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Local Weather

Monday 20th to Friday 24th March

Monday 20th March 2017:
A cold, cloudy, damp  morning on the common with little of note but for 3 Meadow Pipits that flew over heading N and 2 Stock Doves that were over heading NE.  Also noted were a ♂ Kestrel and a 4 singing Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday 21st March 2017:
The weather hand improved slightly for today's visit although the blue skies were complimented by very cold strong winds.  A few more inverts were now active with Green Tiger Beetles, Yellow Dung Flies and an Tawny Mining Bee all noted. Green Tiger Beetles are a speciality of heathland, moorland and sandy grassland.  They are voracious predators of other invertebrates and great to watch as they are fast, agile hunters.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

Thursday 23rd March 2017:
Today's weather started with blue skies but quickly turned cloudy.  I decided to pay a visit to Hillditch Pool.  Primarily I was looking for toad spawn but couldn't find any along the accessible fringes of the pool.  However it was nice to see the stunning yellow flowers of the Marsh Marigolds coming into bloom. 

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

I also observed my first Tree Bee of the year.  The Tree Bee is a recent colonist and was first recorded in the UK in 2001.  Since then it has steadily spread rapidly across the country.  It is a very effective pollinator and it's arrival doesn't appear to have been damaging to our native bee populations.

Tree Bee (Bombus hypnorum)

Friday 24th March 2017:
Today bought about a big change in the weather conditions with blue skies, sunshine and no breeze.  As a result I encountered my first Common Lizard of the year basking on a south facing log. 

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

On the invert front the Green Tiger Beetles seem even more numerous, especially amongst the broom scrub where the southern end of the plantation used to be.

Birdwise, Linnets had returned to the common for the breeding season with 2 males perched up  singing.  The Linnets tend to move away from the common during the winter months to join other linnets in arable areas where they can form quite large flocks that feed in the stubble fields or on fresh plough.  At my former local patch of Shenstone there would regularly be a flock of 200-300 Linnets present most winters.

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.

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.