Thursday, 14 April 2016

Sandwell Valley April 2016

On Sunday I was back volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley once again. The hide was well-staffed by volunteers in the morning so Alf and I went for a ramble around the reserve, our first in a while! Before we set off though we had a few nice sightings from the centre, mainly of birds on and around the feeders. The place is teeming with Lesser Redpolls, even more than last time, I don't think there have ever been this many here before - usually sightings are restricted to the occasional small flock around the Alders in the reedbed. Some of the males are by now looking very nice in their breeding plumage - like they've been eating raspberries rather messily! The other usual friends were also around, including Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Coal Tit and Chaffinch. I also saw a Rook fly over which was unusual - they are normally found more around the farmland in the wider Sandwell Valley. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly also landed briefly on the Marsh Marigold growing in front of the window.

On our walk Alf and I heard our first Blackcap of the year near Kingfisher Corner. We also saw many of the usual suspects on Forge Mill Lake and the marsh including Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Gadwall and Teal. Our best sighting of the day came when we were walking along the bank overlooking Forge Mill Lake; I spotted a Yellow Wagtail busily striding around one of the islands in the lake! This was a reserve tick for me as Yellow Wagtails never stick around here for long and I've always missed them in previous years. Hurrah! I also took some photos of a few plants that we saw during our walk.

Not quite sure what this is - going to wait for it to flower.....
I love the sun shining on willow catkins!
Not 100% sure but I think this might be Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor).
At lunchtime we headed down to the hide, enjoying some more nice sightings on the way down:

A Willow Warbler singing over our heads.
First Orange Tip of the year.
Down in the hide the fun continued! The Common Scoter which had been around since Wednesday was still present so we enjoyed watching him, constantly diving, staying under for several minutes, and only resurfacing for a few seconds before the next dive. As well as that, there were also three Greylag Geese present - slightly unusual visitors to the reserve, usually the Canada Geese have the monopoly. Still a few wintery ducks around - some Shovelers and Goosanders. There were a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, and loads of hirundines - I had my first Swallows and Sand Martins of the year (having had a pair of early House Martins in the Lake District a couple of weeks ago). Overhead we had a few Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk. A Fox casually walking along the opposite bank also entertained us and flushed a couple of Snipe!

Distant Fox.

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