We had an unexpected visitor come to the bird feeders a few weeks ago – one we haven’t seen for quite a while. Amidst all the blue tits and great tits there was, much to several visitors’ delight, a nuthatch. The nuthatch is quite a distinctive bird. They’re around the same size as a great tit and their feathers are blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut tones on its sides and under the tail.
There have been several reports of nuthatches in the Sandwell Valley area over the last few years. We’ve had a look through our records from the last decade and the first sighting we have dates back to December 2014. After that the nuthatch wasn’t seen again until August 2016. Then we had sightings in October, November and December 2017, and the following year in January, February and March 2018. But after that the nuthatch seemed to disappear… until nearly two years later on Thursday 13 February 2020.
Nuthatch (credit: John Bridges, rspb-images.com)
We’ve also had a lovely little flock of long-tailed tits visiting the feeders, as well as a few siskins who appear to be particularly fond of the catkins and cones on the alder trees. The collective noun for a group of long-tailed tits is a volery, whereas there are several collective names for a group of finches including charm, company and trembling. Our volunteers have also spotted teal, pintail, oystercatcher and pochard from the Hide out on Forge Mill Lake. As of last week, there have been just over 90 different bird sightings since the beginning of the year – which is absolutely fantastic!
Storm Dennis caused some flooding in parts of the reserve meaning we had to close the Hide for while, and part of the path following the river was completely under water. Some of the paths are still a bit muddy at the moment, so if you are planning on going on a walk, we recommend wearing some walking boots or wellingtons.
It might have been a particularly wet and windy February half term, but that didn't stop visitors coming in to make nest boxes for the birds in their gardens. Lots of lovely boxes were built so we're sure there'll be some very happy birds nesting down in them soon ready for spring. We’ve got quite a few kits left over so if anyone’s looking for a new home for the birds in their garden nest box kits are now available to buy for £10 each from the visitor centre.
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