black Tern was still present (still was when I left at c. 7:30 pm). Came back along Wood Lane again, and saw that the ploughed field had attracted 12+ Mistle Thrushes. Now that some of Earlswood's fields are easier to check for birds, I'd love to hear from people who see other birds like Yellowhammers, Linnets, partridges, etc attracted to them.

M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 8 August 2009

8th August 2009

Craig Reed (who kindly sends me sightings for a Norton Lane garden that he visits) informs me that today he counted 26+ Peacock, 2 Painted Lady, 4+ Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Comma, 3 Speckled Wood, 1 Gatekeeper and assorted whites including 3 Green-veined White, butterflies in the garden.

P.S. I too had good numbers of butterflies in and near my back garden today, including 45+ Peacock (yes, really!), 5 Painted Lady, 2 Comma, 2 Gatekeeper and 1 Small Tortoiseshell (released it from my house). Yesterday (7th), my mom found a "butterfly" on a mint plant in our garden; I counted 3 of them and eventually identified them as Mint Moths (day-flying, pretty species and a lifer). Today, 2 Mint Moths were still in my garden.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 6 August 2009

6th August 2009

An afternoon visit to the lakes produced 8 Grey Herons and the usual Common Terns. Also, a Feral Pigeon was foraging on the jetty at Windmill Pool, which was the first time I'd seen one there; whilst the Mute Swan and a Grey Wagtail were seen at Engine Pool. Coming home along Wood Lane, I noted 4 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Stock Doves, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Jay and a Nuthatch.
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

5th August 2009

During the early afternoon, saw a flock of 30+ House Sparrows near the Red Lion pub. At the lakes, noted 7 Common Terns. Also seen were 3 Great Crested Grebe chicks, an adult Moorhen with a large chick and a probable Sparrowhawk carrying prey at Windmill Pool; and a Mute Swan still at Engine Pool. Went in Earlswood Moathouse NR for the first time in ages, but was unable to check the whole area because it was very muddy in places and didn't see anything notable. Saw a flock of 22 Starlings near Springbrook Lane, and a Sparrowhawk and a Collared Dove along Small Lane (near Terry's Green). At Forshaw Heath, saw a Muntjac Deer (in the road!) and a Kestrel but there was no sign of the large House Sparrow flock there. I believe the Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Collared Dove were the first that I've seen at those parts of Earlswood, no doubt down to the fact that I don't pass over the railway line regularly to check out the Forshaw Heath, Biddles Hill and Terry's Green areas - areas which I will try to visit more often if I can from now on. Problem is I don't find the Earlswood recording area easy to cover thoroughly, even on the bike, and there are a few areas that I'd still like to visit before this summer is over.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. Butterfly numbers in and near my garden are increasing. On the 2nd, I noted 7 Painted Lady, 5 Peacock and 3 Small Tortoiseshell. Then on the 3rd I managed 9+ species, namely 10 Painted Lady, 15 Peacock, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Comma, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Meadow Brown, 1 Gatekeeper, 1 Speckled Wood and unidentified whites.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Article reproduced

Last month's West Midland Bird Club Bulletin contained an article about Earlswood. I thought readers of this blog who aren't members of the WMBC (hope most of you are!) might like to have a read:

WMBC Bulletin 448: 13-14

The Earlswood area, which straddles the county boundary of Warwickshire and West Midlands, is a good place to go birding, with a number of different habitats present. It has attracted a fair number of bird species, and so far I’ve found records of 192 British species confirmed as having occurred there (see

Firstly, may I draw readers’ attentions to an internet blog that I run, called “Birds of Earlswood …and surrounding areas”, at The blog’s main aims are to keep birders updated on the less usual species at Earlswood (and occasionally at nearby areas) and to encourage birders to submit sightings to me, for inclusion in the blog and a book/report that I’m hoping to produce.

This leads me to the second item that I’d like to mention: the book/report. I first considered writing something about Earlswood’s birds over a year ago. It became apparent that annual bird reports, articles and other similar printed works had been and continue to be produced for a number of sites in the WMBC region (see Club’s website). Naturally I was pleased to find that the birds of Earlswood, my local patch, had been described species-by-species in an article published in 1956 (West Midland Bird Report 23: 12-15). However, as far as I’m aware it was never updated. From memory (as I don’t have copies to hand), the third edition of "Where to Watch Birds in the West Midlands" has a few pages that are devoted to Earlswood, and a couple of shorter articles in back issues of "Bird Watching" magazine also deal with Earlswood, but these are intended to help visiting birders rather than detail every species occurring there. Of course relevant records appear in the Club’s Annual Reports, but these must be searched for amongst the numerous records for other areas; also, some locally notable occurrences either get left out or get mentioned but with no exact numbers or dates given. Therefore, I feel that it would be useful to bring together previously published and unpublished Earlswood bird records into one piece of work, for people to easily see just how common or rare each species is or was in the area.

My plan at present is to have this publication include the birds observed in the Earlswood area during the period 2000-09. The area to be covered is shown in Figure 1; properties with “Earlswood” in their address, the River Cole, Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, M42 and Alcester Road (A435) have been used to determine its boundaries. I’ve only been birdwatching Earlswood since late 2007 so I have little idea about what the area’s bird populations were like prior to then. I’ve managed to find a number of records for the period (mainly from websites and the Club’s Annual Reports), but more are needed, especially for the common species, so I’d really appreciate it if birders could send me their records. If anyone lives in Earlswood and notes the birds that visit their garden, any such information would be useful as I live just outside the area. Pre-2000 records would also be gratefully received, as I’m also thinking of producing some sort of history/handbook of the birds of Earlswood at some point later in the future, partly to cover the period from 2000 back to 1956. Anyone kind enough to loan me their note books can rest assured that these will be kept and handled carefully. As well as records, I’m also interested in:-

Borrowing or acquiring a privately produced work entitled “A survey of the birds of Earlswood” by John N. Sears and A. Winspear Cundall (1955) – I haven’t been able to find a single copy of it anywhere. If anyone knows the whereabouts of a copy, that would be good to know also.

Acquiring some of the older West Midland Bird Reports and Bulletins.

References to any articles and other publications that deal with Earlswood.

Memories of birding at Earlswood, perhaps for publication – I’m particularly interested in changes in the area’s habitats and birdlife.

Information can be sent to me at: [postal address removed];
or Email:
Matthew Griffiths

Saturday, 1 August 2009

1st August 2009

A late afternoon visit to the lakes was one of my best for a while. Although there were only 4 or 5 Common Terns present, after a while I was watching 60+ Swifts and 50+ Swallows flying over the area. Windmill Pool was rather productive, with 2 Common Sandpipers (didn't see a single one last month!) and a Kingfisher seen, plus a Green Woodpecker and a Common Pheasant heard nearby; one of the sandpipers was last seen wandering under the sailing club's gates, which I thought was a little odd. There still seemed to be just 1 Mute Swan at Engine Pool. It was starting to get dark when I finally got round to giving Terry's Pool a look, and all I noted were 14 Rabbits in two adjacent fields :-/
M.P. Griffiths