September WeBS

  Duck numbers lower than of late, particularly Gadwall. Moorhens seem to have had a good breeding season. The scrapes at B pools continue to disappoint a little this autumn, 2 Ringed Plover flew north over Main Pool mid-morning calling, they swirled and nearly dropped on to the scrapes but changed their minds and kept going. The search for a Ruff continues too this year despite there being plenty elsewhere. I was in duck mode and time poor, so passerines didn’t get much time but there was a bit of Mipit passage and quite a few Pied Wags over, whilst a Willow Tit called from the New Bay area for the first time in a while after a quiet late-summer spell.

Species List

Mute Swan 20, Greylag Goose 1, Canada Goose 28, Mallard 140, Gadwall 81, Shoveler 10, Wigeon 2, Teal 56, Tufted Duck 8, Little Grebe 15, Great Crested Grebe 1, Cormorant 51, Little Egret 2, Grey Heron 9, Water Rail 1, Moorhen 57, Coot 139, Ringed Plover 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Snipe 4, Black-headed Gull 26, Lesser Black-backed Gull 3, Kingfisher 2.


Wild bird seed meadow by Rudd Hide (Is this quinoa growing?)



West Midlands All-Dayer Autumn 2019

A very enjoyable day. Though low on waterbird variety, passerine activity was high. Chiffchaffs and crests filled the trees and hedgerows, there was always plenty to sort through. A brief bit of overhead passage early on saw 3+ Tree Pipits, 2 Yellow Wags, Swift and good numbers of hirundines. Little Owls called from behind Bittern Hide and north of the car park. A Lesser Spotted Woopecker showed in willows along the river whilst another drummed softly as we ate breakfast in the car park! Minutes later a familiar squawk alerted us to a couple of passing Ring-necked Parakeets, our first for at least a couple of years. A female Redstart showed in the hawthorns en route to Whitacre Pool, whilst 2 Whinchats included a smart male in Whitacre Meadow.

Species List

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Dunlin 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Little Owl 2, Swift, Kingfisher, Ring-necked Parakeet 2, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 2, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit 3+ (2 f/o), Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (2 f/o), Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart 1, Whinchat 2, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer.

92 species

Thanks to the team;

Pete Sofley, Steve Cawthray, Kevin Whiston, Sam Frost, Tracey Doherty, Dave Eaton, Ben Eaton, Pete Lichfield.

Micro Madness

When the thunder rolled in at 1:30am followed by lashing wind and rain, there was a touch of regret/anxiety over setting the traps at Ladywalk. All moths that would have littered the outside of the box had of course scattered but plenty still lurked inside.

It’s very comforting to go down the reserve and see that there are still places with such overwheming diversity and sheer volume of insect life, especially when you’ve been used to trapping in a small urban garden. The amount of micro-moths was impressive, many species probably got away. Tonnes of beetles were in the trap too, double figures of shieldbugs and ladybirds all appeared to be hiding from the storm. How many more moths would there have been if it didn’t rain?

Caloptila stigmatella, Willow Ermine 2, Ypsolopha scabrella, Argyresthia trifasciata (loads), Argyresthia brockeella (loads), Argyresthia goedartella (loads), Crassa unitella, Batia lunaris, Carcina quercana 2, Anacampsis populella 10, Blastobasis sp, White Plume Moth, Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix, Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix 2, Cnephasia sp. 2, Acleris literana, Agapeta hamana 3, Ancylis badiana, Epinotia bilunana, Bramble Shoot Moth, Cydia splendana, Euzophera pinguis, Mother-of-Pearl 2, Eudonia sp, Chilo phragmitella 2, Calamotropha paludella, Catoptria pingella, Buff Arches, Poplar Hawk-moth, Single-dotted Wave 9, Small Fan-footed Wave, Riband Wave 2, Large Twin-spot Carpet, July Highflyer 3, Ochraceous Pug, Clouded Border 5, Latticed Heath, Bordered Beauty, Early Thorn, Common White Wave, Light Emerald, Sallow Kitten, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Buff-tip 3, Herald, Round-winged Muslin 3, Dingy Footman 37, Common Footman 2, Copper Underwing, Mottled Rustic, Rustic 5, Silky Wainscot, Dark Arches 6, Common Rustic 3, Dun-bar 15, Dingy Shears, Smoky Wainscot 9, Clay, Heart & Dart 2, Large Yellow Underwing 36, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 2, Lesser Yellow Underwing 15, Double Square-spot 7, Short-cloaked 3. 

64 species

Bank Holiday Moths

 Better than we were expecting with a dip in night temperatures. Nice to see some green in the form of a Light Emerald in the trap again and the second Chocolate-tip of the season. More unusual were firsts for us at Ladywalk with Small Clouded Brindle and Figure of Eighty. They are common moths but glancing through some of the past records they haven’t been recorded, so nice to fill some gaps.

Small Clouded Brindle 1, Buff Ermine 2, White Ermine 1, Muslin 1, Swallow Prominent 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Clouded Border 7, May Highflyer 1, Light Brown Apple Moth 1, Green Carpet 3, Silver Ground Carpet 2, Figure of Eighty 1, Poplar Hawk Moth 4, Rustic Shoulder Knot 2, Vine’s Rustic 1, Seraphim 3, Common Pug 2, Foxglove Pug 1, Chocolate-tip 1, Heart and Dart 1, Light Emerald 1, Flame Shoulder 2, Spectacle 1, Mottled Rustic 3, Setaceous Hebrew Character 2, Small Square Spot 1, Swammerdammia sp. 1. 

48 moths of 27 species

Mini-Orchard Beginnings

 If you’ve visited the reserve in the last couple of weeks and have strolled round to Riverwalk Hide, no doubt you’ll have noticed some newly planted trees. These are the beginnings of Ladywalk’s orchard.

 Inspired by other sites in the county, we would like to collect together varieties of orchard fruit that have their origins in Warwickshire. Granted, Warwickshire has never had a rich orchard history as say Worcestershire has, but we would like to keep these varities alive. So by planting an orchard at Ladywalk we hope to; help maintain variety diversity, provide another valuable habitat and food source on the reserve and perhaps even try some of the fruit for ourselves!

 In spring the trees will be excellent for pollinating insects and generally good for a host of invertebrates year round. It’s well known Bullfinches will enjoy snacking on the buds. Redstarts and other migrants may pop in and as the trees mature they will be valuable to species such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and even nesting sites for Little Owls. Of course the fruit will be attractive too. One of the chose apple varieties fruits early in August whilst the other will hopefully hold onto it’s fruit into the New Year providing a good place to see Fieldfares and Redwings on the reserve.

 So far we have planted six trees in two rows of three. The trees have been staked and we’ve done our best to deter the host of creatures that would like to munch on the tasty, young buds by protecting them with a sheath AND a wire fence, but we’ll see. The soil is incredibly fertile and moist so they should get off to a good start. Concerns were raised over the flooding risk but the site was carefully. It does not waterlog like other areas of the reserve and if flooding should occur it rarely lasts longer than a day.

 As for the varieties, we have chosen two ‘Wyken Pippin’ apples, two ‘Warwickshire Drooper’ plums and two native crab apple trees. The apples are grafted onto an M25 rootstock which controls the ultimate size of the tree. M25 is very vigorous and will produce a full-sized orchard tree of up to 4.5m in height and 6m in spread with lots of wildlife value and that traditional orchard feel. The plums are grafted onto a St. Julian A rooststock producing a tree roughly the same height but perhaps less breadth. The crab apples have been planted in the middle of the orchard so that they aid pollination between the different apple varieties and improve fruit set. A few additional crab apples have also been planted around Rudd Pool by an already mature apple tree to provide another fruiting area in years to come.

 Plans are to extend the rows of the orchard to include two of a rare Warwickshire apple variety called ‘Hunt’s Early’ which I couldn’t find to buy ‘ready-made’ so instead had to preorder to be grafted which will take 18 months! I’ve also heard reports of another Warwickshire apple called ‘Shakespeare’ but couldn’t find any details on it. If anybody has any information on this variety (or any others from Warwickshire) we’d love to hear about it and include the variety in the orchard.

 The varieties are listed below. Suppliers used were Walcot Organic Nursery in Pershore, Worcestershire and Keepers Nursery in Maidstone, Kent. Both have provided excellent service and very healthy trees.

Apple – Wyken Pippin

Origins: The pips of an eaten apple from Holland were planted at Wyken Manor near Coventry in the early 1700’s. The variety is an ancestors of Laxton’s Superb.

Description: Flat, round apples with smooth green skin with fine russet dots. Sometimes with some red flush. Juicy sweet and richly flavoured.

Picking time: Mid October

Season of Use:  Can store until January.

Apple – Hunt’s Early

Origins: Warwickshire, 1884. Was commercially grown in Kent.

Description: A sharp, early season apple. Flushed red.

Picking Time: August

Season of Use: Doesn’t keep, use in August.

Plum – Warwickshire Drooper

Origins: Grown commercially in orchards in Warwickshire and believed to be first known as Magnum though there is some uncertainty as many varieties had the word Magnum in. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that it became known as the Warwickshire Drooper.

Description: A small, yellow plum with reddish speckles. A good multi purpose, good for cooking or leave longer on the tree for a sweet dessert plum. The tree’s branches arch downwards hence the name.

Picking Time: Early September.

Excerpt from Forgotten Fruits by Christopher Stocks:

 “It might sound more like an unfortunate condition than a type of fruit, but this gloriously titled plum is actually named after the way it’s branches droop from the tree, almost giving it the look of a weeping willow. Odd growth habits aside, it’s rather handsome yellow, egg-shaped fruits are excellent for cooking and preserving, and at their best they make a decent dessert plum. It was once a popular variety, widely planted in the Midlands and sent to the London markets, but today it is rather rare, and well worth cultivating. In it’s county of origin the fruit was sometimes fermented to make an alcoholic drink know as Plum Jerkum, which was reputed to ‘leave the head clear while paralysing the legs’ and whose exciting effects surely deserve to be rediscovered.”

 For those interested in planting local fruit varieties no matter where they live, I’ve found  the above mentioned title and the The Apple Source Book by Sue Clifford to both be very useful. Planting trees is always a good thing to do but planting local fruit trees will reap many benefits.

October WeBS Count

  Though the miserable weather did make hiking around Ladywalk pretty unpleasant the flooding has really shifted the birds on to the pools. The new scrapes at B pools look superb with good numbers of duck close up to Bittern Hide and nearly 100 Black-headed Gulls enjoying the floodwaters. The long-staying and content juvenile Garganey remains in New Bay along with the female Pintail and a few Snipe.

  Please be aware that the footpaths between Bittern & B Hides are under water at the moment though passable with wellies. As we waded through, up went about 50 Mallards and a few Teal who were quite happily dabbling amongst the weeds. Pete did the stretch from the outfall to the main gates at Ladywalk counting 10 Chiffs and a couple of Blackcaps. Other passerines were hard to come by, just a few Redwings over, 3 Willow Tits together along Riverwalk (maybe a family party) and a dozen or so Meadow Pipits on the meadows behind the bund on the Whitacre Heath side.

Species List;

Mute Swan (41), Canada Goose (43), Mallard (350), Gadwall (128), Shoveler (78), Wigeon (70), Pintail (1), Teal (105), Garganey (1), Tufted Duck (43), Goosander (3), Little Grebe (18), Great Crested Grebe (1), Cormorant (41), Little Egret (1), Grey Heron (4), Water Rail (3), Moorhen (50), Coot (192), Snipe (3), Black-headed Gull (111), Lesser Black-backed Gull (8), Kingfisher (1).

Autumn 2018 All-Dayer

  Records were broken at the weekend as Ladywalk secured it’s highest autumn total for an all-dayer with a neat 90 species. The team of 6 started pre-dawn as usual and started brightly, kicking off with Tawny and Barn Owls in the gloom. At the north end Pete picked up a distant Marsh Harrier, having been seen earlier at Middleton. Simultaneously, Steve Cawthray picked up a Great White Egret over on Eon Meadows and a good tick in the form of a Snipe whilst a single juvenile Black-tailed Godwit graced Main Pool and was the anomaly in an otherwise migrant wader free day. Overhead passage was a bit thin on the ground, just a handful of Meadow Pipits with 1 Yellow Wag early on but they were accompanied by a number of Grey Wagtails heading south. On the ground things were disappointingly quiet in the cool, blustery conditions. It took an age to find warblers, we finished with just a single Garden and 2 Reed Warblers whilst we failed to find the usual Lesser Whitethroat.

  Breakfast baps and an excess of chocolate doughnuts were enjoyed out in the reeds and we totted up our mornings work – 75 species – perhaps 5-10 species down on the norm at this point, so plenty of gaps to fill. As the rain came down though and the waders refused to fall from the sky, it wasn’t looking good.

  Fortunately, we had a fantastic period after breakfast, mopping up expected species and picking up a few more surprises. Sam and Kev were dedicated in their stakeout for the humble House Sparrow, they picked up a Hobby over B pools and a late Swift bombed through. The Garganey that must be here every day lately was pinned down at the unlikely site of Rudd Pool snoozing with his Gadwall rather than Teal mates and Pete & Steve moved further afield to Whitacre Pool and the waterworks spooking 2 Redstarts along the hedgerows.

  The morning team finished early afternoon with 90 species (we thought it was 88 at the time) leaving Richard Walker to fly the flag late in the day and do his best to find something from a list of no-shows but it wasn’t to be. Species missed that we would expect were Mistle Thrush and Lesser Whitethroat, Red-legged Partridge, Skylark, maybe LSW. Wader-wise anything would have done, we’re not fussy – Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank- but it didn’t matter. It does show the potential though, that the dream 100 day is possible even at Ladywalk if it all goes your way, though more likely in the spring for us. Bring on May.

  Thanks go to the team; Pete, Steve, Sam, Kev, Mark, Richard and Ben and thanks to the organisers. A pleasure as always to be part of the West Midland All-Dayer.

Species List (WeBS Counts in Brackets)

Mute Swan (18), Greylag Goose, Canada Goose (5), Mallard (162), Gadwall (61), Shoveler (12), Wigeon (7), Teal (73), Garganey (1), Tufted Duck (9), Goosander (6), Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe (9), Great Crested Grebe (5), Cormorant (13), Little Egret (3), Great White Egret (1), Grey Heron (4), Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Water Rail (2), Moorhen (34), Coot (55), Lapwing (1), Black-tailed Godwit (1), Snipe (2), Black-headed Gull (24), Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Swift, Kingfisher (3), Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (4 thru north – 1,2,1), Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart (2), Song Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer.

Total: 90 species

July Mothfest!

  A fantastic mothing morning at the reserve today. We were on site at 5am to trawl through the clouds of insect life in the traps. Rafts of micros and LBJ’s were interspersed with a gorgeous collection of photogenic specimens. Pretty highlights included multiples of Large Emerald, Bordered Beauty, White Satin Moth, Drinker, Buff Arches and Early Thorn. Rarer finds included the reedbed-dwelling Silky Wainscot (I can’t find any other Ladywalk records yet), our first Double Lobed in a couple of years at the reserve, Blackneck (another potential first) lured in from it’s foodplant – Tufted Vetch – that’s covering the marsh at the moment and most satisfyingly, a single Angle-striped Sallow (scarce in Warwickshire) after our 3 records last year. There was one we weren’t sure about, in the pics below, any ideas? Comments welcome.

  Early summer mornings in the woods are special at the moment. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the Marsh Helleborines yet, there are still plenty in full flower in the clearing behind Hide B. Have a sit down amongst the orchids and bees and watch out for the resident Marsh & Willow Tits and maybe even Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.


Marsh Helleborine glade

 Species List

Early Thorn 6, Vapourer, Riband Wave 11, Poplar Grey 2, Common Footman 7+, Dingy Footman 9+, Buff Footman 3, White Satin Moth 2, Clouded Border 56+, Common Wave 1, Common White Wave 5, Small Fan-footed Wave 1, Buff-tip 6, Pebble Hook-tip 20, Brimstone 3, Scalloped Oak 2, Peppered Moth 1, Dunbar 17, Poplar Hawkmoth 5, Silver Y 3, Rivulet 1, Mother-of-Pearl 23+, Dingy Shears 36, Single-dotted Wave 5, Flame Carpet 1, July Highflyer 23, Large Yellow Underwing 10, Lesser Yellow Underwing 1, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1, Bordered Beauty 2, Double Square Spot 29+, Swallow-tailed Moth 1, Snout 2, Fanfoot 1, Cabbage Moth 1, Dot Moth 3, Bird Cherry/Willow Ermines beyond number, Clay 3, Ingrailed Clay 1, Light Emerald 2, Large Emerald 2, Rustic 24+, Common Rustic 6, Smoky Wainscot 24, Silky Wainscot 1, Double Lobed 1, Crassa unitella 2, Brown China-mark 1, Dark Arches 2, Light Arches 3, Diamond-back Moth 2, Straw Dot 1, Small Magpie 3, Anania coronata 1,  Pale Prominent 1, Coxcomb Prominent 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Blackneck 1, Drinker 1, Buff Arches 2, Sandy Carpet 2, Large Twin-spot Carpet 4, Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet 1, Marbled Minor agg. 6, Common Plume 1, Willow Beauty 2, Engrailed 1, Spectacle 1, Flame Shoulder 1, V Pug 1, Ochreous Pug 1, Double-striped Pug 1, Bright-line Brown-eye 4, Angle-striped Sallow 1, Setaceous Hebrew Character 1, Beautiful Hook-tip 1, Mottled Rustic 1, Short-cloaked 1, Ruddy Streak 1, Large Fruit-tree Tortrix 1, Argyresthia brockeella 2, Eudonia sp 30+, Hypsopygia glaucinalis 1, Dingy Shell 2, Marbled White Spot 1.

459 moths counted of 87 species but many, many micros sp. and numbers going unrecorded!


A Night of Prominents

 A really striking collection of May moths were waiting for us at Ladywalk this morning. Prominents were a prominent feature – Swallow and Lesser Swallow (compare below), Pebble and – my favourite – the ridiculous looking Pale Prominent.

 The male Pale Tussock was a nice surprise with it’s incredible furry legs, whilst the White-pinion Spotted and Common Lutestring were both unrecorded last year on the reserve and seem at least uncommon from the amount of past records.

Species List

Red Green Carpet 1, Lesser Swallow Prominent 5, Swallow Prominent 1, Pug sp. 3 (too worn), Muslin Moth 2, Pebble Prominent 5, Pale Prominent 3, Pale Tussock 1, Waved Umber 1, Flame Carpet 2, White-pinion Spotted 1, Clouded Drab 3, Ruddy Streak 1, Clouded Border 1, Lunar Marbled Brown 1, Small Quaker 1, Hebrew Character 1, Common Lutestring 1.

34 moths of 19 species.

pale tussock

May All Dayer 2018

 Highlights of an otherwise slow day were a stunning male Redstart around Whitacre Pool and a Yellow Wagtail on Bittern Hide Flashes. More surprisingly was a very late Redwing, tseeping over the car park at 4am! As always it’s nice to gather 10 species of warbler on the reserve and to clear up on the diffcult resident species.

 I think a Ladywalk total of 93 species on a day like yesterday was impressive. It’s a comparatively small reserve with less contributors than other sites taking part in the all dayer. The reserve though is species rich and diverse in it’s habitats, making it a really good day out and not just for birds…

 The place was dripping with butterflies. Multiples of Brimstone, Large White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood were all seen, though particularly large numbers of Orange-tip were flitting over the swathes of flowering Garlic Mustard. The first Odonata of the season were noted too, a male and female Banded Demoiselle basking in the sun along the entrance track to the reserve.

Species List

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

93 species