Monday, 19 October 2015

Kings Norton Nature Reserve - my new local patch?

Now I have a bit more free time after finishing my degree, I have been thinking about getting into patch birding. I haven't really properly had a local patch since 2007/08, when I used to spend one day a week at St Nicholas Fields in York. This was when I was first getting into birding and I had many memorable formative bird experiences there! My birding at St Nicks was actually a volunteer role, they wanted someone to record the species present in a more systematic way than had been done previously as they didn't have much of an idea what was around. For an urban reserve surrounded by housing and industrial estates I had some nice sightings - Willow Tit (now sadly no longer present), Lesser Whitethroat, Linnet, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Garden Warbler..... Since then, although I volunteer at RSPB Sandwell Valley, I don't really go often enough (~once a month) to regard it as my local patch. Plus while I am there my voluntary duties are foremost in my mind so looking for birds sometimes comes second!

I picked up a leaflet about Kings Norton Nature Reserve at an event a while ago, and filed it away to investigate at a later date. That date came on Saturday! If I was going to find myself a local patch, it had to meet a couple of criteria - it needed to be close to where I live, and it obviously had to have some potential for interesting birds. Kings Norton Nature Reserve is both of those things, being a 20-minute walk away from our house, and having a range of different habitats spread over a fair-sized area. Here is a helpful map from the Friends of Kings Norton Nature Reserve website:

Purple & blue = boundaries, green & yellow = paths.
Much of the reserve follows the River Rea corridor, and there are also a couple of water bodies - Merecroft Pool and Wychall Reservoir. Here are a few pics of the various habitats I encountered:

Open parkland with hedgerows and mature trees.

Closed canopy maturing woodland.

Small bits of reedbed.

The River Rea path.

Apparently there are some scrapes somewhere beyond here!

Wychall Reservoir, which presumably has more water in it when there's been more rain.
Young woodland along the River Rea.
The River Rea.

A bunch of planted Rowans, maybe good for Waxwings in winter?

Horse paddocks.

Merecroft Pool.

Woodland and grassland.
A nice range of different habitats which will hopefully host various interesting species throughout the seasons! My only gripe was that walking along the main portion of the Rea Valley path (F - E on the map) it was not possible to see very far into the vegetation to the north - I could only catch tantalising glimpses of interesting-looking reedbeds and wet woodland. It would be good if a few gaps could be cut into the trees by the path to create vistas into these areas - the maps on the helpful information boards dotted around showed that there were wet scrapes and marshland in this area so it would be nice to be able to see a bit of it!

In total I saw or heard 30 bird species on my 2-hour walk around. The highlights included:
  • 4 Fieldfare in the open parkland of the westernmost area of the Rea Valley.
  • A Skylark flyover, heard from the same area.
  • As expected for the time of year, Jays aplenty caching their precious acorns.
  • At least 24 Redwings.
  • A Kingfisher in Wychall Reservoir.
  • A Water Rail skulking around in the undergrowth at the north end of Merecroft Pool.
  • Grey Wagtail flying over at the south end of Merecroft Pool.
  • A mixed tit flock in the same area, with Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits plus Goldcrest.
Amazingly there weren't any Canada Geese on Merecroft Pool, a situation which I'm sure will be rectified on future visits. I also didn't see or hear any woodpeckers or raptors. The information boards told me that among other things I could expect more waterfowl in winter, including Teal and Goosander, so I'm excited to see how my list will expand over the coming months.

I also spotted a few plants:

I think this is some kind of Aster, but I'm not sure which....
Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus).
Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis).
Hopefully I'll be able to visit the reserve around once a week, although that will probably vary a bit depending on how busy I am at weekends (at least over the winter when I have to spend the precious hours of daylight during Monday to Friday at work). I am really looking forward to building up a picture of what can be seen in this area, demonstrating the importance of green corridors and spaces in urban areas, and honing my birding skills.


Mute Swan
Black-headed Gull
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Grey Wagtail
Carrion Crow
Coal Tit
Song Thrush
Long-tailed Tit
Tufted Duck
Water Rail


  1. Its a gem isn't it. I joined their dawn chorus walk in May 2 years ago, heard loads of birds. Have you ever explored Woodbrooke? I volunteer there and am constantly delighted by the birds I hear as I work

  2. I'm looking forward to going on their next guided walk at the end of the month. Where is Woodbrooke - is that the Quaker Centre on the Bristol Road? I haven't got further than the park with the boating pond on Woodbrooke Road/Bournville Lane. There is so much nice green space in south Birmingham :o)

    1. Yes it's the quaker conference centre. People do wander in from the entrance near the yachting pool but if you go through the main entrance on bristol road and pop into reception they are usually happy to give permission to look round

    2. I forgot to mention parts of woodbrooke grounds are designated a Local Wildlife Site. (formerly a SINC)

    3. Great, thanks - I'll have to check it out.