A trip to The West Midlands this weekend, to see the Girlfriend. And explore what the Birmingham area has to offer wildlife wise. A planned visit to the newish RPSB reserve at Middleton Lakes on the way to Tamworth.
With weather that I can describe as Sub zero, we took the first Right hand turning following the RSPB makeshift signs, past the Aston Villa FC Training Facility through what can only be referred to as a disused gravel works for around 800 meters. Word of warning if you like having an intact car avoid this entrance and the huge potholes, carry on down the road another Mile and take the right hand turning to Middleton Hall, it will bring you straight out to the RSPB car park.
Enough with the words of wisdom, we headed off into the reserve hoping to see something in the freezing cold before the forcast snow swept our way. First bird of the day a Goldcrest flitting about in the bramble patch next to the Heronry boardwalk, the feeding station on the edge of the reed bed, teeming with small birds. Great Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch & Robin all seen in numerous numbers. The occasional hoarse squawk of a Grey Heron drew our eyes to the trees, 6-7 or rising and then disappearing back into the woodland.
A wander down through the woodland are hoped to show a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, but no such luck, a couple we passed did mention that they had seen it a couple of times earlier in the morning. A quick glance down the frozen canal and on into the main lakes part of the reserve. A landscape covered in ice, all of the lakes covered in a thick layer. A few birds concentrated in the odd pool which had escaped from the frosts grasp.
I'd imagine the lakes are a fantastic walk in slightly better weather, with no hides as of yet, you can walk pretty close to the water all away around the outside of the reserve, the reeds offering enough shelter for the birds and enough gaps to look through. A fair few birds spotted on the water; Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Canada Goose, Grey Heron, Shelduck, Teal & a hovering Kestrel.
The bitter wind blowing got a little more bareable as we spotted a pair of Stonechat, the female teasing me with a close up view but moving just 35-40 yards in front of us along the path the male not quite as receptive
as the female and staying hidden.
Running alongside the outside edge of the reserve is the River Tame, being the only large stretch of water untouched by the ice it proved abundant with Mallard & Teal. Two Great-crested Grebe also fished in the faster flowing water. Further up river a small group of Goldeneye flushed from the waters edge. And then the snow came, thick and fast, a pretty speedy walk back to the car and on to the M6 and M42 before the weather brought the British road network to a grinding halt. A pretty good visit to an RSPB reserve all in all, and we probably only saw less than a dozen other people.
I headed back down south this morning, before the freezing fog and additional forecast snow, making the journey in only 10 mins longer than clear weather conditions. A quick peep out of the kitchen window presenting plenty of action on the bird tables. All the usual suspects and a frequent visitor in the form of the Great-spotted Woodpecker, So I had a quick walk down the road watching big numbers of Chaffinch working up and down the hedgerow, and some rather large flocks of Corn Bunting with the odd Yellowhammer mixed in feeding on the odd patches untouched by the snow. More surprisingly loads of Fieldfare coming into the garden on the end of the main Apsley House, a tree still with remaining with fruit the attraction.