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).



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. 

September WeBS Day

  Chilly south-westerlies and cloudy skies meant shorts were a bad idea. Between 7:00 and 8:30 this morning a total of 57 Meadow Pipits battled southwards in little groups, the maximum being 10. A Yellow Wagtail flew north over Rudd Pool and may have landed on the marsh. The riverside willows and poplars were dripping with roving flocks of tits and a few crests as well as about 20-30 Chiffchaffs. The huge flocks of hirundines continue along the river too, skimming and swirling round the trees. The numbers were made up of mainly House Martins with smaller numbers of Swallows and about a dozen Sand Martins in the mix early on. All this of course attracted a Hobby and they quickly scattered.

  Out on the water, the duck numbers are slowly building up. 77 Gadwall and 53 Teal was nice to see though no Wigeon as yet and the Goosanders were absent today. Disappointingly not a single wader was to be seen, though I’m sure a few Snipe are lurking somewhere. The Kingfishers continue around B pools despite the grisly demise of their friend earlier in the week and it was good to see Little Grebes feeding chick(s) on Angling Pool this late in the year. Our crop field is coming along nicely (below), I can’t wait to see what takes advantage of this bird buffet.


Species List;

Little Grebe 14, Cormorant 12, Little Egret 3, Grey Heron 4, Mute Swan 21, Canada Goose 101, Mallard 155, Gadwall 77, Shoveler 8, Teal 53, Tufted Duck 12, Water Rail 2, Moorhen 29, Coot 79, Black-headed Gull 13, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2, Kingfisher 2.

Autumn All-Dayer

  A pleasure as always to take part in the West Mids All-Dayer on a glorious Saturday in early September. The weather though perhaps became too good as the day progressed, settled and sunny weather meant passage and movement was limited.

  Early on the thick riverside mist smothered the fields and so hiding the usual Barn Owls from us, though we still managed a total of 4 Tawny Owls and later a Little at the E.ON Meadows. A promising start over Bittern Hide included about 25 Meadow Pipits, 1 Tree Pipit, 2 Sand Martins and an early Siskin. Though we had to wait longer for a couple of Yellow Wags but the Swifts never appeared for us. Lesser Whitethroats were to be had up by the car park and the Hobby briefly appeared around midday after being absent on Friday.

  Out on the pools it was encouraging to see a pair of Water Rails with chicks at B pools. Adding this sighting to the records of broods in New Bay, Keyhole and North Pool Sluice suggests 3 or 4 breeding pairs this year, a brilliant breeding season for the species. Small numbers of most duck were present but no sign of any of the Wigeon seen earlier in the week. Ladywalk as always was lacking in wader variety, just the usual Lapwing, 4 Snipe unusually in Keyhole Scrape with single Green and Common Sands floating around.

   As for the gaps in our list, Garden Warbler was a bit of a shocker whilst our breeding Great Crested Grebes have inconsiderately left us. Yellowhammer, Skylark and Red-legged Partridge will hopefully become more reliable as we sow and develop our arable crop patches along the river. 

  Thanks go to the team, Pete Sofley, Steve Cawthray, John Allton, Pete Lichfield, Ken Bentley, Ben Eaton and Kevin Whiston.

Species List;

Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Pheasant, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, 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, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

84 species

Missed species;

Yellowhammer, Garden Warbler, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Owl, Skylark, Cuckoo, Swift, Common Tern, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe.

August Mothing

  A slightly disappointing Monday night on the reserve considering that it’s August, though still 14 new species for the year. Encouraging to catch another couple of the scarce Angle-striped Sallows plus good numbers of Pebble Hook-tips and some smart Wainscots. Nice to see something different clinging to the side of the box, a curious looking species of leafhopper called Ledra aurita which looks like it’s got ears, picture below.

Species List;

Green Carpet 6, Willow Beauty 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Swallow Prominent 3, Lesser Swallow Prominent 1, Iron Prominent 1, Engrailed 4, Common Wave 3, Common White Wave 3, Mother of Pearl 5, Dingy Shell 3, Large Yellow Underwing 57, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1, Polar Hawkmoth 1, Bird Cherry Ermine 1, Brimstone 12, Flame Shoulder 5, Rosy Rustic 2, Square-spot Rustic 7, Double-striped Pug 1, Small Square-spot 1, Brown House Moth 1, Apotomis turbidana 1, Six-striped Rustic 1, Clouded Border 3, Pebble Hook-tip 9, Canary-shouldered Thorn 10, Angle-striped Sallow 2, Latticed Heath 1, Straw Dot 9, Gold Spot 2, Snout 1, Vine’s Rustic 1, Grey/Dark Dagger 1, Chevron 1, Shaded Broad-bar 1, Common Wainscot 2, Bulrush Wainscot 1, Small China-mark 4, Catoptria falsella 1.

171 moths of 40 species, year total now 164 species.