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A return to blogging

After a hiatus of a couple of years I have returned to blogging.  Although I am still very much involved with Hartlebury Common and a committee member of the Hartlebury Common Local Group my future blog posts will be on my previous blog,  Shenstone Birder

Shenstone Birder was my first and most successful wildlife blog and over a five and a half year period from 2010 I wrote over 700 posts.  Primarily it focused on my then local patch, the area loosely known by local birders as Shenstone (Stanklyn, Stone, Shenstone etc).  Having still visited each year, all be it less frequently since Shenstone Birder finished in 2015, the area very much still holds a special place in my heart.  In 2020 with the pandemic and numerous lockdowns/restrictions it was local area that I could reach easily for my exercise walks and wildlife recording fix to maintain my sanity.  Doing so made me realise that perhaps for 2021 I should restart that blog.  

During the intervening years my interests in the natural world have diversified further and are not solely limited to birds.  You could say that I also have a fascination with invertebrates and this resurrected blog will also reflect this as well as focussing on our feathered friends.  Also this year I will be travelling further afield (when restrictions permit) for a variety of wildlife within Worcestershire and neighbouring counties.  So the blog will not just be about Shenstone or Birding.  Post from Hartlebury Common will also appear within the Shenstone Birder blog so please do check it out.  

A link to the blog is as follows:


Many Thanks


Hartlebury Common BioBlitz

This weekend (28th & 29th June 2019) sees the Hartlebury Common BioBlitz take place.  It is being organised by the FSC Biolinks project with assistance from the Hartlebury Common Local Group.

There is a moth trapping event on Friday night (pre-booking essential for moth night) and many events & activities for all ages taking place throughout Saturday.  It is a free event and all are welcome. 

Please check out the below link for me details of events & times:

An update (of sorts)....

As you may have noticed, things have been very quiet from this blog since early April and I felt that perhaps I should just let it's readers know why.  Over the past couple of months I have been putting much of my spare time, of an evening when I would be blogging, into working on the soon to be launched new website of the Hartlebury Common Local Group.  I have been working alongside fellow HCLG members Mike Lomax and Mary Williams on populating this new website which, without being biased, is looking pretty damn good.  It will feature all the latest news, events and voluntary work details, flora and fauna sections, a history section, things to do, a latest wildlife sightings page and much much more.  I will be sharing more details and links to this page when it does go live.

For those of you that are interested in my wildlife posts.  Well, I have still been visiting Hartlebury Common and Hillditch Pool on a frequent basis and recording my sightings, so once my time is more freed up some catch up blog posts and many photos will follow.  But for now please be patient.

In the mean time, below are a handful of photos from the past to months to whet your whistle.

Many thanks

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - Hartlebury Common, 20th April 2019

Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus) - Hartlebury Common, 30th April 2019

Water Ladybird (Anisosticta 19-punctata) - Hillditch Pool, 18th May 2019

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Hartlebury Common, 19th May 2019

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa coccinea) - Hillditch Pool, 22nd May 2019

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) ♂ - Hillditch Pool, 23rd May 2019 

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) - Hartlebury Common, 1st June 2019

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) immature - Hillditch Pool, 1st June 2019

28th March to 7th April 2019

Thursday 28th March:
Today was a nice mild day with blues skies and a bit of sunshine.  Whilst walking through the bracken between the Lower Poolands heath and the Upper Terrace i suddenly spotted a male Emperor Moth patrolling.  This kind of took me by surprise as it is the earliest date that I have seen one on the Common.  I returned to my car to pick up my pheromone lure to see if any more responded and was joined by Mike W of Butterfly Conservation West Midlands Branch.  After a short wait the lure attracted a single male (presumably the one I had seen earlier).  Sadly it was to flighty for photos and never settled so, below is a ♂ Emperor that I photographed at the Common in a previous year.

Emperor (Saturnia pavonia) ♂

Also of note were 2 Ravens that were seen displaying and tumbling over the terrace embankment.  Up until this Spring I had only recorded Raven twice at the Common and both times were just single birds flying over.  Now I am seeing at least one most visits, so I can only assume that they are nesting somewhere not too distant from the reserve.

Raven (Corvus corax)

During my amble I also recorded my first site Dark-edged Bee-Fly of the year.  They are interesting looking flies that resemble small bumblebees and have a long, straight proboscis that is uses to feed on nectar from spring flowers such as primroses.

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major)

Saturday 30th March:
It was another mild, sunny day and it certainly brought out a few more inverts including one of my favourites, the Green Tiger Beetle.  These stunning looking beetles are specialists of heathland, moorland, sandy grasslands and coastal dunes.  The lowland heath habitats in within the Wyre Forest district (including Hartlebury Common) are ideal for them. They are voracious predators and feed on Ants, Spiders and caterpillars.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)

During my visit I also recorded a couple more species of mining bee that were active:  Ashy Mining Bee and Early Mining Bee.  The latter is also known as Orange-tailed Mining Bee as it has an orange band on the tip of it's abdomen.

Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)

Sunday 7th April:
I started my visit by walking down from the Wilden Top car park to the gate opposite Wilden Lane and back up.  I was primarily looking out for Green Hairstreak butterflies as this is the location where, the past 3 years the first ones on the wing are usually seen.  I wasn't in luck today although I did observe 2 Peacock butterflies and 2 queen Common Carder Bees

Common Carder Bee (Bombus humilis)

I then undertook a walk around the upper terrace where active Bloody-nosed Beetles were a welcome addition to my site year list. 

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa)

It was also great to see and hear my first singing Willow Warbler of the year.  Willow Warblers, like their close relative the Chiffchaff  migrate back from sub-Saharan Africa (where they winter) to  breed in the UK during the Summer months and every year Hartlebury Common holds a good number of them.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Shortly after photographing the Willow Warbler I bumped into fellow naturalist Gail H who had travelled up from near Malvern to visit Hartlebury Common to hopefully see Emperor Moth.  After setting up the Pheromone lure it wasn't long before we were greeted by 2 ♂ Emperor Moths flitting about.  As per usual they would check out the lure and fly off without  really settling but at least it made Gail's trip to the site worthwhile.

We then wondered across to have a look at the Early Colletes nest site on the embankment where we a fair few were active despite the dull conditions including a mating pair.

Early Colletes (Colletes cunicularius)

After leaving Gail I ambled back to my car where I was in for one last treat as a Treecreeper landed on an Oak nearby and stayed still enough for a photo before proceeding upwards in an almost mouse-like fashion.

Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)

13th March to 20th March 2019

Wednesday 13th March:
Today, Mike Lomax and I undertook a large circuit around the Common to plan a possible future walk for Butterfly Conservation. We took in a mix of habitats and covered many of the site's different areas (Upper Terrace, Terrace Embankment, Lower Terrace, Lower Heath and Lower Poolands area).

It wasn't really butterfly weather but this was a recce to plan the route. That said we still saw a good mix of wildlife.  Highlights included 2 Ravens, 1 Meadow Pipit (flyover), a Scarce Footman moth caterpillar, Pine Ladybirds, a 7-spot Ladybird, Yellow Dung Fly, a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee going into its nest hole and an area of Turf Mottlegill Fungi.

Scarce Footman (Eilema complana) larva

Sunday 17th March:
I only had time for the briefest of visits today so I decided to spend some time down at Hillditch Pool.  It was quite a dull, cool day with little of note on the invert front.  Bird wise I didn't fair much better, that was until I had all but returned to my car and, in the wooded area next to the 'dog dip' pond I picked up on a Chiffchaff that was busily flitting about and fly-catching non stop as it feed back up following it's long journey from Africa.

Tuesday 19th March:
This afternoon i undertook a walk around the Lower Poolands ad Upper Terrace areas of the common.  Once again the cooler weather kept the inverts at bay but it was a productive visit on the bird front as there were now 2 singing Chiffchaffs present. Linnets had also started to return back to the reserve for the breeding season with 2 Linnets seen (one of which was singing).  In the winter months the Common's Linnets move away to arable areas where they join other Linnets in sometimes quite large flocks (in the hundreds) searching the fields for food.

Linnet (Linaria cannabina)

Wednesday 20th March:
Finally the weather had started to improve and as this afternoon was sunny and mild my hunt for inverts was on.  I decided to walk part of the Lower Terrace and the Terrace Embankment and this really paid of as I saw my first few Early Colletes (Colletes cunicularius) bees active near their nest aggregation site.  This species is a rare species in Worcestershire and a scarce resident species on the Common. They are usually found at coastal sand dune locations in the UK but have started to colonize a few inland sites (the inland dunes and sandy soils of Hartlebury Common are perfect for them).  At their peak last year I obtained a maximum count of c.40 at the nest area so not exactly numerous there.

Early Colletes (Colletes cunicularius) 

Also of interest during the walk were a small number of female Clark's Mining Bees .  On the butterfly front a Peacock and 3 Small Tortoiseshells were present on the sunny slopes of the embankment.

Clark's Mining Bee (Andrena clarkella)

Peacock (Aglais io)

One of the day's biggest highlights though was hearing a Yellowhammer back singing on the Common.   As with the Linnets that breed at the site the common's breeding Yellowhammers also move away to arable areas in the winter months.  It is always a joy to hear one again in the following Spring as they regale us with their "a little bit of bread and no cheeeeese" song.   Two Chiffchaffs were heard in song on the Lower Terrace.

27th February to 10th March 2019

Wednesday 27th February:
The warm spell continued and today's visit to the Lower Heath area of the Common was a productive one on the invert front.  A single Comma was noted there and I also observed my first Orange Underwing moth of the year flitting about around the top of a stand of Silver Birch.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

As well as the aforementioned Lepidoptera I also recorded 3 species of ladybird:  Pine Ladybird, 7-spot Ladybird and 24-spot ladybird.  The latter being my first sighting of this species for the year.

24-spot Ladybird (Subcoccinella 24-punctata)

Friday 1st March:
The unseasonably warm spell had come to an end and cold strong winds were now very much in effect as with it many of the inverts seen over the previous week had gone back into cover.  So, I decided to spend some time visiting the water bodies starting with The Bog and Rush Pool.  

Sadly The Bog remained dried out and there was very little of note there.  Rush Pool on the other hand was far more encouraging.   It was great to see that, since Worcestershire County Council and Hartlebury Common Local Group volunteers had cleared the trees/shrubs growing within Rush Pool, not only has the water level increased considerably but also Frogs had returned and spawned there successfully.  Also of note near to Rush Pool was some nice clusters of Scarlet Elf Cap fungi.  A ♂ and ♀ Mallard were also present on the pool.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) spawn at Rush Pool

Scarlet Elf Cap (Sarcoscypha coccinea)

From Rush Pool I headed over to Hillditch Pool.  On arrival a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming from the coppice.  A Grey Wagtail flew over the pool and headed towards Titton Brook and 2 Ravens flew over 'kronking' heading West.  Also of interest was an empty Duck Mussel shell that I found at the edge of the rear pool there.

Duck Mussel (Anodonta anatina) shell

Saturday 9th March:
It was very quite visit to the lower terrace of the Common today and the strong cold winds meant that most things, birds included were sat up taking shelter.  I did, during an all too brief sunny spell, see a rather nice male House Sparrow perch out and start singing from the Gorse next to the Bog Car Park.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Sunday 10th March:
The weather was slightly better today with blues skies and occasional sunny spells but the strong cold wind remained.  Starting with a walk on the Lower Terrace I was pleased to see that the seasonal pond had a reasonable amount of water within it.

The Seasonal Pond - Lower Terrace

From the Lower Terrace I headed over to Hillditch Pool.  There were two Mistle Thrushes present in the paddock adjacent to the pool and a Sparrowhawk flew through the coppice.  On the pool itself the leaves of  Yellow Water-lily were just beginning to break the surface.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)

Monday 18th to Monday 25th February 2019

Monday 18th February:
I only had time for a brief visit to the Common today so I decided to check out Rush Pool and The Bog.  There was no sign of any Frogs or spawn on Rush Pool although the water levels are returning nicely since the work parties to cut back the trees and shrubs there.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for The Bog which had all but dried out again.  Whilst walking the length of The Bog I was treated to the sight and sound of a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Wednesday 20th February:
This afternoon I decided to have a mooch about around the Oak wood and heath on the SE side of the Common.  The weather was quite mild and Spring like so I thought there may be the chance of an invert or two.  I wasn't disappointed as I saw two queen bumblebees:  a Tree Bumblebee and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.  There were also a few active Honey Bees visiting the Gorse flowers.

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

It was quite a productive visit on the bird front as I added two more species to my site year list.  A Cormorant flew over heading SW and a single Lesser Redpoll was feeding in the Silver Birch trees.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret)

Friday 22nd February:
As the week progressed the weather became warmer (unseasonably so in fact) with temperatures in the mid-teens as opposed to around the usual 7 or 8°C.  This meant that more inverts were likely to emerge (and yes I do like my invertebrates!).  I undertook a walk on the SE area of the Common again and started checking the gorse bushes for any ladybirds that may have been tempted out of hibernation.  I was in luck and found a pair of Pine Ladybirds that not only had emerged but decided to start mating too. 

A single Raven that flew over 'kronking' heading SE was another site year tick.

Pine Ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)

Saturday 23rd February:
The warm sunny weather continued and more Pine Ladybirds have emerged.  On one area of Gorse on the Upper Terrace of the Common I counted 14 of these diminutive ladybirds.

Else where on the Common there were good numbers of Redwing present in the SE Oak wood, with a number of them being in sub-song.  It was really great to hear this warbling vocal.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

Monday 25th February:
The unseasonal temperatures kept rising and today was official the hottest UK February day on record with the temperature reaching  20.3°C in West Wales.  On the Common it was an amazing 18°C. 

For my visit I decided to focus on the Lower Terrace and the Terrace Embankment and was soon treated to my first butterflies of the year in 2 Commas that were flitting about over the lower area.  On the embankment itself I recorded 3 Small Tortoiseshells, all of which were basking on the warm bare sandy areas.  I also observed my 2nd species of ladybird, a 7-Spot Ladybird.  A small number of Pine Ladybirds were also present on this area of the site.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

Pine Ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)