Crane for Ladywalk & April Mothing

 Fantastic news and a nice reward for some on the maintenance day was a Common Crane! Seen flying low over reserve at 15:40 by Pete Sofley, it came in from the southwest and over the pools calling. Pete lost it through the trees but A&A Brooks had it from Riverwalk Hide heading north up the valley towards RSPB Middleton Lakes. It was noted flying over there not long after by the wardens:

Oh heck a ⭐️ Crane ⭐️ has just flown north over the silt pond, was high but if anyone is on site, especially around North Pit they should see it!!!”

 So an excellent record for the reserve but not the first. Back in the year 2000, Steve Cawthray was in the right place at the right time. “A party of six was seen flying over Ladywalk towards dusk on October 19th calling loudly SLC. They appeared to land in meadows to the south along the nearby River Blythe, but could not be located the following morning”.  Taken from the WMBC Report from 2000, that record was just the 2nd for modern Warwickshire at the time.

 With many eyes on the reserve, spring really seemed to kick off with 3 Yellow Wagtails, House Martin and Sedge Warbler – all firsts for the year – as well as another Tree Pipit and a visit from a Great White Egret.

 As the birds are now breeding, maintenance was scaled down to avoid disturbance. There is always plenty to do though and 60-70 bags(!) of rubbish were picked up along the river circuit after the flooding. A depressing job but a satisfying result.

 The moth season began on Sunday night at long last. Waiting for a night that wasn’t freezing and/or chucking it down meant we’ve been waiting quite a while. The recorded temperature was a reasonable 4.6C and resulted in 43 moths of 7 species. Nice to see the subtle variations from one moth to the next in the Engrailed pictures below.

Diurnea fagella 1, Clouded Drab 7, Early Thorn 1, Engrailed 2, Common Quaker 12, Twin-Spot Quaker 3, Hebrew Character 17.

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March WeBS

  Due to circumstances I had to complete the count on the Saturday this month. I avoided most of the snow but didn’t escape the fierce and bitter easterly wind that was whipping across the reserve. Any sensible bird was huddled down in a sheltered corner, with many birds on the river again. I think a lot was hiding from me yesterday, deep in the willows. I was hoping for a displaced wader or gull but not to be. Waterfowl highlights included a female Pintail on Main Pool and the Oystercatcher pair were seen mating, let’s hope they are succesful this year.

  I was glad to catch up with my first Sand Martin of the year over Main Pool, though I did feel sorry for it as it battled into a easterly blizzard. He must be kicking himself for being so impatient. Elsewhere 2-3 Chifchaffs were singing during the brief sunny spells and a Willow Tit was around the newly coppiced area. Unsurprisingly quiet.

Species List

Mute Swan 10, Canada Goose 17, Shelduck 5, Mallard 67, Gadwall 42, Shoveler 66, Wigeon 50, Pintail 1, Teal 125, Tufted Duck 71, Pochard 3, Goosander 7, Little Grebe 11, Great Crested Grebe 2, Cormorant 39, Grey Heron 1, Moorhen 18, Coot 41, Oystercatcher 2, Black-headed Gull 45, Lesser Black-backed Gull 4.

Ladywalk Breeding Report 2017

 Fifteen visits were made, across the whole reserve in the period between 6 April and 18 August, each visit approx. 5-6 hours in duration. As was the case last year I split the reserve into 12 transects and my methodology was again to list all birds in each transect by sound or sight on each visit. The reporting details that follow are largely from my notes, plus information from other sources such as ringing records from Dave Clifton, information from Pete Sofley (reserve warden) and Twitter. I am sure that there are other peoples records that can enhance this report. If so please forward it to me via Richardking54@gmail.com.

The transects are as follows –
Transect 1 – from car park to the double gates
Transect 2 – from double gates to Sainsbury Hide.
Transect 3 – at Sainsbury Hide
Transect 4 – from Sainsbury Hide to Rudd Hide *
Transect 5 – at Rudd Hide
Transect 6 – from Rudd Hide to Riverbank Hide*
Transect 7 – at Riverbank Hide
Transect 8 – from Riverbank Hide to Bittern Hide*
Transect 9 – at Bittern hide
Transect 10 – from Bittern Hide to B Hide*
Transect 11 – at B Hide
Transect 12 – from B Hide to Lock Up inc. the wood & fishing pools*
*Or vice versa

Visits were normally between approx. 8am and early afternoon and were dated –
6 April          16 June
14 April        22 June
21 April        29 June
27 April        6 July
11 May          20 July
18 May          3 August
22 May          18 August
1 June

Weather

  The summer of 2017 did not have the heavy rain and flooding that blighted the 2016 breeding season. April’s weather was mostly dry and sunny with about half the average rainfall for the month. May remained mostly dry and sunny although the rainfall was about average. The dry sunny and warm weather continued well into June with temperatures reaching 30 degrees on several days. There were few wet days and we received about average rainfall. July saw about average rainfall with the first half of the month warm and sunny, with a cooler and wetter second half of the month. August’s weather was variable with average rainfall. There were some periods of hot weather, notably between 25th and 28th but there were often drizzly and overcast conditions.

Summary for the 2017 Breeding Season

Little Grebe appear to have done better in 2017. Pairs were present on both Main and B Pools in April and May. An adult and young bird were seen on Main Pool on 3 August and this or another immature was seen on the 26th. B Pool held 1+2 and a pair +2 also on 3rd August so this date yielded three broods across the reserve.
Again the Fishing Pools seemed the safest breeding environment for this species with an unrecorded group of young birds seen on 11 May and three minute young birds seen on 22 June. A brood were seen here on 7 July and 1+2, presumably from another pair, or second brood seen on 3 August.

Great Crested Grebe pairs were both on Main and B Pools in April and May and there was a nest very prominent on Main Pool, below Riverbank Hide which produced three young birds. However on my visit on 1 June there was a crow consuming one of the young, the crow having stolen the juvenile from an offending lesser black backed gull. Within minutes the same or another gull then took another juvenile, but the remaining youngster survived and was seen on subsequent visits. A pair also nested on B Pool, producing one youngster that was seen on several occasions in June.

Great-crested Grebe

Great-crested Grebe (Pete Lichfield)

Cormorants nested in the same location as last year and during my visits I counted between 16 and 20 nests. I suspect there were 17 nests, which may be a little less than in 2016, and by 18 May many held nestlings that eventually found their way to the main pool.

Little Egret was occasionally seen on the reserve but no sign of them breeding here, compared with RSPB Middleton, and they did not associate with the breeding cormorants.

Grey Heron As the summer progressed juveniles were seen on the reserve from one or two local heronries.

Mute Swan On 1 June there was a pair and six cygnets on Main Pool although I had not seen a nest on the reserve. This family were seen on various pools but appeared to lose a cygnet within a few weeks, and this pair + five remain on the reserve as of December 2017.

Canada Goose A successful breeder but nests were not easy to locate. On 21 April there were two nests seen at Main Pool whilst on 18 May there were 126 birds on the meadow including one family, and broods of five and nine goslings on the adjacent pool. Also on this date there was a brood of eight on the river island. On 11 May there was a bird on its nest at Main Pool when there were broods of eleven and seven on the river.

Shelduck None were seen on the reserve after April, when there were one or two pairs with both pairs in conflict with each other on 14 April.

Gadwall appear to have been more successful this year particularly at B Pools. However the first brood was a pair with three young on the river on 27 April. Previously several pairs had been seen on the river, but at B Pools there were 12 pairs on 22 May, with two broods reported on 16 June, and on 22 June there was a brood of nine with the female acting aggressively to a crow. By the end of June, through July and August, birds with broods were regular at B Pools with a report of one having 15 ducklings.
Pete Sofley has reported that there were 12 broods across the reserve producing 100+ ducklings.

Teal Small numbers remained on the Reserve during April, but no sign of breeding.

Mallard Many broods seen with the first being a 1+7 on the river on 27 April Broods across the reserve were as follows-
8 May – female + 8 and 2+6 West Bay; pr + 10 Main Pool
11 May – pair + 3 and female +3 on the river and the above pr with 10 ducklings at Main Pool seen again. 2+9 little ones on the river and elsewhere on the river, 1+5
18 May – 1+8 (Main Pool) and female +9 (river); 1+7 on river; two more broods totaling seven also on the river, 1+5 at B Pools.
22 May – 1+8, 2+3 and 1+10 smaller ones, all on Main Pool and there was a female +8 on the river, prob. the family I saw there on 18th. 1+5 (river)
1 June – a brood at West Bay, and 1+9 and 1+7 at Main Pool; female and 5 five large ones on the river. 1+8 in front of B Hide
16 June- 4 large ducklings on river, 1+7 (Main Pool) and 1+5 (river). The latter has lost two ducklings since 11 May but this number of ducklings remained when I saw them twice subsequently. Also on this date was a large brood at B Pools and two other broods totaling 11 ducklings on the pool as well as 1+7 at the fishing pools
22 June – 1 +4 and another brood (Rudd) and 1+6, 1+5 as well as some older ducklings all on the river. There was a brood of seven ducklings in front of B Hide
29 June – 1+4 (as above, Rudd); 1+8 small ones on the river; 1+2 Fishing Pools
6 July – 1+7 large ones on the river
7 July – 1+7 fishing pools and these seen again here a month later
20 July – family of five at Rudd, 1+5 (river); 12+7 medium sized ducklings at B Pool
18 August – 1+5.
This is an exhaustive list and mirrors a more successful breeding season than last year. Many broods were seen on the river and it is possible that there has been some double counting.

Shoveler were present on the Main Pool in April. They were reported to have bred in the small pools off B Pool and 5/6 ducklings were reported on 9 June and I saw two juveniles on B Pool on 6 July.

Tufted Duck Pairs were regular across the reserve throughout the spring and summer and first breed reported (Twitter) on 22 July. I first saw ducklings on 3 August (female+4, Main Pool) and another brood of seven quite small ducklings on 18 August.

Goosander Adults noted normally on the river, and there were reports of one duckling on 21 April, a brood of seven from 22 May and reference to a third brood, of nine, on 6 June.

Sparrowhawk Only seen occasionally and no evidence that it has bred on the reserve since 2015.

Buzzard Regularly seen on or over the reserve. There was a large nest in a birch behind the lock up and this may have belonged to this species.

Kestrel Unlike 2016 this was rarely seen during my visits and no evidence of breeding.

Peregrine Falcon Calls from young bird(s) regularly in the car park area and they were often on the pylon nearby. I am informed that three fledged from a nest on a nearby warehouse.

Hobby Birds were present on the reserve between August and late September and probably bred locally.

Pheasant This bird appeared less numerous on the reserve this year but unlike last year there was clear evidence of breeding. On 22 June I came across a female feigning injury with a chick nearby on the track at Transect 2. Also a working party had 1+7 below A Hide.

Water Rail Although I saw little evidence of birds on the reserve during spring / summer there were positive reports about this species’ breeding status. Two adults with two/three juveniles were reported at north pool sluice and juveniles seen with adults below Riverwalk and B Hides. It is possible that there were at least three / four breeding pairs.

WaterRail4

Water Rail (Pete Lichfield)

Moorhen First family of the year were again on keyhole scrape where there was one juvenile on 18 May which was seen subsequently. Birds were regular on Main and B Pools with 1+3 small ones at the former and at least one small brood (two) seen on several occasions at B Pool. This could have been less successful than last year.

Coot There were two nests at Keyhole Scrape in April and a young bird seen on 11 May
At Rudd Pool – 14 April 1+1 on nest
27 April 3 young left a nest
11 May – Unoccupied nest
18 May 1+1
1 June One on nest in reeds
On 22 June 1+4 small young, a large juvenile and an adult with nest material
29 June – 2+2, a large immature and another nest being constructed
7 July – 2+1
26 July – 2+2 big ones, a large juvenile and further nest building
3 August a young bird on the nest
At Main Pool – 22 May – two nests West Bay
1 June – now four nests
29 June 2+2 small ones
Juvenile seen on river on 6 July
B Pools – – 21 April – nest on raft opposite B Hide
27 April above nest and 1+2
11 May – two broods (2,4) inc. from raft nest
18 May – above 1+4 again seen
22 May – three broods totaling 8 imms.
18 June 1+1
22 June – two large juveniles but only one seen 29th
6 July – two broods of three & four
3 August – about three broods of about eight imms.
Fishing Pools – immature seen on 29 June

Oystercatcher A pair were present at the main pool in April and were seen at a nest on one of the islands on 27 April and 11 May but by 18 May this had been predated. This is at least the third consecutive year when they have been unsuccessful. The birds remained into June including on the 16th when one vociferously mobbed an osprey high over the reserve.

Little Ringed Plover Occasionally seen on the reserve but did not breed there. On 16 June B Pool held four birds inc. three juveniles that had been raised elsewhere. Twitter reports that on 17 July there were four juveniles that had originated from elsewhere.

Lapwing Up to four seen from Riverbank Hide in April / May and one probably on a nest on both on 21 April and 22 May. There is no evidence that these nests were successful, predated, quite possibly by foxes.
Two pairs also recorded at Main Pool on 1 June and by late June / early July up to 50 birds were present – obviously from elsewhere.

Black-headed Gull Up to about 20 birds, including juveniles from elsewhere.
Present in the breeding season and may breed in the future.

Common Tern There appeared to be less of a presence this year but reports of a pair displaying over the main pool may lead to optimism about future breeding and there is a plan to position tern rafts.

Stock Dove These remain regularly across the reserve especially in the line of poplars by the fishing pools. Dave Clifton, ringer, reported that eight nests were in nestboxes across the reserve, but at least three nests failed. (see list below).

Nest Date Comments
1 29/3/2017 2 newly hatched young
13/4/2017 Predated – squirrel
2 29/3/2017 2 warm eggs
13/4/2017 Predated – squirrel
3 29/3/2017 2 eggs
13/4/2017 cold eggs
4 23/5/2017 1 large chick
5 23/5/2017 1 large chick
6 23/5/2017 2 warm eggs
7 23/5/2017 2 large chicks
8 23/5/2017 2 large chicks

Feral Pigeons are also regular on the reserve and a pair nested later in the season in a box near the lock up.

Wood Pigeon Constantly on the reserve, where it is sure to have bred in several locations.

Cuckoo Up to three birds seen or heard on the reserve in April, May and early June, including a female on 11 & 18 May and 1 June. A juvenile reported on 7 August via Twitter.

Tawny Owl Nestboxes were again not used this year and there appears to be no clear information about this species breeding on the reserve. Young birds possibly heard on 29 June between Bittern and Riverbank Hides

Kingfisher Regularly seen or heard along the river. On 27 May one was on the riverbank between Riverbank and Bittern Hides, near to the sand martins’ nests and there were also two heard here on 6 July. They are likely to have nested here and it is possible that one or two pairs nested on or near the reserve, with a report on Twitter of a brood on 9 June.

Green Woodpecker Did not seem to be as numerous at great spotted woodpecker and during April and May the most regular location was in the area of the Fishing Pools, particularly in the poplars there. Young birds heard in a nest in one of those trees on 18 May may have been this species. There may have been a second pair elsewhere.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Regularly seen on most visits to the reserve, including three by the car park on 6 April. Young birds, prob. of this species, were heard from a nest on track towards lock up on several occasions in May, inc. a juvenile nearby. Also young heard in a nest in the poplars at the top end of the reserve. They were also regular on the two bird hide feeders, inc. a juvenile on 3 August by B Hide.
It is likely there were more nests than those listed above – at least four nests?

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Not encountered by me but there were reports of a pair in the breeding season, inc. carrying food so likely to have nested on or near the reserve.

Swallow Regular over the reserve and on 20 July young birds over Main Pool probably originated from nests at the stables adjacent to the reserve.

House Martin Small nos. of this species over but did not breed at the reserve.

Sand Martin Present on the reserve from approx. 6 April and 30 seen on 14th. More often in the B Pools area and they appear to have nested in the bank between Riverbank and Bittern Hide, where they were seen to gather nest material. They also appeared to nest by the island in the river by transect Two. Difficult to ascertain nesting success as it was not possible to count the holes but unlike in 2016 there were no problems of serious flooding. It is hoped that the nest sites did not become too overgrown.

Grey Wagtail In April, May and June birds were occasionally seen by the river. On 3 & 18 August two juveniles seen by the fishing pools, these were prob. the two young birds reported by the river on 30 April.

Pied Wagtail recorded as a breeder last year but seen less regularly in 2017. Seen by the river most often, and in front of Riverbank Hide on 18 May, plus by B Hide on 6 April and 16 June. An adult with a young bird was photographed near the car park on 1 June.

Wren Numerous with singing birds all over the reserve. Numbers appear about the same as last year when I estimated 24-30 pairs on the reserve. The most birds seen / heard was 36 on 1 June. A family seen at transect 1 on 6 July and 2+2 seen in same area on 3 August. Other families seen transect 8 on 18 May, T12 on 22 May and in the same area a family group of at least three birds on 29 June. 15 were ringed / caught on the reserve.

Dunnock Pairs were often seen together and I estimate at least ten pairs across the reserve on the basis of sightings and song. A family party was seen on 20 July from Hide A and on 18 August two juveniles were seen at T8.

Robin Maximum of 19 birds seen / heard was on 18 May which is an increase over 2016. Juvenile birds were seen at various locations on the reserve on six occasions in June, July and August.

Blackbird Highest number recorded across the transects was 16 on 18 May so this could be the approximate number of pairs. No nests were found although one was seen with food on transect 6 on 22 June.

Song Thrush regular but not in large nos. on the reserve. On 29 June there was the exceptional number of 18 on the reserve but up to seven being encountered across the reserve more typical, suggesting approx.. five breeding pairs. Seen or heard most often in the tall poplars and a pair probably bred between Riverbank & Bittern Hides.

Cetti’s Warbler A good indication of the number of birds on the reserve is that five birds were ringed this year, but in addition there were 15 retraps. Two of these were from 2016, one from 2013 and there was a 2015 bird ringed at Tring, Herts. Maximum encountered on a day was six on 14 April, although one was over the river. They were seen or heard most often at B Hide but encountered at times in all the reedbeds. The ringing report suspected that at least two pairs bred, in or close to the marsh ringing site as three young birds were ringed. At least one pair nested near B Hide as evidenced by a report on Twitter by SLC on 29 May.

Cetti

Cetti’s Warbler (Pete Lichfield)

Grasshopper Warbler Birds were noted as reeling on the reserve in early and late spring, and again in July which suggested a second brood. It is therefore thought likely that this species bred on the reserve.

Sedge Warbler Ringing information is again possibly of more use in determining true numbers and 19 were ringed this year, with 5 retraps. Regular in the area around Bittern Hide, with a pair seen together on 1 June. Also, like Cetti’s they were regular in front of B Hide with sightings, or heard, on seven dates, inc. at least three on 10 May. Highest count of birds seen / heard across the transects was eight on 18 May.

Reed Warbler 73 birds were ringed, of which 39 were new ringings. Of the 34 retraps/recoveries one remarkably had been originally ringed at Ladywalk in 2006, and there were another 16 retraps originally ringed between 2011 and 2016. It was impossible to record this number through my survey, the most I recorded on a visit was five on 18 May. Quite regular from Rudd Hide and like sedge and Cettis regular at B Hide where one was seen with nesting material on 27 April.

Lesser Whitethroat Not recorded on my visits this year.

Common Whitethroat Highest number in a day was seven on 11 May, a lower number than last year on the same date and they did not appear to be as regular in 2017. They were most common between Riverbank & Bittern Hides, with six in that area on 29 June. Also on this date a family was sighted between Riverbank & Rudd Hides. This species normally give the presence of families away by their alarm calls but there seemed little evidence of this in 2017. Estimate of 5-7 nesting pairs.

Garden Warbler seemed to be loyal and prominent in specific areas of the reserve. For example one was heard regularly over the river between the car park and reserve gate (but not on the reserve) and very likely to have bred by the wooden bridge behind B Hide. A pair were there on 27 April, seen / heard regularly and were still there on 20 July. On 18 May two pairs were seen on T6, with one of the birds holding nesting material and this was the date that most birds were recorded on the reserve – ten. Elsewhere (transect 12) two birds and an immature were seen on 3 August. It appears that about four pairs bred on the reserve.

Blackcap Again this was the most numerous summer visitor with 21 birds seen or heard on 1 June, and the high number was reflected by 17 birds being ringed. From my observations strongholds inc. beside the track between the car park and reserve gate eg six birds and two pairs on 27 April, a juvenile on 29 June and a family on 6 July. They were often in good numbers along the river, a male was seen with food on 1 June between Rudd & Riverbank Hides where they were consistently found. In the same area there was a female and juvenile on 20 July. 15-20 pairs across the reserve again this year?

Chiffchaff Second most numerous summer migrant with 12 birds recorded across the reserve on 21 April, but some of these may have been passing through. 11 on 6 July may have been birds going in the opposite direction. There were 6 birds ringed / retrapped on the reserve. There seemed to be quite strong evidence of successful breeding with families seen on 22 May (T1) and a likely juvenile in the same area on 6 July. A pair prob. nested beside the path to Riverbank Hide and a family was seen twice in this area in August, which may have been a second brood. A family of four was seen in T12 on 6 July and during this month and August there seemed to be a number of chiff-chaffs making contact calls. 6-10 pairs across the reserve?

Willow Warbler Not as common on the reserve as 10-20 years ago and a maximum of ten birds seen / heard during the peak breeding season (11 May) across the reserve. This number may reflect the breeding numbers, rather than the 12 encountered on 18 August when there appears to have been an influx, as evidenced by contact calls between Riverbank and B Hides and a mixed flock inc. this species with chiff-chaffs and tits.

Goldcrest Heard on several occasions, and no evidence of breeding. Interesting that one was ringed this year.

Long-tailed Tit Undoubtedly bred on the reserve as evidenced by family groups regularly seen in many areas. There was an agitated bird behind Riverbank Hide on 21 April, which suggests breeding there and they were often present in this area. Nine birds ringed or retrapped.
Five-seven breeding pairs?

Marsh and Willow Tit There is information that both species bred, and have remained on the reserve into winter, using the feeders. Willow Tit seen in good habitat on 18 May and a pair in same location four days later and another probably in same location on 16 June. One of each species ringed.

Willow Tit

Willow Tit (Pete Lichfield)

Coal Tit Seen most regularly in the birches between the lock-up and A Hide and one seen gathering nest material at the latter location on 6 April. Another location where quite regular was in the vicinity of B Hide such as a pair on the feeders. On 14 April. As there was not a great distance between these two areas and I never encountered more than two birds on a visit it is possible that the reserve only held one breeding pair.

Blue Tit 24 broods (164 pulli) ringed from nestboxes (average 6.8 per nest), with a total of 209 birds ringed / caught inc. retraps. My records inc. birds seen at nestboxes, nos. of family parties and juveniles across the reserve, inc. at the feeders. The most unusual nest site was in the roof of Rudd Hide which produced one brood in the nest for much of May. Ringing records for this species are as follows –

Nest Date Comments
1 13/5/2017 9 ringed
2 13/5/2017 8 ringed
3 13/5/2017 7 ringed
4 13/5/2017 6 ringed
5 13/5/2017 10 ringed
6 13/5/2017 10 ringed
7 13/5/2017 7 ringed
8 13/5/2017 8 ringed
9 13/5/2017 7 ringed
10 13/5/2017 6 ringed
11 16/5/2017 5 ringed
12 20/5/2017 7 ringed
13 20/5/2017 5 ringed
14 20/5/2017 7 ringed

15 20/5/2017 6 ringed
16 20/5/2017 6 ringed
17 20/5/2017 7 ringed
18 20/5/2017 7 ringed
19 20/5/2017 6 ringed
20 20/5/2017 8 ringed
21 20/5/2017 9 ringed
22 20/5/2017 4 ringed
23 24/5/2017 3 ringed
24 24/5/2017 6 ringed
1 6 dead half grown
2 Abandoned 7 eggs
3 8 dead half grown
4 Woodpecker attack at egg stage
5 8 too large – 13/5/17
6 Abandoned 8 eggs
7 Predated at egg stage

Great Tit 21 broods (111 pulli) ringed from nestboxes (average 5.3 per nest), with a total of 142 birds ringed / caught inc. retraps. Similar to above, my records inc. birds seen at nestboxes, nos. of family parties and juveniles across the reserve, inc. at the feeders. No evidence of nest sites other than nestboxes. Ringing records for this species are as follows –

Nest Date Comments
1 13/5/2017 5 ringed
2 13/5/2017 4 ringed
3 13/5/2017 5 ringed
4 13/5/2017 9 ringed
5 13/5/2017 6 ringed
6 13/5/2017 8 ringed
7 13/5/2017 6 ringed
8 13/5/2017 3 ringed
9 13/5/2017 6 ringed
10 13/5/2017 5 ringed
11 13/5/2017 6 ringed
12 13/5/2017 5 ringed
13 13/5/2017 5 ringed
14 13/5/2017 7 ringed
15 13/5/2017 6 ringed
16 13/5/2017 5 ringed
Nest Date Comments
17 13/5/2017 5 ringed
18 16/5/2017 6 ringed
19 20/5/2017 7 ringed
20 24/5/2017 1 ringed
21 24/5/2017 1 ringed
1 Predated 5 half grown
2 5 dead three quarters grown
3 Predated 5 quarter grown
4 Fledged 13/5/17
5 5 dead quarter grown
6 Woodpecker attack 3 dead half grown
7 3 dead full grown
8 7 too large 13/5/17

Nuthatch Regular on the reserve, partic. at the feeders at B Hide where recorded on eight visits. One or two pairs bred. On 16 June I saw a probable juvenile at T2 and SLC reported two, nearby, by reserve gate earlier in the month. Not far away is Transect 12 where I saw a brood of at least four on 6 July.

Treecreeper Encountered more this year than in 2016 – bred in the area of the main gate as in song on 27 April, one or two seen on 22 June and a juvenile on 6 July. Heard on at least three visits in the copse between Rudd and Riverbank Hides and a juvenile seen here on 22 June. Two birds in the copse behind B Hide and heard in this area or along the poplars four times in June – August. One heard in Transect 12 on 16 June, where a juvenile seen on 29 June. Two were together inc. at least one juvenile on 3 August and two were in a mixed flock here on 18 August.
The reserve has many areas of woodland that are suitable for this species and with the additional information that there was also a presence between Riverbank and Bittern Hides it is quite possible that three or four pairs bred.

Jay I saw less evidence of this species across the reserve in 2017 but it is possible that at least two pairs bred. Most commonly seen from or near Sainsbury Hide with two juveniles on 29 June and I am likely to have seen two, possibly the same birds, the following week between Riverbank and Bittern Hides. An immature at T12 seen on at least one occasion and with SLC reporting seven on the reserve on 3 August there was undoubtedly a breeding presence, perhaps two pairs.

Magpie Probably bred at transects 1 & 12 where there are the biggest trees. At the former singletons or pairs seen on five occasions, before a family seen on 6 July, whilst at T12 there was a young bird with an adult on 16 June. There were other sightings elsewhere including on the feeders. Possibly two pairs bred?

Jackdaw Small numbers regularly seen esp. on the grass opposite Riverbank Hide with 15 recorded here on 16 June. No evidence that they actually bred on the reserve.

Carrion Crow Singles or pairs seen across the reserve and an occupied nest above the track on 14 April. One or two pairs prob. bred on reserve.

Raven In 2016 a pair nested on a pylon in meadows the other side of railway / access road to fishing club but I received no information about breeding this year.

Starling Pete Sofley reported two starlings’ nests by 11 May in the willows near to the ringing area (T8).

Chaffinch Not very common on the main reserve but regular at feeders at A&B Hides. Birds were present during the breeding season, with five the maximum. I saw no evidence of breeding but it is possible that two or three pairs bred.

Greenfinch There appeared to be more of this species around the feeders during the breeding season and into the winter. Hide A feeders held most birds, inc. pairs, on most visits, with courtship seen on 11 May. On 20 July a juvenile was seen and on 3 August there were six juveniles in a party of ten, and on the 18th there were three juveniles. On the basis of this one or two pairs may have bred on the reserve.

Goldfinch Pair at the car park feeders on 14 April and small numbers of birds seen or heard throughout the season across the reserve. I saw no evidence of breeding this year but it is possible that one or two pairs may have bred on the reserve.

Linnet As last year, birds most numerous in the area between Riverbank & Bittern Hides, although this year they were more noticeable on the reserve side of the river. No more than four (two pairs) were recorded and a juvenile was seen between the two aforementioned hides on 6 July. It is likely that one or two pairs nested on the reserve and probably a similar no. over the river.

Bullfinch This species seen in most areas of the reserve especially where there is more woodland. Transect one, where regularly seen and heard, held two males and a female on 6 April and a pair the following week. Birds were regular at the Riverbank feeders and likely to have bred nearby, between the latter hide and Rudd, where on 20 July at least three, prob. five were seen together, clearly a family party. On the following visit several birds inc. a juvenile were present. Three / four pairs nested again this year?

Reed Bunting A maximum of six birds encountered on 11 May and numbers recorded were lower than in 2016 although well scattered. The reedbeds between Riverbank and Bittern Hides was most regular with birds heard or seen on nine visits inc. two birds and a juvenile on 20 June. Perhaps there were approx. 6 breeding birds?

SUMMARY

Duck breeding was more successful than 2016 with increased nos. of Gadwall and Tufted Duck ducklings and Ladywalk could be the only location in Warwickshire at which shoveler successfully bred. The big gap appears to be the lack of waders breeding and predation seems to be the reason for this. It is possible that Lapwings attempted to nest and Oystercatchers nested on an island but that nest was predated. Whether Crows, Lesser Black-backed Gulls or foxes take the eggs we do not know although a fox scouring the islands on the day of the May bird count did not augur well. We are not sure whether the deeper channels that have been dug around some of the pools and islands will deter them. It is possible that we will have to consider some fencing but that is not easily implemented and could be expensive.

As for smaller birds Wrens are doing well as are Robins. Whilst I am using only two years’ records, Whitethroats and Reed Buntings seemed to be less numerous, but Blackcaps continue to do well. It is pleasing that there has been a continued presence of Willow Tits, and Coal Tit and Nuthatch both appear to have done well on the reserve. Finally there is little more pleasing than the Song Thrush in song and their numbers appear static.

Richard J King
March 2018

February Reserve News

February Work Day

  We had a really successful work day on Monday 12th with 14 pairs of hands helping out. On this day and also the the 8th January we were pleased to be joined by teams from LM (a joint venture formed between Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Ltd) to carry out the HS2 Enabling Works North contract. They set aside days every year to volunteer on community projects and we were glad to have them on board. With their help we completed all of the jobs on the list below. Jobs included;

• Putting up Willow Tit log nest boxes • Nest box cleaning • Removing fallen trees off paths • Continuing the coppicing program • Screening bunds at New Bay.

 The Willow Tits were a priority. So we’ve strapped dead stumps to trees to increase the available nesting opportunities and coppiced the area behind Rudd Pool which hasn’t been done for several years and is known to be attractive to Willow Tits.

 Some unfortunate souls had the privilege of mucking out the owl and other nest boxes, ready for the new season. Additionally several new owl boxes have been put up around the reserve and Kevin Whiston made use of the kindly donated(?) box left in the car park and put it to good use as a potential Mandarin Duck box. Let’s hope they find one of the two options to their liking.

 All of the brash from the coppicing wasn’t wasted. Stacked on to trucks and trailers if made it’s way round to New Bay and we began to improve the screening around the newly created bund. It has really made a difference, the birds didn’t move yesterday as I walked past. There is still some left to do but it’s a vast improvement and will mean the birds can feed in peace.

 It wasn’t all plain sailing though, the tractor got stuck! It had to be saved by a much bigger tractor. Always stick to the paths when birding otherwise this might happen to you. ( NOTE: The culprit’s face has been blurred to protect his identity).

Oops

Oops

February WeBS Count (Sunday 19th)

 Numbers were down but variety was good. The Great White Egret spent a few hours fishing in the afternoon on Main Pool and New Bay and then briefly at B Pool scrapes. With the Great Crested Grebes back – 2 at Whitacre Pool, 1 on Main and 1 on B Pools – it was beginning to feel spring-like. I managed to find some otter prints along the river bank (photograph below), they really are very active at the moment.

Species List;

Mute Swan 10, Canada Goose 9, Shelduck 3, Mallard 171, Gadwall 124, Shoveler 43, Wigeon 71, Teal 135, Tufted Duck 60, Goosander 4, Little Grebe 10, Great Crested Grebe 4, Cormorant 110, Little Egret 1, Great White Egret 1, Grey Heron 3, Water Rail 1, Moorhen 37, Coot 49, Lapwing 58, Black-headed Gull 27, Lesser Black-backed Gull 4.

Otter footprints

Otter footprints

 More updates this week too of Otters On Film. Firstly a rare glimpse of an otter in daylight, out and about on a freezing, snow-dusted morning plus a couple frolicking in front of the camera and really putting on a show. The Ladywalk Youtube channel is constantly being updated, click here for videos.

Otters On Film

  Exciting news this week, the elusive Otters of Ladywalk have been caught on camera! Brief glimpses of the beasts have been common over the weeks but not until this week and on three separate dates did they perform for the cameras.

  The reserve is being monitored extensively by Anthony Butcher and Elaine Vincent and we are very grateful for all their hard work in increasing our knowledge of our otters and other mammalian species on the reserve. Anthony below gives us more details:

“Whilst doing our trail cam testing across the Ladywalk reserve we have come across the otters at a number of spots. Often just a brief flash as they pass the trail cam. They seem to be coming in off the River Tame on regular visits and there seems to be possibly three individuals, sex not known at this point. We have identified a number of areas where the otters are scenting. Here are a few pics and video clips of one of the areas we have been monitoring”.

  If you are fortunate enough to spot an otter yourself and/or any tracks and signs of otters, please be sure to record it in the logbooks or contact us via the blog or twitter.

The video clips are available to view here on our Youtube channel: Otter Videos

 

January WeBS

 After one of the most miserable weekends I can remember, Ladywalk was unsurprisingly a touch soggy. The Tame was a raging torrent, the water was gushing over the sluice at B and wellies are definitely required around Bittern Hide. The birds were loving it. Lots of lovely new feeding areas to rummage in for the dabblers plus good numbers of Tufted and Pochard (for Ladywalk) due to the high water. It was nice to see that some of the Pintails have returned with 2 males and a female mingling in with the Wigeon on Main Pool. All were a little on edge due to being constantly harassed and dive bombed by the resident pair of Peregrines. Elsewhere, little of note bird wise with only Willow & Marsh Tits around B Hide and c.20 Siskins by the car park.

  A nice surprise whilst pottering at the wood yard was a beautiful two foot long Grass Snake that was warming his belly on the pile of wood ash from the latest fire. Shouldn’t he be hibernating? He looked very content but I thought it best to move him before he got frazzled.

Species List

Mute Swan 7, Canada Goose 35, Canada x Greylag Goose 1, Mallard 223, Gadwall 228, Pintail 3, Shoveler 44, Wigeon 190, Teal 196, Tufted Duck 86, Pochard 8, Goosander 4, Little Grebe 13, Cormorant 43, Little Egret 1, Grey Heron 10, Water Rail 1, Moorhen 27, Coot 41, Lapwing 120, Black-headed Gull 50, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2.

Snowy Swallow on December WeBS, Trail Cam Report & Back from the Brink

December WeBS

  I must confess that it wasn’t easy getting out today but it really was worth the effort. Before we’d even left the car park at 10:00am the increasingly regular Great White Egret floated over the bridge and upstream towards the reserve. The car park feeders were as expected rather busy with 2 Willow Tits being the highlight. Whilst the surrounding cotoneasters were dripping with Redwings and Fieldfares today and loads seeped and chacked over our heads all day.

Beehive clearing

   The pools were icier than I’d anticipated so a lot of wildfowl – mainly Mallard and Teal – had moved onto the river. The Rudd Pool meadow was supporting it’s regular flock of Linnets and Chaffinches, then Pete Forbes picked up the Brambling which has been hanging around, even roosting in Keyhole Scrape with the Reed Buntings. Ladywalk looks superb in it’s wintry coat and nothing looks better now than a flock of Bullfinches in snow-covered hawthorns! Lars Jonsson’s book Winter Birds captures it perfectly.

  Ladywalk has felt a bit like a zoo lately with high counts of Mandarins (though no sign today), our now resident Fulvous Whistling Ducks with their peculiar calls and today a noisy troop of 9 Egyptian Geese. In contrast the numbers of proper ducks have been down. Only 3 Goosander today and 22 Shoveler, whilst the Wigeon had mostly deserted to larger sites, down to 28. Despite being largely frozen there was no sign of the Bittern. It hasn’t been seen since the 24th November and you wonder if he is still here.

Frozen Main Pool

  With my mind set on finding winter duck and Bitterns moved by the weather, it was quite surreal to come out of Bittern Hide and see a Swallow skimming across the water and then perching amongst the snowy banks of the Tame! Steve Cawthray saw him later roost under the eaves of Bittern Hide. Let’s hope he has the good sense to move south before he pegs it. More predictably, the Barn Owl looked very content in his Kestrel box, viewable from B Hide.

Species List; 

Mute Swan 21, Canada Goose 34, Egyptian Goose 9, Fulvous Whistling Duck 4, Mallard 174, Gadwall 97, Shoveler 22, Wigeon 28, Teal 106, Tufted Duck 29, Goosander 3, Little Grebe 10, Cormorant 19, Little Egret 1, Great White Egret 1, Grey Heron 8, Water Rail 3, Moorhen 29, Coot 204, Lapwing 72, Snipe 8, Black-headed Gull 101.

Trail Cams Update

  Since September this year, WMBC members Anthony Butcher & Elaine Vincent have been surveying the reserve’s mammals. They’ve done a fantastic and very thorough job of monitoring the animals movements so far. Click the link below for a nice summary and photo highlights.

Mammal Trail Cam Report

Back from the Brink

  You may have seen on our Twitter page news of the Back from the Brink project. This joint venture between a host of British wildlife charities aims to secure the future of British wildlife on the brink of extinction. Back from the Brink involves 20 different projects, preserving species as diverse as Grey Long-eared Bats, Ladybird Spiders and Cornish Path Moss as well as specific habitats.

  Here at Ladywalk we are privileged to be hosts to the declining Willow Tits, project number 20. Numbers here have declined from a high of 9 pairs, to just one confirmed breeding record this year and 3 noted on the feeders today. We are doing better though than most and we have a chance to preserve this species on our reserve. We are in contact with the project manager and await info on how we can play a part in the project. In the meantime we are putting up specialist Willow Tit nest boxes out on the reserve at the next work party. If you’d like to be a part of this, please contact us through the blog or twitter. To find out more about Back from the Brink, explore here.

November WeBS

Species List;

Mute Swan 29, Canada Goose 13, Mallard 167, Gadwall 166, Shoveler 24, Wigeon 188, Teal 56, Tufted Duck 47, Pochard 6, Goosander 4, Little Grebe 13, Great Crested Grebe 1, Cormorant 151, Grey Heron 3, Water Rail 3, Moorhen 26, Coot 239, Lapwing 68, Snipe 1, Black-headed Gull 108, Lesser Black-backed Gull 1, Fulvous Whistling Duck 4.

Stonechat in willows behind Bittern Hide.

Conservation Review (Autumn)

  It’s been an incredibly busy and productive autumn for the team at Ladywalk. The work undertaken has been extensive and ambitious and it’s exciting to see what positive results will come from all this hard work.  We’d just like to share with you what’s been going on in some detail and explain some of the changes to the reserve and what we are hoping to achieve.
  Firstly, all the work at B pools has been completed. The goals were to reduce vegetation on the island and further discourage predators to the area. So with that in mind, 3 inlets were created so that water could spill more easily over the island during winter. The theory is that this will do a better job of drowning the vegetation and leaving it barer in the spring for migrant and nesting waders.
  That brings us to the second problem – foxes. Countless times this year the resident foxes have been noted on the causeway and island, especially on the spring all-dayer in May when a fox was seen to scour the whole area methodically for eggs and baby birds. Ground nesting birds just haven’t got a chance at the moment. So we’ve made an effort to widen and deepen the ditches around the island to discourage them but this needs to be coupled with some sort of predator-proof fence for full protection, which is being looked into.
  Further work at B pools included exposing areas of natural, healthy mud for the wildfowl and waders whilst leaving the nutrient poor PFA areas as meadows and reed which will do nicely for Snipe and Lapwing. As usual some lovely corridors have been sliced through the reedbeds at B and also around the sluice in the main reedbed ready for an obliging Bittern to skulk around in.
  Moving on then to the New Bay area where plenty has happened. One of the larger islands furthest north has been cleared and levelled which I can tell you wasn’t much fun but it should prove attractive to waders, ducks, gulls and terns and hopefully be left alone by the Cormorants as it’s furthest away from their roost site. The mainland closest to the island was also being overrun with large willows, which have now been coppiced.
  If you’ve visited recently you will have definitely noticed the deep moat running all the way around the base of the hill at Riverwalk Hide. This is really going to help with letting lots more water into New Bay (which has been drying up more often lately) whilst also forming another line of defence against predators. Some huge clumps of nettles and Himalayan Balsam were beginning to form in the bay, so they’ve been ripped out, widening the bay in the process.
  Whilst we were there, we thought we’d dig some test pools to see the state of the soil in that area. It’s an area of the reserve that was less affected by deposits of PFA and the test pools show the soil to be rich and silty with a solid, clay base – perfect. The pools have already hosted a Great White Egret,  so it will be interesting to see what else finds the pools to it’s liking. Plus all that excavated soil has been put to good use to create a bund between the bay and the footpath to reduce disturbance.
  Perhaps the most dramatic changes have occurred around Hide A and Rudd Pool. The view from Rudd Hide is so much better. Rudd Pool had been suffering, being very much enclosed and appearing to have limited value to birds and other wildlife. Plus any waterbirds flying north along the river valley encountered Rudd Pool first and were perhaps discouraged to cut across the reserve because of the extensive woodland there. With that in mind, the area has really been opened up, with large chunks of young woodland having been felled or layered to welcome birds in.
  As well as that, the causeway between Main and Rudd Pools has been flattened, creating some lovely, muddy edges and greatly improving visibility from Rudd Hide as well as creating a new angle for viewing the islands on Main Pool. There are plans to further widen Rudd Pool in the future but we look forward to seeing what visible impact all the work done so far has on the wildlife.
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Panorama of the Rudd/Main Pool causeway

  There is still plenty to be done though, mainly in front of the new Hide A. As you may know, the new hide has been positioned on a different angle, faced out more to Main and Rudd Pools so that views from the hide have more scope and interest. Excitingly, the plan is to connect the Keyhole Scrape with the expanding reedbed on the nearside of Main Pool by a series of ditches and channels (see diagram below). We can’t dig deep though as it is mainly PFA and poor, though it will be nice to join the areas. Hopefully the result will connect similar habitats, make more homes for Snipe and Bittern and form a barrier to the marsh and further discourage predators from disturbing ground-nesting birds.
  So that is that. A very successful autumn, we look forward to what the winter brings. Hopefully plenty of Bitterns, owls and huge numbers of wildfowl. If you feel inspired to get involved and contribute to your reserve, please contact us through the blog or on twitter.

Weekend WeBS & October Mothing

   Wildfowl numbers continue to build but slowly with only 31 Shoveler amongst the throngs of Mallard and Gadwall. Rotavating the edges of the marsh and main pool really seems to have had a positive effect with 60 Lapwing probing the mud amongst the 300 or so Black-headed Gulls. Pleasing to see some results from our hard work. 

  A sprinkling of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits went over whilst there was a noticeable influx of Song Thrush on the ground. Other than that just a few Redpoll were in the sycamores along the entrance track and Siskins in Riverwalk Copse. Red Admirals, Comma, Speckled Wood and Small White are still on the wing in sunny spells plus plenty of Common Darters in the reed channels at B pools and finally a couple of Migrant Hawkers were patrolling along Riverwalk.  

WeBS List;

Mute Swan 20, Canada Goose 57, Greylag Goose 1, Mallard 145, Gadwall 146, Shoveler 31, Wigeon 50, Teal 91, Tufted Duck 43, Goosander 1, Little Grebe 11, Great Crested Grebe 1, Cormorant 44, Grey Heron 2, Water Rail 2, Moorhen 36, Coot 89, Lapwing 60, Black-headed Gull 302, Lesser Black-backed Gull 1, Kingfisher 2. 

   A bit of monthly mothing on Sunday night resulted in quite a colourful mix and a couple of species that were new for the year. I particularly like the Green-brindled Crescents, they’re quite variable in their amounts of green but some of them are gorgeous. Nice to see a good amount of November Moths too. 

Species List;

Green-brindled Crescent 7, Snout 1, November Moth 14, Barred Swallow 1, Pink-barred Sallow 1, Sallow 2, Lesser Yellow Underwing 1, Canary-shouldered Thorn 1, Large Wainscot 2, Red green Carpet 1, Red-line Quaker 3, Brick 1, Rosy Rustic 1, Engrailed 1, Lunar Underwing 1, Blair’s Shoulder Knot 1, Feathered Thorn 1.

40 moths of 17 species.