Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sandwell Valley - November 2015

On Sunday I was back again for my monthly volunteering stint at RSPB Sandwell Valley. As the weather was extremely windy and a bit drizzly, and there were plenty of volunteers down in the hide for the morning, Alf and I stayed up inside the visitor centre, keeping nice and warm whilst enjoying the view of the feeders and down over the marsh from the giant windows! It was very pleasant indeed; on the feeders it was great to see so many Greenfinches - many of them juveniles so they've obviously had a successful breeding season. We also kept our eyes peeled for Bramblings as a couple had been spotted recently, but alas we couldn't make any of the numerous Chaffinches we saw into Bramblings. Also around were the usual Blue and Great Tits, Bullfinches, and a few House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Dunnocks, as well as a group of Long-tailed Tits passing through at one point.

After lunch we headed down to the hide. On the way I took a few photos:

Secret passage for the young 'uns! (HDR).
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) berries (HDR).

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) berries.

Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo) still in flower.
Down in the hide, Forge Mill Lake was looking very choppy indeed and as a result virtually all the lake's usual residents were sheltering down at the far end in the distance. This included quite a few Goosander, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, the first Wigeon I've seen this autumn at Sandwell Valley, and just a couple of Shoveler. Along with a small group of Gadwall braving the wind up at our end of the lake, and a few skittish Teal, we've nearly got the full complement of winter ducks in now! Our search for Goldeneye proved fruitless, but they usually turn up when it gets colder.... There were also a few Snipe on the islands and far shore which generally kept their heads down, but occasionally would fly up or scuttle around a bit. One other interesting thing I observed which I'd never seen before was a Magpie caching an acorn - it landed on the island with its cargo and proceeded to peck a small hole in the mud, insert the acorn, then drop a bit of mud back on the top!

Choppy Forge Mill Lake.
Rough waters!
As most of the birds were a bit out of range for drawings and photos, I resorted to the omnipresent Black-headed Gulls to practice my sketching and photography skills; here are my efforts!

Black-headed Gulls.

Black-headed Gulls.
Black-headed Gulls.
Black-headed Gulls.
Black-headed Gull sketch.
Black-headed Gull sketch.
Although I didn't capture any in my photos, a couple of the Black-headed Gulls had partially-developed brown hoods, as though they were developing their breeding plumage. We didn't know whether this might have been related to the recent warm temperatures - I'm not sure what the triggers are for the development of breeding plumage, maybe temperature plays a part, maybe it doesn't.....something I'll have to try and find out more about. Either way, I'm hoping for some more seasonally-appropriate weather soon, and looking at the forecast for this weekend I think I might finally be in luck! Looking forward to seeing what changes it may bring to my birding :o)

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