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West Midlands

Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus ©Mike Lane Website

Birding the West Midlands

The West Midlands is a metropolitan county in western central England with a population of around 3 million people making it the second most populous county in England and one of the most heavily urbanised counties in the UK. It came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974, formed from parts of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The county consists of seven metropolitan boroughs: the City of Birmingham, the City of Coventry and the City of Wolverhampton, as well as Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, and Walsall. It is a landlocked county that borders the counties of Warwickshire to the east, Worcestershire to the south, and Staffordshire to the north and west.

Despite the urbanisation there are 23 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the county. One of these SSSIs is Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield, which has an area of 970 hectares (2,400 acres). As a result, it is one of the largest urban parks in Europe, and the largest outside of a European capital city. The park also has national nature reserve status.

There are numerous rivers that pass through the county, including the River Tame; which river basin is the most urbanised basin in the United Kingdom (approximately 42% being urban). The River Tame is fed by the River Rea, River Anker, and the River Blythe, which in turn is fed by the River Cole. The River Sowe and River Sherbourne both flow through Coventry. The River Stour flows through the west of the West Midlands county.

Birdwatching in the Birmingham and West Midland Area.

The County being landlocked and far from the sea is not high on birder's lists of places to visit. However, nearly three million people live and work there and can find places to bird. What's more, millions more have to visit to both work and play. So if you have time on your hands and want to go birding in the West Midlands here are some good places to visit.

Please note that the expanding West Midlands Bird Club website now has pages for the various branches.

It covers parts of adjacent counties too.

Top Sites

Edgbaston Reservoir

Satellite View

About 2 miles from Birmingham City centre this 64-acre canal feeder reservoir is surrounded by the urban sprawl of Birmingham. Yet it can prove to be a lifesaver to the birdwatcher trapped by business meetings. Birds to be seen include common water, park and garden birds, with waders and terns on passage. A large gull roost can also be found. Timing - Mid week is best, as this is a popular boating and recreational area. Once again try to avoid the human disturbance by arriving early morning or evening. Access - Easily accessible by public transport from Birmingham city centre.

Saltwells Wood

Satellite View

A mixed habitat reserve (62 acres);which is part of the Blackbrook Valley with deciduous woodland, streams, canal towpath, farmland, heathland , reservoir and claypits. The woods and claypits have been declared a site of special scientific importance. (SSSI) and were made the first nature reserve in the West Midlands. This is a good site for wetland and woodland birds. For those wishing to mix business and pleasure the reserve can be found at the rear of the Enormous Merry Hill Shopping Centre. There is a visitor centre in the middle of the woods where an excellent display of the local birds, mammals and flowers can be found. Although mostly easy walking there are parts that require one to be reasonably fit. Timing - Once again try to avoid the human disturbance by arriving early morning or late afternoon. Access - Easily accessible by public transport from Birmingham and other /West Midland Town centres.

Sandwell Valley

Webpage

Satellite View

The first ever Urban RSPB reserve. 25 acres at the eastern end of the 1000 acre expanse of Sandwell Valley (more later). A warm welcome awaits you at a recently refurbished visitor centre built with children and education in mind. The reserve covers the eastern end of a balancing lake and has two small man made islands which attract nesting gulls, a small marsh area great for snipe, fields and hedgerows for the more common farmland birds. The whole area covered by the valley is good for birds at any time of the year, but especially at passage time, when almost anything can be seen. Grasshopper warblers have been known to breed, while kingfishers are resident. Lapwings, Reed and Sedge warblers often attempt to breed and sometimes succeed. Late summer and autumn bring a wide selection of the common waders. Timing - An early morning or late afternoon visit is best, either before or after the inevitable dog walkers. Access - Easily accessible by public transport from Birmingham city centre or from junction 7 of the M6 and/or junction 1 M5.

Sandwell Valley Country Park

Satellite View

1000 acres of open space between Birmingham and West Bromwich crossed by the M5/6 motorway link. The area to the west of the motorway is the best for birdwatching with a mixture of woodland, scrub and rough grassland surrounded by untended hedges. The addition of small pools make this a haven for birdlife with all of the common woodland and farmland birds available. Timing - Once again try to avoid the human disturbance by arriving early morning or late afternoon. Access - Easily accessible by public transport from Birmingham/West Bromwich city centre or from junction 7 of the M6 and/or junction 1 M5.

Sutton Park

Satellite View

Sutton Park is Birmingham's largest park, covering 2,400 acres consisting of woodlands, heathlands and wetlands. The entire park was recently designated a National Nature Reserve by English Nature, Sutton Park Visitor Centre, Sutton Park, Park Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B74 2YT, Tel: 0121 355 6370

Contributor

Andy Mabbett

Additional Material

Webmaster, West Midland Bird Club

andy@pigsonthewing.org.uk

http://www.westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk/

County Recorder

Kevin Clements

26 Hambrook Close, Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton WV6 0AX

01902 568 9997

west-mids-recorder@westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 271

Useful Reading

The New Birds of the West Midlands

(covering Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the former West Midlands County) | Graham Harrison & Janet Harrison | West Midlands Bird Club | 2005 | 496 pages, colour photos, line drawings, maps |

ISBN: 0950788120

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in West Midlands

by F Gribble, G Harrison, H Griffiths, J Winsper & S Coney | Christopher Helm | 2007 | Paperback | 343 pages, 53 maps, 24 line drawings |

ISBN: 9780713664195

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Friends of Edgbaston Reservoir

Information

They aim to promote Edgbaston Reservoir as a site of nature conservation and heritage to provide a means of recreation and leisure for the people of Birmingham people of Birmingham.

RSPB Sandwell Swans RSPB Wildlife Explorers

Webpage

Swans Are Natures Beauty's, The bosses of the pond! Don't worry about the weather We always have such fun! Every little creature we Look at every one Learning how they live, with or without the sun! Sandwell has such secrets We'll discover every one And after our adventures, we have creative fun! Now home-time's here it goes so fast, we've had such fun with lots of laughs.

RSPB Solihull Local Group

Webpage

The group's aim is to support RSPB members in their birdwatching and conservation activities, to encourage new members to join and to raise money for RSPB activities. The group holds meetings usually on the first Thursday of the month from September to April and organises walks and field trips to birdwatching sites.

RSPB Stourbridge Local Group

Webpage

We meet in the Wollaston Suite on the 2nd Wednesday of the month between September and May. The group has an excellent season of indoor meetings and group field trips to various reserves around the country. All speakers are professional or semi-professsional photographers and the talks are illustrated by slide projections.

RSPB Sutton Coldfield Local Group

Webpage

The aim of the group is to make belonging to the RSPB as enjoyable and informative as possible. We hold indoor meetings on the first Monday of every month from September to June. Our field meetings also take place monthly from September to June. All our activities are aimed at anyone interested in birds - beginners and experts are all equally welcome.

RSPB Walsall Local Group

Website

The RSPB Walsall Members' Group (as it was then called) was formed in 1971 and is one of the oldest groups in the country. Since its formation a full programme of indoor meetings has been held each year, for the benefit of local members and to raise awareness of the work of the RSPB.

West Midland Bird Club

Website

e-mail: secretary@westmidlandbirdclub.com The West Midland Bird Club offers the widest range of indoor and field meetings for its members. Probably more than any other provincial bird club in the whole of the UK.

Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country

Website

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country is one of 47 local trusts working to make the United Kingdom a better place for people and wildlife.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

Accessible Reserves

Webpage

BBCWT Park Hall Nature Reserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Park Hall is a large area of remnant farmland and estate grounds on the eastern edge of Birmingham, lying in the valley of the River Tame between Castle Vale and Castle Bromwich. The scarp slope along the south of the reserve has three ancient woodlands, while the grassland below contains various wetland habitats which follow the old line of the River Tame. The reserve also includes about a mile of the River Tame itself.

BBCWT Peascroft Wood

Webpage

Satellite View

Peascroft Wood was planted over a century ago by the Midland Reafforesting Association as part of their pioneering work to cover the scars of industrial dereliction. Their foresight has provided one of the few areas of woodland in the east of Wolverhampton. The trees of Peascroft Wood grow on old mounds of coal spoil and the foundations of cottages which were demolished early in the 20th century. This complex topography has resulted in a woodland with a diverse and interesting structure.

LNR Marsh Lane Nature Reserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Marsh Lane Nature Reserve at Berkswell (between Solihull and Coventry) lies adjacent to and in the flood plain of the River Blythe, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It opened to permit holders on the 1st of July 2001. RMC Aggregates Western, originally part of the RMC Group and now CEMEX, started the extraction of sand and gravel from approximately 75 acres in 1995 and the gravel extraction was completed in 1999.

LNR Saltwells Wood

Webpage

Satellite View

Lady Dudley planted Saltwells Wood in the eighteenth century to hide the scars of coal mining. The descendants of the Oak and Beech still survive and are home to many species of woodland bird, such as Treecreeper, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Wild Garlic and Anemones are found in the wood together with carpets of Bluebells.

LNR Smestow Valley

Information

Satellite View

Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is a haven for wildlife, with around 50 hectares (120 acres) of meadows, scrubland and woodland.

NNR Sutton Park

Information

Satellite View

Sutton Park is a large urban park located in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, West Midlands, England. Most of the park is a National Nature Reserve; large parts are also a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It is one of the largest urban parks in the United Kingdom. The park covers about 2,400 acres (970 ha). It consists of a mix of heathland, wetlands and marshes, seven lakes, extensive ancient woodlands (covering approximately a quarter of the park), several restaurants, a private 18-hole golf course on its western edge and a municipal golf course to the south, a donkey sanctuary, children's playgrounds and a visitors' centre.

NNR Wren's Nest Nature Reserve

Website

Satellite View

Wren's Hill Road, Dudley, DY1 3SB - The Wren's Nest NNR car park is adjacent to The Caves Inn where there are limited spaces available. It's open from 9:30 to 16:00 Monday to Friday and for events on the weekend. The Wardens House is located at the end of the drive where the old Mons Hill College once stood which is now a housing development site.

RSPB Sandwell Valley

Webpage

Satellite View

This enchanting urban green space, once used by the nearby colliery, now flourishes with wildlife. RSPB Sandwell Valley is a fascinating mosaic of different habitats providing homes to a variety of wildlife. Wildflower meadows bloom with colour and buzz with insect life. Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and bathe in the woodland's relaxing atmosphere. The scrub is ideal for nesting birds and fills with winter thrushes feasting on the winter berries. Our wildlife garden might spark some ideas for giving nature a home in your own garden, and the ponds are full of life to explore.

WMBC Harborne Nature Reserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Harborne Nature Reserve is owned by Birmingham City Council and managed under agreement by the West Midland Bird Club. This small parcel of land, just in excess of 3.5 ha lies approximately three miles from Birmingham city centre. The reserve is shared with working allotments and is comprised of native trees, developing Oak woodland and grassy hillside that drops into the valley of the Chad Brook. There is also a conifer plantation and small wetland area that adds diversity to the reserve. Alder trees that line Chad Brook are an attraction to winter finch flocks and in summer there is a good range of breeding birds that include a variety of warblers and Grey Wagtail can be found along the water course in winter. Common Buzzard is a not infrequent visitor.

Forums & Mailing Lists

WestMidsBirding

@WestMidsBirding

Latest Rare & Scarce Bird News from across the West Midlands Region.

WMBC-WestMidlands

Mailing Group

This mailing list is for discussion of birds and birding in the English county of The West Midlands, especially notable sightings and site reports, and the activities there, of the West Midland Bird Club (WMBC)

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Featherstone Farm Hotel - Wolverhampton

Accommodation

Featherstone Farm Hotel is a small, high class, country house hotel only one mile from Junction 11 on the M6, or Junction 1 on the M54, but nevertheless set in 5 acres of unspoiled countryside. Luxury restaurant specialising in Indian cuisine set in a luxury 16th century barn on-site.

Museums

Birmingham University - Centre for Ornithology

Courses

We employ birds as model species in the investigation of general principles and mechanisms that are central to understanding key questions in biology and the environment.

Blogs

Chaz Mason - The Mind of the Anti-Social Birder

BLOG

A local resource for enthusiasts and casual users of the Clayhanger Marsh/Ryders Mere complex (SK 034045) Blogging about wildlife (and generally moaning about stuff) since 2007.

Chris North - The Debonair Birder

BLOG

Last updated 2016 - British Birding- the possibilities are endless....

Craig Reed - Midlands Birder

BLOG

A birding blog from a young(ish) Midlands birder.

Craig Round - Lutley Birder

BLOG

Last updated 2015 - Welcome to The Lutley Birder covering my local birding patch since 1995 'Lutley Wedge' on the border between the West Midlands & North Worcestershire. I also work as a professional birding and wildlife guide in Speyside, and the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

Kay Donaghy - Brightside Birding

BLOG

34 year old female birder from Birmingham. Lifelong interest in birds has turned into obsession over the last three years or so. Frequently found out around the mighty WMBC region of Worcs, Warks, Staffs and the West Mids.

Smestow Valley Birding

BLOG

A resource for nature enthusiasts and residents who enjoy the Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve. Latest bird news and an insight into the history of the area and ongoing preservation work.This site has been inspired by the incredible work of the Smestow Valley Bird Group and the development of this blog will stand as testament to the efforts of a small group of caring and energetic birders that helped create history for the valley.

Stuart Collins - Alrewas Birder

BLOG

Last updated 2016 - A simple blog, not very interesting but ok I suppose (just like the writer then).

Other Links

A R Dean - Birds in particular

Website

Alan R. Dean is a British ornithologist with a special interest in gulls and warblers. He lives in Solihull, West Midlands.

Gulls in the West Midlands Region

Website

This is a personal website which presents data and images relating to gulls in the West Midlands Region (the counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the metropolitan county of the West Midlands).

Photographers & Artists

Bird Carvings by Teresinha Roberts

Gallery

Teresinha Roberts carves ducks, geese and swans in lime and other hardwoods. The natural movement and rhythm of the birds is reflected in each unique piece and is a result of careful study in the wild…

Gallery: Gulls in the Midlands

Gallery

A gallery of images of selected forms is available from the menu below. The images do not purport always to be pin-sharp portraits nor highly photogenic images. Some have been taken at long range ('digiscoped'), sometimes through wire fencing at landfill sites or in failing light at pre-roost assemblies at reservoirs and gravel-pits. They are selected to illustrate features of interest to gull-enthusiasts, to illustrate typical and atypical individuals, the range of variation, the progress of moult, or simply 'record shots' of interest to local gull-watchers who know the localities concerned.

Photographer - Mike Lane

Gallery

Welcome to my web site. I`m a full time wildlife photographer specialising in birds and mammals. Although I get to travel to foreign lands a great deal, my main love is British wildlife. I get far more satisfaction photographing humble wrens and chaffinches than exotic parrots in distant rain forests. 90% Birds!