Maybe In May?

   When asked to do something for the new blog about “Birds to look out for in May”, I immediately cast my mind back to some of the highs and inevitable lows of connecting or not with the few scarcities which come our way here in the West Midlands. The following are just a few of the records that come to mind.

   May is certainly up there with the best and for that reason it is the chosen month for the full day bird count or “Bird Race” and, after taking part in so many, I can recollect some great birds and completely unexpected records. We once agreed to meet at 2am at the entrance to Brandon Marsh and as each of us arrived we were greeted by a very loud and close Nightingale; I guess it was all downhill from there but that few minutes sums up what May can be like.

   In terms of Ladywalk, I can’t recall too many such surprises. One, however, came in the form of one of the latest additions to many a County List, when on May 21st in 2012, John Alton, working as usual, disturbed a roosting Nightjar. Thankfully it perched up again and scores of happy people saw it later.

   Away from Ladywalk, but still involving species which could turn up there, there have been many great birds in May. Sadly we must go right back for the best of the bunch as in recent years, county species deemed “Rare or Scarce” have been few and far between, the last being a Spotted Sandpiper at Draycote Res on May 7th 2014.

   Waders have always been a draw for Midlands’s birders and some easterly airflows and drizzle is the best weather to connect with the better numbers. Some fine records have come from the Tame Valley, perhaps the best being a Least Sandpiper in 2002 at Middleton RSPB. Temminck’s Stints are generally May birds, with a few in June; my earliest date for them was the 11th at Coton Lakes. Not likely to be repeated in a hurry are the two Tame Valley Kentish Plovers; firstly across the canal from Broomey Croft, Kingsbury Water Park (KWP) on the 14th in 1977 and three years later at Coton Lake on the 3rd. Another of the best May arrivals, when they were pretty rare too, was the pair of Black-winged Stilts which arrived at Alvecote Pools on the 28th in 1987. I also have a note of two Collared Pratincoles in the West Mids area; one at Bredon’s Hardwick on 4th in 1994 and one at Draycote on 12th in 1996.


Black-winged Stilt (Pete Lichfield)

   Some of the other highlights and perhaps more likely to be repeated at Ladywalk have included Ring-necked Duck at KWP in 1979, Spoonbill at Dosthill Lake in 1996, a cracking early morning Golden Oriole at Middleton Hall in 1994, and the following at KWP; a Whiskered Tern in 1987, a Night Heron in 1995 and a Gull-billed Tern in 2006.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern (Pete Lichfield) 

   Away from the Tame Valley I will close on two particularly painful records, both unable to feature on my Warwickshire List. A Black-headed Bunting which came to a peanut feeder in a closely guarded Nuneaton garden on May 19th 2006 and a big time-waster at Brandon Marsh, a Great Reed Warbler which refused to sing during eight hours of my life between May 6th – 9th 2005.

   So, take your pick and set some targets. I recommend the last-mentioned and please make it nice and simple. You have my number; I’ll pay for the call.

Steve Haynes


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