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Local Weather

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.

Wednesday 18th January 2017

Hartlebury Trading Estate:
Not Hartlebury Common related but it is still of local interest. This afternoon I discovered a flock of 23 Waxwings at Hartlebury Trading Estate (near the rear entrance/exit of the estate - The Railway station side). They were perching in the top of a poplar before dropping down to feed on a Rowan occasionally. 

The trading estate is a location I check most winter's, especially during so called Waxwing invasion years when harsh weather and a lack of food means that good numbers come across to the UK from mainland Europe in search of berries and fruit. 

Sadly the light today was dull and a bit misty so my photos aren't the greatest but it was still nice to spend some time watching these birds. It really does warm the heart when you hear their unmistakable high pitched trilling call again after a number of winters absence.

Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus)

As well as the Waxwings there were also a small number of Redwings and Blackbirds feeding on the berries and thankfully there was no sign of the usually present (and somewhat territorial) Mistle Thrush.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

Sunday 15th January 2017

Another day on the reserves and yet another dose of the great British weather.  It was dull, overcast and drizzly so I decided to take a bit of shelter and undertake a walk in Hillditch Coppice.

I walked the wooded path that runs from Hillditch Lane down to Hillditch Pool overlooking the wet woodland.  It proved quite a successful walk in terms of fungi as I added 4 more species to the list with Coral SpotJelly Ear, King Alfred's Cakes and more strangely The DeceiverThe Deceiver is a common woodland fungus and one I have seen many times but they usually occur between July and November.  Seeing these two in January struck me as odd.  Maybe it is indicative of the increasingly milder winters we are getting in the UK these days.

Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)

King Alfred's Cakes (Daldinia concentrica)

The Deceiver (Laccaria laccata)

It was a worthwhile visit on the bird front too as I added Grey Wagtail to my year list for the site when I picked up one feeding in a damp area at the margins of the wet woodland.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - Distant record shot

Wednesday 11th January 2017

The weather for today's visit to the common couldn't have been any more different from the previous few visits with blue skies and sunshine the order of the day, although there was a very strong cold wind blowing in from the northwest.

I started my visit over at Hillditch Coppice.  Here I added Coal Tit to the year list and was also treated to good views of Goldcrest, Redwing and a flock of 11 Long-tailed Tits

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

At the coppice I also found 2 very small hibernating metallic green beetles sp. which I am yet to id.  One was under a log amongst the leaf litter and the other within the spikes of a Sweet Chestnut case.  Also of interest in the coppice was a large Southern Bracket fungi.

From the coppice I headed over to the main car park area of the common to do a bit of sky watching in the hope that these strong cold winds that were heralding a cold snap in parts of the country may cause a bit of cold weather movement.  Conditions like these in winter can often cause movements of species such as Golden Plover and Lapwing.  I had no such joy today but I did pick up 2 Ravens that flew over the common heading west.  Also, at one point, there were 4 Common Buzzards up (2 over the lower terrace of the common and 2 over Hillditch).

What was food for thought however from was the fact that from the main car park area there is a clear 360 degree view of the sky which is perfect for Vis Mig (visible migration).  So come spring I can see a few early morning visits sat at the picnic table with my binoculars (and a flask) scanning the skies.

Sunday 8th & Thursday 10th January 2017

Sunday 8th January 2017:
It was foggy start to my visit today although it did lift eventually to reveal more visibility.  I had decided to walk a circuit around Hillditch Pool and Coppice for this visit and it proved to be the right call as I added three more species to the bird list.  A Moorhen was present on the pool, a pair of Bullfinch were in the coppice and a small flock of Siskin were feeding in the Alders along the pool.

It also proved fruitful on the fungi front with Purple Jellydisc, Crystal Brain and Willow Bracket all recorded.

Willow Bracket (Phellinus igniarius)

Crystal Brain (Exidia nucleata)

Tuesday 10th January 2017:
The dull mild weather continues and for today's visit I decided to walk the area of the common that is next to Cooks Garden Centre on the western side of the common.  This area is cut off from the rest of the common via the Worcester Rd and is adjacent to an industrial estate, a caravan park and a housing estate.  Sadly this is all too obvious as the amount of rubbish in this area was horrendous.  From drinks cans chucked in bushes to burnt out piles of rubbish to fly tipped waste and tethered ponies it didn't make for a particularly pleasant walk.  The only area that was relatively rubbish free was the area between Cooks and the Birch coppice.  This area is a mixture of Broom and grassland and in the past is an area I have recorded Green Hairstreak butterfly in, so will still be worth keeping an eye on later in the year.

I did mange to pick up a few more species here though in Common Buzzard and Collared Dove.  A flyover Lesser Black-backed Gull and Jackdaw were also noted.  During the walk I also recorded some more Purple Jellydisc fungi and Oyster Mushroom.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides)

Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Saturday 7th January 2017

The weather had returned to it's usual grey, overcast self today and likewise I wasn't particularly inspired either.  But I still decided to face the gloom and spend some time mooching about on the common.  This proved to be worthwhile as I managed to tick of a few more bird species on the year list with Chaffinch, Redwing and Herring Gull all added in the northern section of the common. 

I then headed over to the wooded area at the south east end of the common.  I added 2 more bird species here with Goldcrest and Treecreeper.  Also of interest was seeing a small number of Jays mooching about amongst the leaf litter in the predominately oak woodland.  That said none wanted to play ball and pose for a decent photo.  It always amazes me how shy, for such a brightly coloured birds, Jays are.

Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

I decided to spend some time in this area and managed to find a couple more species fungi in Candlesnuff and Yellow Brain

Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica)

Other than that it was a fairly uneventful visit but it's always going to be in the first couple of months of the year.  Still, there are still a few more common species of bird I need to pick up and more winter fruiting fungi to find.

Thursday 5th January 2017

It was another glorious sunny winters day and for my visit I decided to start by having a little amble around the north section of the common.  I started off in this area by checking some of the Bramble bushes looking for leaf mines but I had know joy.  That said there were lots of examples of Violet Bramble Rust on the leaves.  This is a common fungus that causes the reddish/purple blotches on the leaves.

Violet Bramble Rust (Phragmidium violaceum)

Another fungus I noted during my mooch about was Velvet Shank.  This is a species that produces fruiting bodies throughout the winter and when younger the caps can be a radiant orange colour.

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)

On the bird front I added 3 new species to the year list in the part of my visit with Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush and a ♂ Kestrel all becoming welcome additions.  Also of note was the sheer number of Robins present.  It almost seemed like there was one on every other bush!  Although a common species of British breeding bird their numbers increase further still in the winter time with migrant Robins arriving from Scandinavia to winter in the UK.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

I then decided to head over to the Lower Poolands car park and walked a circuit around the southeast section of the common.  Here I added three more species to the bird list with a Jay, 2 Rooks and a Cormorant.  The latter flew over heading southwest towards the general direction of the River Severn.  A Pied Wagtail also flew over heading east.

Again I spent some time looking at Bramble leaves and this time it paid off as I found the leaf mine of a Stigmella aurella micro moth. 

Leaf mine of Stigmella aurella on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)

For more information on leaf mines the following website is an excellent resource:

Monday 2nd January 2017

Finally, the grey damp weather had cleared and I was greeted this morning by a ground frost, blue skies and sunshine.  These are the type of day's that make winter special.  So with uplifted spirits I headed to the Common only to find that every man and his dog had had the same idea.  I have always known that the area by the main visitors car park is popular with dog walkers, joggers and families with kids, especially at weekends but today took it to a whole new level.  The main car park, the car park opposite Cook's nursery and the one just past the Rush Pool were all full, as was the one by Poolands Farm.  So with this in mind (and a grumble under my breath) I decided to spend my time down at Hillditch Pool & Coppice.   Note to self:  A sunny bank holiday is perhaps not the best time to pay a visit to the common.

On arriving at the pull in by Hillditch Pool I was immediately struck by how quiet it was.  Not another car or person in sight.  I could begin my mooching about and recording in peace!   First thing that I noticed on my walk was a number of Holly leaves had the mines of the Holly Leaf Miner fly (Phytomyza ilicus).  These mines are actually caused by the larva of the fly burrowing through the leaf and feeding on the leaf from on the inside.

Mines of the Holly Leaf Miner (Phytomyza ilicus)

Also whilst I was at Hillditch I added a few more birds to my site year list with Pied Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker all welcome additions.  In fact I was about to take a picture of the Green Woodpecker perched lovely on a fence post in the sunlight when it was flushed by a ♀ Sparrowhawk coming through.  Shame about the missed photo opportunity but I will take a Sparrowhawk thank you very much!   The only other new species of bird recorded today for the list were 4 Black-headed Gulls that flew over heading west and 5 Mallards that were on the pool.

Mole becomes an addition to the mammal list as there were some quite fresh mole hills along the patch next to the pool.  Contrary to popular belief Moles do not hibernate in the winter but tend to excavate their burrows deeper below the level of the frozen ground.

As I was mooching about I came across a stunning Geulder Rose whose berries were looking radiant in the sunshine.  All that was needed was for one of the Waxwings that are kicking about in the county to drop in for a feed.  Sadly this didn't happen but one can live in hope! there's always the next time!

Berries of the Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)

Sunday 1st January 2017

All I can say to start this post is 'what a horrible weather day!'  The rain was set in all day and by mid-day I thought blow it, wet or not I'm gonna have a walk on the common.  As it was so grim I decided to spend most of my time mooching about in the wooded area on the south east corner of the reserve.  Pickings were slim with the highlight being a small tit flock that I connected with consisting of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a single Nuthatch that was moving around with them.  Other birds recorded in this area were Magpie, Blackbird, Wren and Woodpigeon.  So not an exciting bird list but about on par for a wet winters day.

The woodland did however provide a bit more interest on the fungi front with Hairy Curtain Crust, Witches Butter and Turkey Tail.  The latter was quite young growth but could be differentiated from the similar Smokey Bracket by looking at the pore surface (underside).  In Turkey Tail it is white but in Smokey Bracket the pore surface is grey.  Also noted today was Oak Moss lichen.

Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum)

Witches' Butter (Exidia glandulosa)

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

From the woodland I headed to the north end of the common near the main visitors car park.  Here I added a few more species of bird to the list with Song Thrush, Dunnock, Robin and Greenfinch.   I also added my first mammals to the year list with a single Grey Squirrel and 3 Rabbits...contain yourselves!   

By now I was well and truly sodden and decided to call it a day.  That said the weather is looking more promising for tomorrow so hopefully I can return and do some proper mooching about!

Oak Moss Lichen (Evernia prunastri)