Today I decided to spend 2-3 hours around the patch. The weather was cloudy and drizzly to start but as the morning moved into afternoon it brightened up considerably.
I started by checking out Stanklyn Paddocks where 3 Green Woodpeckers (2 adult & 1 juvenile) were present. Two Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood were also noted there.
I arrived on Heath Lane to find that the large stubble field was being ploughed and, as per usual, there were gulls following the tractor. In total I counted 63 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 5 Herring Gulls and 3 Black-headed Gulls. Whilst on Heath lane I also noted a group of 12 Swallows, followed another of 7 Swallows fly through heading SSE. 3 Meadow Pipits and 3 Alba Wagtails were also through. 3 Common Buzzards were up soaring and a Chiffchaff was singing from a nearby hedgerow.
Further up the lane there were c.160 Starlings on the wires next to the paddock. From Heath Lane I headed over to Witch Lane on the South side of the patch.
Anyway, I am going to digress with a little bit of history. It's funny really as the Stanklyn/Heath Lane side of Stone/Shenstone has been visited by birders for many years, long before I took it on to work as a local patch. I started working the area in 2007 when I undertook 2 tetrads for the BTO bird atlas. Most birders who visited Shenstone would be trying to see it's specialities such as Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge, whilst some of my peers would work it (and still do) during migration periods looking for passage migrants.
Working the area as a patch gives me the opportunity to cover the area for 12 months a year, not only monitoring passage migration but the comings and goings of it's resident birds and other wildlife. In 2009 I added the Witch Lane area of the patch. It was an area which wasn't being covered by birders and during these last 3 1/2 years Witch Lane has been quite a productive area, especially during the Autumn/Winter. Today proved no exception.
On the cricket pitch there was a single Pied Wagtail present. Along the lane 4 Common Buzzards and a ♀ Kestrel were noted. A Grey Heron was sat in the large recently seeded field. 3 Meadow Pipits flew over heading ESE and 9 Swallows passed through heading South. A ♀ Great-spotted Woodpecker was also noted along the lane.
The highlight of my day though was the walk I undertook along the tree-lined path and back along the field edge. Here the butterflies were out in force and on the flowers of one 30ft stretch of Ivy I counted no fewer than 15 Red Admirals and 9 Commas! Nearby I also noted 1 Small Copper, 1 Speckled Wood and 5 Small Whites. A single ♀ Common Darter dragonfly was also observed.
My final stop of the day was Butts Lane where I undertook my usual walk. The only bird of note here was a single House Martin that flew through heading East. A Migrant Hawker dragonfly was present near the drainage pond and small numbers of Nettle Tap Moths were noted on the umbilifer flowers.
Just before heading back to my car I noticed a stunning looking spider on a Rosebay Willowherb. It was an Autumn Spider (Metellina segmentata), a species that, although not uncommon, I had never seen before. A great end to a enjoyable patch day.
The Autumn Spider (Metellina segmentata)