Monday, 16 May 2016

Kings Norton Nature Reserve, plus a bit extra 07/05/16

Bit tardy posting this, as last week was mega-busy with bat stuff, preparing for then having a job interview, and first aid training! Saturday 7th May was the day of the Friends of Kings Norton Nature Reserve's Walks on the Wild Side, a varied programme of walks and fun nature activities including bird, bat, bug and botany walks, pond dipping, a treasure hunt and more. It was a very early start for me as I was leading the dawn chorus walk, starting at 05:30. When I arrived at Wychall Reservoir just as the sun was rising there were already three super-keen attendees there who had been out since 04:00, listening to Tawny Owls and spotting bats!

Wychall Reservoir at dawn (HDR).
In total there were 18 people on the walk. I'd never led a walk before and I think my leadership style was probably fairly low-key, but I managed to find plenty of nice birds to show the participants and everyone seemed pleased with the experience! We walked west along the River Rea and looped around the Peafields before heading back along to finish at Merecroft Pool. We then enjoyed a lovely cooked breakfast at Molly's Cafe.

We saw and/or heard 36 species on our walk in total; one of these was new for me at this site taking my patch total to 66. Here are the highlights:
  • The new species was Swift! I'd been walking around with my eyes to the sky for the past couple of days on the lookout for these speedy sky-dwellers as they had just started to arrive en masse in the UK. We spotted a pair flying over just before we crossed Wychall Lane to get to Merecroft Pool, and after that I was seeing Swifts everywhere for the rest of the weekend :o)
  • We had great views again of the Grey Heron family on Merecroft Pool. The four juveniles stood up in their nest and were visited by one of their parents.
  • Two Great Crested Grebes were present on Merecroft Pool. Are they going to have a go at breeding? I think there's still time....
  • We heard Whitethroat in two places, but they were tricky to see. One was from the path west of Wychall Reservoir where I have heard one previously, and the other was in the south half of the Peafields/West Extension.
  • We heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling at the start of the walk. Have been hearing them quite a lot recently at the reserve, I rarely see them but it's better than nothing at all!
  • Jays were everywhere again.
  • We had a brilliant surprise right at the end of the walk while we were watching the Grey Herons; a Kingfisher whizzed across the back of Merecroft Pool behind the island! This is the first time I've seen Kingfisher here, normally they are along the River Rea or on Wychall Reservoir.
The Grey Heron family.

After breakfast there was an hour and a half to go before the next event, a botanical walk at 10:30. As we'd just spent several hours on the reserve, I decided to go for a wander somewhere else that I hadn't been before. Rob had commented on my previous blog post about seeing a pair of Great Crested Grebes on Lifford Reservoir so I thought I'd see if I could get there. It turned out not to be far away and I had a very nice walk through Kings Norton Park and along bits of the River Rea and Worcester & Birmingham Canal to get there. 

The canal (HDR).
The canal (HDR).
The canal (HDR).
The canal (HDR).
Among other things I saw plenty more Swifts, a Grey Wagtail and a Kestrel. As I walked up to the Reservoir a Buzzard flew over my head with a few Carrion Crows in hot pursuit! The reservoir turned out to be very small but with a few interesting birds. There were a few Tufted Ducks there; I haven't seen any at Kings Norton for a couple of weeks now. There also bizarrely seemed to be a very small Rookery in the trees at one corner of the reservoir, a very urban setting for birds normally associated with rural landscapes. And I found the Great Crested Grebes.....a pair of them, but best of all, with two very small chicks riding on the back of one of the parents! I watched the other adult come in with a small fish and feed one of the chicks; I managed to get some OK photos too - view them full size to see the chicks properly:
Great Crested Grebe family.

Great Crested Grebe family.
Great Crested Grebe family.
Great Crested Grebe family.
Great Crested Grebe family.

After that I walked back to the reserve for the botanical walk, led by Mary Green. We went around part of the Merecroft Pool section of the reserve, learning about various different species, their place in folklore, their medicinal properties and whether they were edible. As the walk went at quite a slow pace, it was great to be able to take our time and I took lots of photos of various plants. It was also nice to be solely concentrating on plants for a change, usually I have my bird hat on and although I often keep half an eye open for plants too, sometimes find it difficult to shift focus between the two groups. I guess I worry that if I'm busy looking at plants I might miss an awesome bird! At least you know plants aren't going to fly off suddenly. We also saw LOADS of Orange Tip butterflies patrolling around, and Alastair found a Speckled Wood butterfly.

Bird Cherry (Prunus padus).
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa).
I am a bit obsessed with Speedwells. Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).
Silverweed (Argentina anserina).
After that I was rather sleepy so headed home for some lunch and a nap! I saw my first Large White butterfly of the year on my way out of the reserve, and took a few more plant photos.
More Speedwell, Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).

One of my favourite spring flowers, Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis).

At 20:00 I was heading out to the reserve again for the bat walk led by Matt Wall and Brian Hewitt. It poured with rain while I was en route but luckily by the time the walk started at 20:30, it had ceased and the weather remained pretty much dry for the rest of the walk. We were all kitted out with bat detectors and shown how to use them; at the moment I am a complete bat novice but I'm making efforts to learn a lot more about bats, so here follows a fairly detailed account of the walk! We mostly used heterodyne bat detectors which mix the incoming bat sound with sound at another frequency, then subtract one from the other to emit a in real time sound which is audible to human ears. These detectors can be tuned to detect sounds at different frequencies, as different species of bats produce calls at different frequencies. The peak intensity frequencies for the species we might have expected to see on this bat walk are 45 kHz for Common Pipistrelle, 55 kHz for Soprano Pipistrelle, 25 kHz for Noctule and 45 - 50 kHz for Daubenton's Bat. 

We started off by walking to Wychall Reservoir and loafing around there for a bit with our detectors on, but we only encountered the occasional Pipistrelle among the trees. After the recent rain the air was very humid and misty so this may have interfered with the bats' echolocation. We walked back to Merecroft Pool where we found ALL THE BATS, swooping around and hunting over the water. We saw and heard Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, and a Noctule bat flew over. That one was my favourite as the sound they make is loud and weird - they go CHIP CHOP CHIP CHOP! There were probably also Daubenton's Bats present but it was difficult to hear them over the din created by the Pipistrelles. Matt played us some recordings of the sounds made by a few other bat species too which we wouldn't expect to see on this walk, including a Greater Horseshoe Bat - if I'd thought the Noctule sounded weird, this one sounded like something Aphex Twin might come up with. He was also recording the whole walk on a fancier device in order to analyse all the sounds properly later, so we would get to the bottom of whether there were also Daubentons' present. We also heard a Tawny Owl hooting, another addition to my patch list. It was a great end to a super day of nature antics in and around Kings Norton Nature Reserve!


Blackbird Green Woodpecker Nuthatch
Blackcap Greenfinch Robin
Blue Tit Grey Heron Song Thrush
Bullfinch Herring Gull Sparrowhawk
Canada Goose Jackdaw Stock Dove
Chaffinch Jay Swallow
Chiffchaff Kingfisher Swift
Coot Lesser Black-backed Gull Tawny Owl
Crow Long-tailed Tit Whitethroat
Goldfinch Magpie Woodpigeon
Great Crested Grebe Mallard Wren
Great Spotted Woodpecker Moorhen
Great Tit Mute Swan


  1. GCG family still at Lifford reservoir this evening - been back to the tip with the remains of the fence I spent the bank holiday weekend replacing.

    Out of curiosity, whereabouts on KNNR do you see sparrowhawks? They're the only bird on your lists I can't recall seeing around Bournville.

    The buzzard was around yesterday afternoon, again being mobbed by a small flock of crows.

  2. Glad to hear the Grebes are doing well!

    There isn't any particular place at KNNR that seems particularly good for Sparrowhawks, I've seen them throughout the reserve - around the Merecroft Pool area, from Wychall Reservoir and Wychall Road, and from the Peafields/West Extension. I don't see one on every visit but they are often around.

  3. Thanks Jane, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

  4. Hi Jane

    I don't know whether you'll see this, but thought I'd let you know that the Great Crested Grebes have successfully bred again at Lifford Reservoir this spring. No sign of chicks last weekend, but today a pair was happily nestled under the wings of one of the adults as they swam around.

    Newly-fledged Long Tailed Tits (how small are they!), Canada goslings on the canal and an active Mistle Thrush nest this morning too.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your message! Great to hear that the grebes have been successful again - I led the dawn chorus walk at KNNR a couple of weekends ago and was thinking of going to have a look at the reservoir again afterwards, but the weather was quite cold and damp so I kept warm indoors instead!

      Saw my first Long-tailed Tit juveniles of the year last weekend in Malvern, they are so cute and fluffy! :oD