Together with other reserves in the Midlands, Venus Pool was taking up the challenge of an all day 'birdwatch'. Tom Lowe had to work sadly which left me holding the organisational reins but with Rob Stokes, Helen Griffiths, Liam Cox teaming up, plus one or two other during the day, there were enough eyes...... A few 'record shots' accompany the text!
I arrived just before 6.00 am. Even before reaching the hide, 10 species were immediately found in/near the car park, including: Garden Warbler, Bullfinch and Blackcap
Setting the scene, with mist rising off the water, it looked like a decent day was in prospect - bad news for waders :-(
Goosander are only 'occasional' visitors so this was a welcome female! A few Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal were still present but the male Pochard had sadly departed overnight! Nevertheless, the tally was on 35 within another 15 mins courtesy of the regular 'suspects!
One bird that's guaranteed to be difficult in any bird race is Grey Partridge, I was was up in the top field after 6.30 and the local pair were showing really well about 60m away! I was to bump into them on two more occasions during the walk round! Buzzard, Skylark and Lesser Black-back Gull were had in flight plus, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Linnet and plenty of Stock Dove. The total had advanced to 46 species
Back in the hide with Rob and Liam, a Kingfisher shot through (another good bird for this time of year!) It landed in front of the North hide, where it perched for 5 mins or so!
The only 'new' wader for the day was this Dunlin!
And here's one of the two Common Sandpipers! A Sparrowhawk, Sedge Warbler, Pied Wagtail, plus 2 Little Ringed Plover and Sand Martin, Wren etc were added to take the tally to 58.
A 9.00 walk around the reserve started with this Garden Warbler still singing in the car park, plus Raven over, Coal Tit, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo (calling and fly through).
Lesser Whitethroat was added ar the far end of the sand quarry corner and then a Common Whitethroat singing it's heart out at Cound Stank.
Here's a reserve 'mega!! House Sparrow are not easy but this was one of three individuals, at Cound Stank in the hedge. Four hours had elapsed, and we were on 66 species but of course, the steady rate of ticking new birds was about to dramatically subside.....
The next three hours were only going to yield: Grey Heron, Green Woodpecker (here 's a Great Spotted instead!) Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel Reed Warbler and Curlew. We had now passed the 70 mark and by 1.00pm the tally had reached 73!
The afternoon lull then kicked in, I likened it to being sentenced to solitary confinement! The blue skies had scuppered any chance of a few passage birds so I settled down every now and then to sky watch from the car park 'seat'. A Peregrine was the one and only decent bird over but where's a Collared Dove or Cormorant when you need one?? A Hobby stole the moment a bit later, skimming the trees over the far side of the pool and this was seen also by other watchers in the hide.
Grey Wagtail and Mistle Thrush (finally!!) were added late afternoon to take us to 77. The '80' mark looked possible?
By 7.15 as the light was fading and so was 'hope'..... The first Swifts of the year in Shropshire had only been reported the previous evening in Shrewsbury. I was amazed to see a biggish flock of hirundines gather over the Pool, including at least 12 Swift (yay) and at least one House Martin (yay yay!)
With just one more bird needed for a 'round figure tally, there was only one thing for it - an Owl watch! Helen had seen a Tawny perched on one of the telegraph poles in the top field the previous week..... A Tawny Owl was heard calling at 9.00 and then flew from the wood across the road, eventually veering towards Cound Stank.
What an end to an looooong day - over 15 hours spent personally and 80 species which is a pretty respectable total for such a 'relatively' small reserve?
Here's how all the other reserves fared:
Middleton Lakes 94
Upton warren 87
Marsh Lane 86
Venus Pool 80
We had 'dipped' Collared Dove, Jay, Marsh Tit and Cormorant (seen almost unanimously lesewhere) but were the only reserve to record Grey Partridge!
Notable sightings elsewhere were Osprey at Marsh Lane, Mediterranean Gull, Cetti's Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler at Middleton lakes, Bar-tailed Godwit at Grimley, Velvet Scoter (plus the only Pochard of the day!) at Belvide, Whinchat at Sandwell, of course the expected Avocets (plus Cetti's) at Upton Warren.
Birds in short supply included Tree Sparrow (only recorded at Belvide) Meadow Pipit (only at Middleton Lakes), Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Middleton Lakes), Redstart (Upton warren) and Marsh Tit (Belvide and Grimley)
Some winter visitors were still lingering - Fieldfare (Upton warren) and Brambling (Middleton Lakes and Belvide)
The combined tally for all the reserves was 113! There's quite a few species of birds out there......