Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sandwell Valley - December

On Sunday I was once again volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley. Upon arrival in the car park the first thing we noticed was REDWINGS, they were everywhere, wolfing down the Rowan berries on a tree by the gate and making a racket in the trees behind the temporary visitor centre - some were quietly burbling an almost-song which I hadn't heard before, nice. For the rest of the day, we saw Redwings everywhere we went, there must have been hundreds on the reserve!

As there were plenty of volunteers for the hide in the morning, Alf and I went for a wander around the reserve. We had a good start seeing three Little Grebe together on the River Tame.

The River Tame.
I managed to get better views of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll than on my last visit, although they were still very mobile - we were able to sneak up on some in Alders by the marsh screen, in the poor light it took us a while to see what was what!

The unreliable light at least made for some nice views.
The island in the middle of Forge Mill Lake has been reprofiled and is now islands! It was pretty exciting to see the changes, the islands have been created to make more shoreline which will hopefully attract more waders, and they've been profiled so that they fan out from the hide - which means you get a great view down the channels between islands. So hopefully we will get better views of more birds, will be great to see how this develops over the coming months! These pictures aren't great, and unfortunately I wasn't able to find any good photos of how it was before, but hopefully they give an idea.

Looking towards the hide from the opposite bank.

View from the hide.
View from the hide.
The islands were mostly bare mud but we managed to find a few Snipe in or near some remaining vegetation. The Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls seemed to have adjusted to their new arrangements with no problems!

Before we went down to the hide for the afternoon, we stopped by the old visitor centre where a couple of ringers were working. While we were there they caught a Reed Bunting and a Magpie, a beautiful bird when seen close-up! Magpies are great, if they were rarer people would love them, they are dead handsome and charismatic!

Magpie in the hand.
Down in the hide, things were fairly quiet bird-wise - some of the usual ducks weren't around, we didn't find any Shoveler or Wigeon for some reason. I still haven't seen a Goldeneye at Sandwell yet this autumn, sure I've usually had one by now - I think they have been seen intermittently but not regularly. Maybe when it gets colder....... Still plenty of noisy Water Rail action, we didn't see any this time but they were fairly vocal.

Here are my drawings from the afternoon!

I overdid it on the Teal, don't like that one very much. So I decided to go the other way with the minimal Gadwall which I much prefer! Mostly happy with those Lapwings too although the middle one's body is a bit weird.
The gulls for the most part kept quite still which made it easier to draw them. For the most part so far, as a beginner, I have been sticking to more stationary birds, occasionally though I am attempting more active ones too - I tried to draw this Magpie really quickly as it foraged around next to the hide.
After closing the hide, we saw one of the ringers again on the way back to the visitor centre - this time with an awesome female Bullfinch which he kindly allowed me to take a few photos of:

Female Bullfinch in the hand.
As it had been a while since I'd bought an RSPB pin badge I thought I'd treat myself! There were some great new designs that I hadn't seen before, there was a nice Barnacle Goose and a Reindeer. I always wonder who designs the badges, I think that would be a really fun job :o) Anyway, I liked the look of the Long-eared Owl, and when I looked more closely and noticed that it appeared to be slightly cross-eyed, my mind was made up!

My new cross-eyed Long-eared Owl! I guess its eyes should really be orange too....

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