Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bird-ringing at Feckenham

Just before this spell of cold and wet weather set in we were lucky enough to get a morning of bird ringing in at FWM. 

Tony Kelly, who has ringed at the reserve before, set up a number of nets along the path through and on the edge of the reed bed. Nothing particularly interesting but we did manage 15 birds in total over a period of two to three hours: 10 great tits, 2 blue tits, 2 long-tailed tits and 1 chiffchaff (their first of the year). I guess that it was still a little early although we did see reedbuntings that morning and we've had willow warbler, which was earlier than last year. There are also more chiffchaff than at this time last year. 

With this spell of cold and wet weather I don't expect to see or hear our reed and sedge warblers just yet but who knows.

Other new arrivals are our resident little grebes and a pair of tufted ducks. There have been good numbers of bumblebees about on the Sallow and we did have a curlew fly over a couple of weeks ago. Good numbers of early butterflies include peacock, small tortoiseshell and both male and female brimstone.
Hopefully we'll be able to start out butterfly and dragonfly recording soon, providing the weather warms up again. I hope to hear our first cuckoo of the year in the middle of April.

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Wetlands & Wildlife

At our recent meeting, Rob Allen gave a fascinating illustrated talk: Wetland Conservation & Creation

Rob is the southern reserves officer for Worcs WT and, as such, is responsible for 20 nature reserves between Upton upon Severn and Broadway including the Gwen Finch, Hill Court Farm and John Bennett wetland reserves (not all open to the public).

Wetlands provide some of the best wildlife spectacles such as huge flocks of starlings and skeins of geese.  They're defined as the interface between open water and dry land, an example of an ecotone which attracts so many different species and makes it a magnet for naturalists. This interface is constantly changing, not only through the seasons but as rainfall trends increase and decrease. The shallow warm waters support invertebrates, the bottom of the food chain. Rob described the key species of wetlands: otter, water vole, lapwing, snipe and warblers (Cettis, reed, sedge and marsh).

Our landscape has been shaped by watercourses and wetlands and settlements have developed along them. Highly productive between floods, they've been a source of food and building materials through the ages. They've also been subject to many threats including housing, agriculture and fertiliser run-off, dredging, canalisation and climate change. In addition, over 70 invasive species have been identified by DEFRA including Himalayan balsam, mink and signal crayfish.

Gwen Finch Wetland (near Pershore)
The Wildlife Trusts' initiative, Living Landscapes, recognises that wildlife reserves need to be linked through the wider countryside. The development of this concept requires communication and co-operation with land owners. On the River Avon this has led to the conversion of agricultural land at Birlingham (near Pershore) into the John Bennett wetland reserve which comprises 22 ha of wet grassland and 4 ha of reedbeds and open water. In this way, a chain of “stepping stones” is being created along the river to bring increased wildlife back to the Avon valley.

The next indoor meeting of the Malvern local group will be held on Thursday 3rd May when wildlife photographer Iain Green will give an illustrated talk entitled On the wild side: from Downing Street to our local high street. The meeting starts at 7.30 pm at the Chase Academy Sixth Form Annexe, Geraldine Close, Barnards Green WR14 3PF - we're looking forward to seeing you there.

Derek, Malvern local group

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Spinneyfields at dawn

Spinneyfields is one of my local nature reserves and I've lost count of how many work parties I've been on here.  But last week I made a different kind of visit.  Together with my friend from the local photographic club, I got to the reserve at 5.45am and everything was very quiet.  We were quite surprised by this - when we left home the birds were already singing...does the movement of cars etc disturbs these 'City Birds'?

On walking down the very dark path, carrying the equivalent of a lighthouse each, we chanced across a rabbit.  We're not sure who was more surprised - us or or the rabbit.

It was too dark to open the gates so over the stiles we went.  I fell over more than climbed - it wasn't a pretty sight, good job it was dark

Once settled in a choice spot on the nature reserve, we were delighted to hear the wonderful Dawn Chorus as it started with a few 'tweets' and gained momentum until we did not know where to look. As the light improved there were some tentative fluttering from tree to tree - again we did not know where to look as the small birds are so quick.  We recognised songs and calls from blackbird, robin, crow, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch & wood pigeon. 

As we moved our position in the meadow we saw a buzzard.  It flew off so we waited to see if it would return but after 30mins we moved more into the trees. The sun came up as we sat there and more birds made an appearance: coal tit, bullfinch, siskin, collard dove and I could hear a warbler (but not sure which one).

At 8.30am we decided to make a move and as we walked away I'm sure the birds were saying "They're going, hooray!"  During the walk back, a pheasant crossed the field and we encountered a robin who sat on the gate post posing for us.  We also saw a fox hurrying back across the path into the woods and at a distance we heard a woodpecker. By that time we were ready for breakfast so of for a bacon roll & coffee...life doesn't get better than this!

Sylvia, South Birmingham local group & Heather (member of Kings Norton Photographic Club)