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Monday, 13 March 2017

Saturday 4th to Sunday 12th March

Saturday 4th March 2017:
Not much of note from today's visit to the Common other than a bit of bid movement.  I observed a flock of 27 Fieldfare that flew over heading ENE and 2 Mistle Thrushes heading E.  It's quite possible that the former were on their journey back to Scandinavia, as these birds that have wintered in the UK will migrating back during the next month or so.  It was also nice to hear a ♂ Blackbird in song for the first time this year.  The Common's many Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens were also in good voice.


Dunnock (Prunella modularis)














Monday 6th March 2017:
A mild sunny day saw 2 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing along the main embankment between the lower and upper terraces of the Common.   On the bird front:  3 Common Buzzards were up soaring overhead and Green Woodpecker was also noted.  A Treecreeper was present in the wooded area that runs alongside The Bog.


What was also interesting to see during this visit was the amount of active Caddisfly larvae that were present in one of the pools near the rear of The Bog.  In it's larval stage the Caddisfly surrounds it's body in a case that it constructs from materials such as plant matter or grains of sand (depending on the species).


Caddisfly Larva (Limnephilus sp.)














Also of interest during today's visit was some Winter Polypore fungi that I found growing on a dead branch. 


Winter Polypore (Polyporus brumalis)













Wednesday 8th March 2017:
Today saw a return to the gloomy overcast weather and for my visit I decided to walk a circuit around the upper terrace from the main car park.  The highlight was flushing 3 Meadow Pipits from the Broom scrub at the end of the now cleared plantation area.  Also during this walk I found some nice examples of Moss Bell fungi.


Moss Bell (Galerina hypnorum)














Saturday 11th March 2017:
Today I decided to cover the section of the Common on the cook's nursery side of the Worcester Rd.  The skies were again overcast but the temperature felt very mild.  At the stand of mature silver Birch I observed a Chiffchaff flitting about and singing sporadically.  The first of the summer migrants had returned.  Hearing it's song made it felt like Spring had finally sprung!  Also at the Birch stand was a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  The male bird was drumming occasionally against a dead Birch trunk. 


It was a pretty good day invert-wise too as I recorded an Orange Underwing moth flitting around over some of the younger trees in the smaller birch covered area.  3 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were noted and a number of Buff-tailed Bumblebees were also active.


Sunday 11th March 2017:
I returned to the Cook's side of the Common, this time with my sound recorder in hand.  There were now 3 Chiffchiffs singing from different areas in this section of the reserve and I managed to record one of them (click on SoundCloud player at bottom of page) before the peace was shattered by a kid on a mini moto bike and one on a mini quad bike tearing around.  Grrrr, so much for all the notices on the gates to the site!


I decided to head over to Hillditch pool for some relative peace and quite.  I sat  for a while just listening to the bird song when I was treated to the strange quacking like sound of a Common Toad croaking from the pond's fringes.





Sunday, 5 March 2017

26th & 28th February / 1st & 2nd March

Sunday 26th February 2017:
I started the visit by heading straight to The Bog (ahem).  There was no sign of any Snipe today but it was a welcoming sight to see that the Frogs had spawned there since my previous visit.  2  Common Buzzards were up soaring over the lower area of the common.


Spawn of the Common Frog (Rana temporaria)














From The Bog I decided to avoid the Sunday crowds and head over to the much quieter Hillditch Pool & Coppice.  There were good numbers of Redwing present in the wooded areas surrounding the pool, one of which decided to take a bath in the muddy shallows.  Also noted were 2 Goldcrests, a Treecreeper and a ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Tuesday 28th February 2017:
There wasn't much happening on the Common this visit due to the dull, cold weather but a Great Black-backed Gull that came over mobbing a Common Buzzard was an unexpected bonus addition to my site year list. 


From the common I once more headed over to Hillditch for a mooch about.  Birdwise, the most interesting sighting was the 2 Cormorant that flew over heading SW.  One I did notice during the walk was a few small groups of Crocus that were just coming into flower.  Although not a native UK species these naturalised plants certainly add a splash of much needed cover.


Early Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus)














Wednesday 1st March 2017:
Although it was another dull overcast day it did feel noticeably milder.  I started this visit with a renewed sense of optimism and was duly rewarded with the sight of 7 Common Buzzards up over the common gradually drifting west. 


Whilst walking on the Cook's Garden Centre side of the common I also spotted a Ruby Tiger moth larva moving hurriedly across the grass track. A pleasing find and a sign that it was a bit warmer today.


Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) Larva














Crossing over the A4025 that cuts across the common I was saddened to see a dead Badger at the side of the road.  It is worth recording as it shows that the species is present in the area but the loss of such a great creature is sad all the same.


Over at the Rush Pool the Common Frogs had been very busy producing a mass of spawn which measured approximately  2ft x 2ft (that's just over 0.6m x 0.6m for you metric types).


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Spawn














Thursday 2nd March 2017:
A rare sunny day on the common saw my wife and I undertake a bit of a walk (after visiting Cook's to buy some plants).  I was hoping to perhaps see an overwintering butterfly on the wing but it wasn't to be.  There were however plenty of Honey Bees visiting the Gorse flowers as well as a single queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).  My first bumble of the year.


On the bird front it was reasonably quiet although the nice weather meant that Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were all observed up over the common.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

19th, 22nd & 24th February 2017

Sunday 19th February 2017:
It was yet another dull, dreary day and I decided to walk a circuit around the upper common from lower Poolands car park.  It was quite unproductive until I flushed 2 Meadow Pipits from amongst the vegetation in the clear felled area where the plantation used to be.  The birds flew up into a nearby tree and I managed to get a few record shots.  It was a pleasing year tick for the site.


Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)














The only other birds of note during this visit were 2 Siskin that flew over calling heading East.


Wednesday 22nd February 2017:
Today's weather: Dull, overcast with light drizzle turning to heavy rain (how I long for Spring).  I undertook a walk around the lower common from the car park opposite Cook's and weather aside it was a fairly productive visit.  The undoubted highlight was seeing a Common Snipe flying across The Bog.   It  gave good binocular flight views showing prominent white trailing edges of wings as it flew low from the middle area to the rear of bog, making its flight call before dropping down between the tussocks and out of sight.  Another year tick for the site from a species I genuinely wasn't expecting to get there.


Also during the walk I came across some lovely patches of Snowdrop in bloom and recorded another fungi for the year list in the shape of Glistening Inkcap


Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)














Glistening Inkcap (Coprinus micaceus)














Friday 24th February 2017:
I commenced today's visit to the common by walking the wooded western edge of The Bog.  My hope was that I could scan across and view some of the wet boggy areas at a better angle to try and perhaps pick up a Common Snipe or even a Jack Snipe (well you never know).  Of course Snipe being Snipe they picked up on me walking the fringe of The Bog and I actually flushed three of them. With loud alarm calls and zigzagging flight they were off (most likely to the nearby Wilden Marsh).  Still, 3 Common Snipe was much better than I had hoped for.  I will be keeping an eye on this area over the next few weeks.


Also of interest birdwise was a ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker in the wooded area next to The Bog.  3 Common Buzzards and a ♂ Sparrowhawk were up soaring over the common.


I also added an invert to the year list in the form of a 7-spot Ladybird which I discovered on one of the Gorse bushes.


Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)














7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

7th, 12th & 13th February 2017

Tuesday 7th February 2017:
The dull, overcast weather continued and today I decided to start my visit by undertaking a walk on the Cook's Garden Centre side of the common.  It was reasonably unproductive but for the two more fungi that I added to the year list:  Birch Polypore and Exidia plana. 


Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)














Exidia plana














From the Common I then decided to head over to Hillditch Coppice.  Again things were quiet although I did find an interestingly named plant called Hart's-tongue fern.  So called as it's leaves supposedly looks like a deer's tongue (A hart is an old fashioned name for a deer).


Hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)


















Sunday 12th February 2017:
Decided to undertake a walk around Hillditch this afternoon as the common just gets too busy on a weekend.  It was the right choice as it was lovely and quiet and during my walk around I heard my first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker of the year.  A sound that always lifts the spirits.   On the way back I decided to sit on the bench next to the first section of pool and just chill out listening to bird song.  Fortune was obviously smiling on me as a Kingfisher flew in and perched in the trees opposite for a minute or so before flying off towards Titton brook.  Result another bird year tick for the list.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) - distant record shots















Monday 13th February 2017:
Finally, after what seems like an eternity of dull, grey weather it was a day of blue skies and sunshine and what a difference it made.  For my visit I decided to walk a circuit from the lower terrace, up the terrace bank onto the upper terrace and back.  At the car park opposite Cook's I was greeted by 3 House Sparrows (1♂, 2♀) that were flitting about in the nearby bushes.


Something that struck me during the walk was the number of Honey Bees that were active busily feeding on the Gorse flowers.  There were 3 or 4 on near enough every flowering Gorse that was catching the sun.  Also noted visiting the Gorse flowers was a single Meliscaeva auricollis hoverfly.  Finally the inverts are starting to emerge, just need a few more days of sunshine now!

Meliscaeva auricollis

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Thursday 2nd & Sunday 5th February 2017

Thursday 2nd February:
It was yet another dull, damp day on the and for today's visit I decided to undertake a walk around the upper section of the common starting and finishing at the main car park.  It was interesting to see the heather and gorse taking a foothold where the plantation woodland was but sadly the walk was devoid of birdlife.  That said things were slightly better on the fungi front especially along the wooded path that runs along the eastern edge of the site.  Here I recorded more Velvet Shank, Witches Butter and a new fungi for my year list called Tripe Fungus.


Tripe Fungus (Auricularia mesenterica)














Sunday 5th February:
The dull grey weather continues but at least it wasn't so damp today.  The first part of my visit was again spent on the upper section of the common.   It was nice to see that the Hazel tree near the main car park was now in bloom with a great show of the male catkins and the smaller red female flowers.  Birdwise there was more activity today although a highlight was hearing a Song Thrush that was in great voice (the first one I have heard singing this year).  Also of note was a Kestrel that was hovering over the common.


Hazel (Corylus avellana) in bloom














From the common I headed over to Hillditch pool where I undertook a short walk. During the walk a ♂ Sparrowhawk flew past and perched up briefly in one of the tall Oaks that line the footpath above the pond.  It was in stunning plumage and had it's full peachy/orange flush on it's chest.  Sadly though the beggar flew off before I managed any clear photos of him. 


The undoubted highlight of the day came when on returning to my car I heard a Willow Tit singing from the wooded area across the road from the pool.  It sang fairly regularly for 10 minutes or so and I decided to take a recording of it on my mobile phone as a record.  Willow Tit is a very scarce species in Worcestershire these days as it has seen a countywide collapse in numbers over the last 20 years.  As it is private land I was unable to get in to locate the bird but it certainly bodes well for future visits.


Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) - Worcestershire, 5th February 2017





Friday, 3 February 2017

Wednesday 25th & Friday 27th January 2017

Wednesday 25th January 2017:
The weather was surprisingly good for today's visit so I decided to walk a reasonable circuit around the lower sections of the common.  I started my walk on the section next to Cook's Garden Centre.  It wasn't the most productive area by any means but I did add House Sparrow to my site year list as there was a flock of at least 12 present.


I then crossed the Worcester Rd to check out the area near Rush Pool and The Bog.  This proved quite worthwhile as amongst one of the Gorse bushes I found some active tents of Gorse Spider Mites.  I also added another fungi to the year list with Wrinkled Crust.


Gorse Spider Mite (Tetranychus lintearius) Tent














Wrinkled Crust (Phlebia radiata)














I then decided to walk up onto the terrace bank between the upper and lower terraces of the common. This area is covered in gorse and scrubby bushes and parts of it are relatively undisturbed.  It looks ideal for a wintering Stonechat but for all my scanning it was not to be.  The only bird of note was a Green Woodpecker.


Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)














Friday 27th January 2017:
I used today's visit to undertake another walk in Hillditch Coppice along the bank above the wet woodland.  Almost immediately I picked up on a Lesser Celandine that was in flower.  These plants with their heart shaped leaves and yellow buttercup-like flowers are usually early flowering and a herald of spring, but they are not normally in bloom quite this early.  Perhaps it's indicative of the mild winter that we have been having.


Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)













On the bird front I again saw a Grey Wagtail on a damp fringe at the edge of the wet woodland.  I also had cracking views of a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest.   But the highlight was a Grey Heron that flew low over the wood towards Hillditch pool, a new addition to my year bird list for the site.


I also added three more species of fungi to the list with Beech Barkspot, Split Porecrust and Variable Oysterling.


Beech Barkspot (Diatrype disciformis)














Split Porecrust (Schizopora paradoxa)














Variable Oysterling (Crepidotus variabilis)


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Friday 20th & Sunday 22nd January 2017

Friday 20th January 2107:
As it was a glorious weather day today with clear blue skies and sunshine I decided to walk a circuit the SE Oak woodland up on to the plateau of the upper terrace and back.  It was pretty much devoid of birds other than the ubiquitous Wrens and Robins.  The only real highlights were a single Common Buzzard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.


On the fungi front I noted some nice new examples of Purple Jellydisc, Witches Butter and Yellow Brain

Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides)













Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica)













I also decided to use this walk to start looking at and recording some of the lichen species found on the common.  Starting with perhaps my favourite lichen the wonderfully named Devil's Matchstick (Cladonia floerkeana).  C. floerkeana is a specialist of heath land and moorland and it's bright red tips are unmistakable.  They always make remind me of Swan Vesta matches.


Devil's Matchsticks (Cladonia floerkeana)














Sunday 22nd January 2107:
Today the weather had returned to it's usual dull, grey, overcast self and I decided to undertake a walk through the Oak woodland in the hope of picking up one or two new species of bird for my site year list but alas it was not to be.  Other than the usual tit flock and a couple of Jays there was very little of note.

I then decided to head over to Hillditch Pool.  Whilst walking along the footpath that runs adjacent to the pool I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Water Rail making it's squealing call from amongst the reed bed. This is most likely a wintering bird but it will be interesting to see if it stays around.  It is the first time I have ever encountered one at this site and made what could have been a dull visit well worthwhile.