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Flycatchers Titmice, Treecreepers and Shrikes (09/17)

We start this profile with Flycatchers - if you ever see one of these at the Marsh or the Mere you have done exceptionally well as the following records illustrate.

Spotted Flycatcher - Musciapa striata
A Spotted Flycatcher was seen by Tony Stackhouse on an unspecified date in the 1990s. This bird apparently showed well on the hedge line adjacent to Grange Farm.

A probable Spotted Flycatcher was reportedly calling from the trees at the north-west perimeter of the marsh on 14/09/2003 and a single bird showed well, albeit briefly at the top of one of the trees by the pit mound on 10/09/2006. It was to be almost four years before the next record, an obliging bird that perched on fence wires below the railway line for about a Minute (30/08/2010). The first multiple record occurred on 28/08/2014 with two birds in the trees on the north side of the pit mound (C.M.) and another Spotted Flcatcher was present on 05/09/14 (R.F.) reinforcing the evidence that Spotted Flycatcher is a regular passage migrant through the site which almost certainly goes under-recorded.

Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca
An exceptionally uncommon species through the sites with only two known records, a female that was fly catching from the hedge line on the east side of the site on 31/08/1998 and a male that was seen briefly by someone twitching the Hoopoe on 01/05/2010. Brief but unconfirmed views of a possible Male specimen occured on 12/08/2015 (C.M.).

Bearded Tit - Panurus biarmicus
Graham Evans has told me that this species was recorded at Clayhanger in the 1970s, when some birds may have been ringed. I also seem to remember ex-Staffs county recorder John Martin reporting Bearded Tit at Clayhanger during the 1980s, but to be honest I am not sure if he was referring to different birds or the 1970s records?

Long-Tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
Hard to believe that this was ever a noteworthy species, it must be one of the most successful British birds of the last twenty-five years! I remember 'twitching' my first ones at Sutton Park, but these days they seem to be everywhere.

Willow Tit - Poecile montanus

This is a bird that seems to have good years and bad years, but regardless of this, they held on at Clayhanger, until 2013 despite a massive National decline but the following year found them unrecorded from the Marsh until a young bird was heard on 12/06 and apparently absent from the nearby Clayhanger Common. In a good year up to three pairs have bred on the marsh and good views of post-breeding family groups were obtained. In a bad year, the odd "Snare-Snare-Snare" call might be heard and the occasional bird glimpsed. August to November and January/February seem to be the best months but obviously, birds have been observed (with luck) in any month at Clayhanger. 2017 was a particularly bad year for the species and it was suspected that it was locally extinct, however on 20/09/17 a single bird was heard and seen on the mineral line giving some hope that the species was holding on locally.We have to hope that there are still one or two more local specimens and that the species may eventually reassert itself.

Marsh Tit - Poecile palustris

If I had been doing this blog a few years ago, I would not have expected to be writing a profile for this species. For many years the only local records of Marsh Tit were a bird I saw by the old Clayhanger pig-farm in the 1980s and a bird reported near Wyrley Common by Pete Newman a few years later.

The singing male on the south side of the low pit-mounds (21/04/2007) was therefore a complete surprise. In the nature of this very mobile species I expected this to remain a single observer record and was delighted to hear that Tony Stackhouse had responded to my report and went and found the bird, not singing but calling at the same location. I was more amazed when he told me that he had observed it flying away with another bird, suggesting that we could have a breeding pair in the vicinity!

If that were not enough the bird remained into May and was calling loudly from the hedge line of the old mineral railway one evening (15/05/2007) and then finally 'blew my socks off', by sitting on top of the gorse bushes by the Ford Brook for at least half a minute on 21/07/2007. A possibleMarsh Tit was heard callig briefly from vegetation along the Ford Brook on 23/11/2016 but could not be confirmed.

With birds trying to colonise Chasewater in recent years, lets hope that this is one species that will become more common in the local area as time goes by.

Coal Tit - Periparus ater

"You aint gonna believe this"! I know you have had Coal Tit on your bird feeders many times, I have even had them on MY bird feeders. But within the parameters outlined for recording the Marsh and Mere, I have had comparatively few views of Coal Tit, the first being two birds on 27/09/1997. The only other place locally that I have recorded Coal Tit is Grange Farm Woods where I have seen them on a few occasions (although they probably winter in this habitat more frequently).

Yes I agree, this does seem silly and yes, I am certain that they must have occurred on many occasions
(I know they turn up on my feeders most winters)!

Blue Tit - Cyanistes caerweus
What do you expect? A very common local breeding species, more common in the winter.

Great Tit - Parus major

And Ditto for this one Great Tits are everywhere, if you can find a hedge line, there will probably be one in it somewhere.

Wood Nuthatch - Sitta europea

Paul Jeynes told me several years ago that he had seen Nuthatch in Grange Farm Woods but they eluded me until 09/12/2006 when I actually heard one calling. Over the next few years Nuthatch appeared with more regularity, occasionally feeding on the farmers bird table and becoming more regular in Grange Farm Woods. Birds were still being recorded in 2014.

Treecreeper - Certhia familiaris
There are two dimensions to this species. In Grange Farm Woods, Treecreeper is quite obviously a resident breeding species and therefore scarce but hardly noteworthy and has also been seen demonstrating breeding behaviour in the hedge lines at Grange Farm

On the marsh itself it is an out and out rarity with legitimate records along the Ford Brook and around the Pit Mound area on only four occasions (although the bird seen by Paul Jeynes in October 2006 was around for several days).

[Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator]
A possible female specimen was seen briefly in flight on 18/05/2013 (P.J.W. - N.S.). It was reported to be a small, long-tailed bird with a brownish cast to the plumage (suggesting a female rather than a juvenile given the time of year?) and had diminutive white wing patches. Unfortunately both views obtained were not satisfactory enough to confirm the record despite both observers having experience of the species.

[Great Grey Shrike - Lanius excubitor]

Until 2015 I only had an anecdotal account of this species, with a bird apparently being present on the old Ryders Hayes Farm at an unspecified date in the 1970s. In 20/11/2015 however, a Great Grey Shrike was discovered on the farmland near Railswood but proved elusive giving only brief flight views during the afternoon.