a million voices for nature
The Ladywalk reserve is situated at the far end of the new industrial estate which is on the site of the old Hams Hall power Station. It is managed by the West Midland Bird Club and is accessible by permit only (though a public footpath borders the reserve with one hide available from it). It consists of a series of pools formed from former sand and gravel workings which are linked by wooded areas and is flanked by the river Tame, near its junction with the river Blythe.
On the day of our visit, the weather had changed from the wet and windy Christmas/ New Year to cloudless skies and bright sunshine. A corresponding drop in the temperature meant that the ground was hard and some areas of open water were still frozen.
Moving from the car park, the reserve is approached along a footpath alongside the river. From here we saw typical hedgerow bids - Chaffinch, Robin etc., and also Great Spotted Woodpecker and two Goosander which flew over. Once on the reserve we made our way towards the Riverwalk hide which is reached, as the name suggests, by walking alongside the river. Several species of duck were visible on pools across the river, including Goldeneye, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Shoveler. In a small copse we were entertained by Siskin moving about on the Alders, then a Tree Creeper which came very close and appeared unconcerned by our presence. Once in the hide its elevated position was fully appreciated as good views of birds on the open water were had; there was also a fox sitting in the open - perhaps warming itself in the sun.
We hadn't been here long before a Bittern was sighted, just inside the Phragmites bed and almost only visible when it moved. Fortunately it was quite active and we all had good views. A short while later another Bittern was found much closer, but harder to see as it moved along the far side of a small island. Much of the water was frozen, so most of the birds were concentrated in one small area of unfrozen water by a sandy bank. It was here that three Gadwall were found amongst the Wigeon and Mallard. One bird not attracted to this area was a Water rail, which was searching the shoreline of one of the island - easily missed as it moved in and out of the vegetation.
From Riverwalk hide we went to the new Sainsbury hide, paid for by the supermarket chain which has a distribution centre next to the reserve. The feeding station here had a good selection of finches and tits, as well as another, very obliging, Water Rail and a similarly showy Great Spotted Woodpecker. From here, some of us also saw a Kingfisher perched no a small post, unfortunately, it flew before everyone could see it.
On our way back to the car park, two Green Sandpiper were seen feeding on a shingle bank in the river.
This was the Walsall Group's first field trip to Ladywalk (although several of us are West Midland Bird Club members and permit holders) and we would like to express sour thanks to the Club for permission to visit.
Moving on to Broomey Croft, at Kingsbury Water Park, it was clear that this is a popular place to visit when the whether is fine. We had good views of a Jay from the car park, eating bird seed which someone had thoughtfully scattered. After glimpsing another kingfisher, and then watching a male Goldeneye at very close quarters, we made our way to the new SITA hide along a very icy track from the canal towpath and from there were able to watch a Sparrowhawk plucking feathers form a small bird, while another (perhaps its mate, sat nearby. A Male Bullfinch in a tree near the hide was attended by three females.
This trip turned out to be a very good start to the year, with about 60 species being seen.
Mike Pittaway (Field Trips Organiser)