I often say that I always leave Sandwell Valley as a volunteer with a new memory which will often stay with me for a while – last Friday in the hide was no exception – a joyful couple of hours in the afternoon with two memories.
We had a few snipe flying in and out for the first hour but nothing prepared me for the show which 5 or 6 of them put on just to the right of the hide a little later. I think this was the closest I’ve ever seen these exquisite birds at the Valley – they were between only 5 and 10 meters away foraging in the undergrowth. The sun was getting low and it brought out the birds’ vivid colouring superbly. Half term had brought a load of visitors to our reserve and, when I spotted this spectacle just outside, the hide was full of people. Young people, old people and lots in between. Everybody was enthralled and their faces lit up – especially some of the younger enthusiasts. Two smiling young sisters who were testing out their new cameras were absolutely delighted. So when one exclaimed ‘I’ve got a picture, I’ve got a picture of its beak’, my first memory of the afternoon was lodged.

But then I went outside to show some younger visitors the bee bank, explained what it was and invited them to come back for ‘the flying show’ in Spring/Summer. And then I saw it..............
A FIRECREST – in the small tree just to the left of the bee bank. Unmistakable, tiny bird with its dark eye stripe and the white stripe above. It flitted down to the scrub beside the lake just outside the hide and was out of sight for a while. But we had several sets of young beady eyes staring out intently for a few minutes until it reappeared about 10 meters away at low level before flying back into the woodland behind the bee bank. My second treasured memory for the day.
NOTE: this is the second time that I have seen firecrests in this small wooded area on the right as you approach the hide – the first time was around the time that they were also spotted at Hill Top, possibly the same birds, of course.
- Paul, RSPB Volunteer