19/07/2012
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Birding by train: the West Midlands

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A Rocha
Welcome to the third in the series of articles on "Birding by Train". Buses are included as they cover some of the remoter locations. The opportunity to use public transport to reach popular reserves is huge, but, in the mad rush to reach for the car keys, this is often overlooked!

The third in the series continues with the western part of the Midlands, including the West Midlands, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The Midlands area is mainly rural and is often overlooked when it comes to birdwatching opportunities but is home to many declining farmland birds. This area is also of importance for its wetland reserves such as Upton Warren and Kingsbury Water Park. This article has selected a number of sites that can be reached by 10:30 in the morning and by train in less than two hours from Birmingham New Street or Worcester Foregate Street railway stations. All references to stations refer to rail stations unless otherwise specified. For trains to and from Birmingham New Street visit http://www.directrail.com/trains_to_birmingham_new_street.html; for trains to and from Worcester Foregate Street visit http://www.directrail.com/trains_to_worcester_foregate_street.html. Timetables for all train journeys can be searched for on the National Rail website.

West Midlands

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Sandwell Valley RSPB

Location: SP035928. The Sandwell Valley reserve is in Hamstead, 8km (5 miles) from West Bromwich.

Species: This urban site contains a surprising range of wetland and scrubland species. It can be excellent in spring for passage migrants and in winter for ducks and grebes. It is a well-known location for wintering Goosander; and in summer for good numbers of Lapwing and its resident heronry. Less common species recorded in recent months include Little Gull, Short-Eared Owl, Jack Snipe, Avocet, Smew and Garganey.

Transport: The nearest rail station, Hamstead, can be reached from Birmingham New Street. There is no taxi rank at Hamstead station but the reserve is only a 2km (1.2 mile) walk away. Exit the station and turn onto Old Walsall Road then left onto Hamstead Road after approximately 160m. Follow this road for 1.25km (0.8 miles) turning left into Tanhouse Avenue after passing Hamstead Junior and Infant School on the left. Continue for around 300m (0.2 miles) and turn left and walk a similar distance to the reserve car park.


Sandwell Valley RSPB (Andy Hay, RSPB).

Bartley Reservoir

Location: SP005815. Bartley Reservoir is southwest of Birmingham just 11km (7 miles) from the City Centre.

Species: This reservoir was Bill Oddie's stomping ground in his youth and he has produced extensive reports on the birds recorded here through the 1960s and 1970s. Bartley can produce very little on one visit and be quite disappointing. On other occasions it can produce some quality species. Migration periods tend to be best; summer is very quiet and not normally worth a visit. Winter can produce storm-driven duck, divers and grebes. Recent records include Iceland Gull, Little Gull, Black Tern and Osprey. Rarities have included Richard's Pipit and Laughing Gull. This is a great place to find your own birds!

Transport: A direct bus service runs past the reservoir from Kings Norton station, which connects with Birmingham New Street. Catch the number 18 bus on Pershore Road next to the station and ask for a ticket to Genners Lane, Bartley. The route crosses the dam of Bartley Reservoir; alight at the far end near Bartley Sailing Club and view from the dam, or follow a footpath to the right of the Sailing Club entrance. Alternatively, the reservoir can be viewed from the western side: continue along Genners Lane, then turn left into Field Lane, continue until reaching a roundabout and take the first exit on the left onto Scotland Lane. Continue straight on for around 500m, passing King Edwards Five Ways School, until you reach a large grassy area with the reservoir in full view on the left.

Bartley Sailing Club would be a good place to visit for families during May to September as they hold a family fun afternoon once a month, including a range of activities.


Bartley Reservoir (Martin Wilson).

Herefordshire

Credenhill Park Wood

Location: SO450445. This 13-acre area of woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and is 10km (6 miles) from Hereford.

Species: This is an excellent site for a wide range of woodland species in the breeding season and during the winter months. It is also a prime site for breeding raptors and it is worth keeping an eye out for Goshawk, which have been recorded on a number of occasions.

Transport: Hereford is the nearest rail station to the reserve, with direct trains available from Birmingham New Street. Taxis are available from the station. Alternatively, the hourly 71/71A bus service (timetable) runs to Credenhill village. From the station walk round the Morrisons supermarket to Commercial Road and turn right towards the city centre; the bus station appears shortly on your left. Alight at the first stop in Credenhill ("Tree", near the triangle at the junction of Station Road with the A480) and walk back along the A480 for a short distance; take care along this road. Take the first left at some traffic lights (signposted Tillington and Credenhill Park Wood), keep right and walk for a further 300m along a country lane to the car park on your left. For more information on Credenhill and other woodland reserves, visit visitwoods.org.uk.


Credenhill Park Wood (Alan Johnson).

Wellington Gravel Pits

Location: SO507483. This reserve is in Wellington, around 11km (7 miles) from the centre of Hereford.

Species: A good location for wetland and scrub species, including a range of ducks and grebes in winter. Wellington can also produce good numbers of roosting gulls. There are recent records of Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Gull and Mediterranean Gull, Pink-footed Goose and White-fronted Goose, Smew, Bittern and Osprey. Rarities have included Purple Heron and American Wigeon.

Transport: The closest rail station is Hereford. There is a taxi rank at the station with a 24-hour service; alternatively, take the 492 bus towards Ludlow from the railway station (or, for certain early services, from Shire Hall; see timetable). The nearest bus stop to the reserve is Wellington Turn, a mile or so from the pits; from here walk north along the A49 dual-carriageway for 600m. Just past a garden centre (Country Gardens Hereford) turn right, crossing the A49 with great care, into Orchard Green and follow this road for a further half-mile. The pits are on your right (note: visitors must book in).

Worcestershire

The Bittell Reservoirs

Location: SP018744. The Upper and Lower Bittell Reservoirs are near Barnt Green just 1.6km (1 mile) from Barnt Green rail station.

Species: A good site for seeing wintering species, particularly storm-blown gulls, wildfowl and terns including Black Tern, Sandwich Tern, Egyptian Goose, Iceland Gull and White-fronted Goose. Other species of interest seen recently include Hawfinch, Red-breasted Merganser, Curlew Sandpiper, Osprey and Ring Ouzel.

Transport: the nearer reservoir is a one-mile walk from the nearest station, Barnt Green. There is no direct public access to the reservoirs but there are various public footpaths and roads running close by; Lower Bittell Reservoir is the more accessible. From the Station Approach turn left in Hewell Road and walk for 0.5km (0.3 miles) to a mini-roundabout. Turn right into Bittell Road (B4120); continue along the road for 0.8km (0.5 miles), then turn left into Bittell Farm Road (take care: no footpaths). After a further 0.5km (0.3 miles) the road runs along a causeway over the reservoir with views to both sides. A visit to Upper Bittell Reservoir requires membership of Barnt Green Sailing Club or a permit to access the site.


Lower Bittell Reservoir (Worcester Birding).

The Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve at Upton Warren

Location: SO936677. This Worcestershire Wildlife Trust reserve is Worcestershire's greatest birdwatching site. It is in the Wychavon District just 4km (2.5 miles) southwest from Bromsgrove rail station.

Species: Upton Warren is one of the best birding sites in the Midlands. It has hosted a wide range of rarities and scarce species. It specialises in wetland birds, warblers and passage migrants. Recent scarce species include Osprey, Little Gull and Arctic Tern. Rarities in 2011 included Great White Egret, Common Rosefinch, Bluethroat, Hoopoe and Red-necked Phalarope.

Transport: Trains are available from Worcester Foregate Street to Bromsgrove station, from where there is a walk of just over a mile to catch the 144 bus (timetable), as follows: from the station walk up New Road to Stoke Road and turn left at the roundabout. Cross the A38 after 0.75km (0.5 mile) and continue along Charford Road (passing South Bromsgrove Community High School) for a further 1km (0.6 miles) to the junction with Worcester Road; turn right here and walk 200m to a bus stop just before Ford Road. Catch the 144 bus towards Worcester and alight before the village of Upton Warren opposite Chichester Caravans. From here it is a short walk south along the A38 to the reserve entrance. There is a £3 charge for a day permit for those that are not members of the Wildlife Trusts.


Upton Warren (Paul Lane).

Warwickshire

Kingsbury Water Park

Location: SP204959. Kingsbury Water Park has 15 lakes set in 600 acres of country park and is found in Bodymoor Heath.

Species: Kingsbury is an extensive site and very well watched. It has a good range of woodland and wetland species and can play host to nine species of warbler in the breeding season, along with a good colony of breeding Common Terns. In winter good numbers of dabbling duck and geese occur, along with roving flocks of tits and finches. Recent scarce species have included Hen Harrier, Osprey, Smew and Iceland Gull.

Transport: The nearest rail station to the park is Coleshill Parkway, which can be accessed from Birmingham New Street. There is no taxi service available from the station but the 115 bus service (timetable) can be caught from the station to the stop adjacent to Coton Road at the end of Kingsbury Road (A4097). Alternatively, the 116 bus (timetable as above) runs directly to the same stop from Upper Bull Street in Birmingham, with a journey time of around 45 minutes.

From the Coton Road stop take the first exit at the roundabout onto Coton Road, keeping on the footpath. After 300m take the slight right onto Kingsbury Road; take care as there are only narrow grass verges along the road. Continue for a further 400m until you come to a barrier; on your right is Swann Pool and a track going back on yourself on the right leads to three smaller pools (Pine, Holly and Oak Pools). Continuing along Kingsbury Road leads to Mill Pool on the right or Causeway Pool on the left. The left turn at the next fork in the track travels between Bodymoor Heath Water and Hemlingford Water. Taking either the left or right at the next fork will lead to further pools. This is a large country park so allow at least three hours for a visit. Note that there is a charge for vehicular access.


Kingsbury Water Park (Warwickshire.gov.uk).

Brandon Marsh

Location: SP386758. Brandon Marsh is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and can be an outstanding place for birdwatching. It is located 9km (5.7 miles) from the centre of Coventry.

Species: As with Kingsbury, Brandon is a good location for duck, geese, passage waders, commoner warblers (in season), gulls and terns. Recent records include Nightingale, Bittern, Little and Mediterranean Gull, Osprey and Short-eared Owl.

Transport: The nearest rail station is Coventry. Unfortunately there are no buses directly to the reserve so it is advisable to take a taxi from the station. Brandon Marsh and its visitor centre are approximately 9km (5.7 miles) southeast of Coventry station. Another possibility is to catch the 580 Rugby bus from Coventry station to Toll Bar End, near the end of Brandon Lane, and walk from there. The entrance to the reserve is 2km (1.3 miles) along Brandon Lane and on the right.


Brandon Marsh (Steven Cheshire).

Draycote Water

Location: SP467691. Draycote Water is 10km (6.5 miles) from Rugby rail station and 24km (15 miles) from Royal Leamington Spa.

Species: Draycote Water is another place to see various species of gulls, terns, ducks, geese and passage waders. Species of interest in 2011 and 2012 included Great White Egret, Little Stint, Manx Shearwater, Purple Sandpiper, Smew and Spoonbill.

Transport: Rugby is the nearest station to the reservoir. Taxis are available from the station, as is the 63 bus service (timetable), which departs near the station and stops near the reservoir. To get to the bus stop, turn left at the station exit, walk for around 70m and the bus stop is on the left-hand side. From here the journey is approximately 10km (6.5 miles); ask to get off at Draycote Water. From the bus stop cross over and walk back (30m) to the signposted entrance. Follow the entrance road to the reservoir, passing several car parks along the way.


Draycote Water (Malcolm Lewin).

Leam Valley

Location: SP330658. This reserve is just east of Royal Leamington Spa and is managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

Species: This is a valuable wetland area of great conservation interest for birds such as Little Ringed Plover, Hobby, Kingfisher. This is also a good location to find rare species of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies and also otters and water vole.

Transport: Leamington Spa station is only 1.9km (1.2 miles) from the reserve and connects with Birmingham New Street. The reserve is within easy walking distance but a taxi service is available from the station if needed. To get to the reserve, turn left at the station exit into High Street/Radford Road (A425) and follow the road for around 1.3km (0.8 miles) until you reach an entrance to allotments on the left-hand side. Follow this lane for 600m to the reserve car park. From the car park the lake and river can be found nearby.


Leam Valley (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust).

A Rocha UK is a Christian charity working for the conservation of species and habitats, both as a response to the biblical mandate to care for the earth, and as a demonstration of the hope there is in Jesus for God’s world. Andy Lester works as Conservation Director for A Rocha UK. Cat Shannon is A Rocha’s Events Coordinator.

We would love to hear from you about your experiences whilst birding by train, log on to arocha.org.uk/birding and find out how!

2012 competition

A Rocha are keen to hear how many species you are able to see without using your car. Why not create a team of two or more, give yourself a wacky name and keep a list of all the birds you see during the year whilst leaving your car keys at home. Send running totals monthly to cat.shannon@arocha.org. We will keep you posted through the articles on whom the leaders are and who has seen what. This is a national competition and includes sightings from other reserves around the UK (not just the southwest!). The winning team will receive a Fair Trade organic Christmas hamper at the end of 2012. Closing date: 31 December 2012.

Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions before entering.

  1. Groups of 2-4 people committed to competition for a year, at least two members of the team must see the bird at the same time, for it to count (no heard only’s).
  2. Entrants may enter the competition at any time of the year...but the later you enter the harder it will get!
  3. When you submit your team name, please also include the names and postal addresses of the team members.
  4. Birds must be seen between the start and closing date January 1st 2012- December 31st 2012.
  5. Any sightings in which private transport is used, cannot be included.
  6. Cannot include escapes!! BBRC rarities must be submitted for acceptance./li>
  7. Photos can support rare sightings (as long as it is not birds at nest sites).
  8. Editors decision is final who wins competition, decision will be made at the end of the year, and winning team will be notified

And the small print...

By entering this competition you are agreeing to your details being held by A Rocha UK, in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. We will not pass your details on to anyone else and you can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Please note that A Rocha reserves the right to substitute the prize for another of equal value without warning. Be aware that times of trains and buses can change; as can site access. A Rocha accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage resulting from any changes to times or access to any site during the course of the year. You enter the competition entirely at your own risk and neither A Rocha nor BirdGuides accept any responsibility for loss, injury, accident or death howsoever caused. Access to some sites may not be suitable for those with certain disabilities. Please check ahead with the site owner.

Send team name, individual’s names, mailing address and contact email to cat.shannon@arocha.org.

A monthly update on who is in the lead and some species seen will be emailed out. Don’t forget you can still drive in 2012, but species seen by car cannot be included. Please keep Cat informed of your totals each month.

Written by: Andy Lester and Kathryn Bedford