West Midland Bird Club

Studying Birds in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands since 1929

Attend Local Branches and Field Trips  -  Visit our Reserves  -  Record your Bird Sightings

Supporting the West Midland Bird Club is a positive step in conserving important habitat for birds and other wildlife. You will also be contributing to the ornithological knowledge of the region. Get the most from your birding activities by becoming a member today. Using this website will provide you with all the information that is required in making you aware of how this Club functions, how to become involved in Club activities and to encourage you to further your birding interests by developing your knowledge of the birds of the region.

There is plenty of information at hand within these pages, however, please do not hesitate in using the contact us page via the menu or the info@westmidlandbirdclub link at the foot of all pages if you would like to take a personal approach to gathering information; the Club Secretary will be pleased to deal with any enquiry. There is great scope to become involved in a wide range of Club activities, likewise you can go about your birding activities on a personal level and simply enjoy what the West Midland Bird Club has to offer in assisting your interests.

Recent Sightings BR Sub adult male

2016 - Regional Black Redstart Survey

This is a joint survey that has been organised through the combined efforts of the West Midland Bird Club and regional network of the British Trust for Ornithology. Throughout 2015 announcements of this survey have been placed on this website and in the Clubs Newsletter to provide an awareness of the project in preparation for the survey commencement date on January 1st 2016. This survey will benefit from your involvement and everyone is welcome and encouraged to take part. Please use the link below to visit the dedicated survey pages in order to find out more about the survey and how you can become involved.

2016 - Regional Black Redstart Survey

Undeveloped plumage male Black Redstart

Coleshill, Warwickshire - September 22nd 2011

ageing the bird at approximately 15 months

Photo - Dave Hutton

Local Branch Indoor Meetings and Field Trips

Make the most of your membership by visiting your local branches and enjoy the excellent talks that are taking place throughout the WMBC branch network. Likewise, book a seat on one of the Clubs Field Trips, visiting some of the UKs top birding sites. Detailes for all Branch and Field Meetings can be found on this website by visiting the appropriate location via the menu. The WMBC Newsletter also carries the same information.

Not a member, not a problem! please go along and enjoy the evening or trip, you will be made most welcome.

2013 Report Cover image 2013 Report Cover image

The West Midland Bird Club

80th Annual Report is now available.


For further information about obtaining this Report or becoming a member of this Club please visit the Join or Our Publications pages of this site. All members of both membership categories of the West Midland Bird Club will receive a copy of the Annual Report.

An Analysis of Staffordshire Bird Records 2005 - 2014

Take a look at the papers submitted by Nick Pomiankowski concerning his analysis of records for resident and migrant bird species in Staffordshire. Nick, the County Recorder for Staffordshire, has put together a first class presentation that reveals some very interesting trends. To view these papers choose the Research page in the menu and enjoy the documents via their links; it stimulates thoughts on how we can extend the use of accumulated data in an informative manner. This information also provides a simple research access tool via this site.

North Warwickshire Barn Owl Scheme

Following on from previous Club activities concerning the well-being and status of the Barn Owl in Warwickshire, Steve Haynes the Warwickshire County Recorder, has taken up the role of projecting the scheme forward. Barn Owl continues to be a Warwickshire Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species and while their conservation is at the forefront of this project, other bird species will benefit, probably involving the south of the county too. The forward thinking by Steve on this conservation scheme is vital to its all round success and it is hoped that Little Owl, Turtle Dove, Willow Tit and other fast-declining species will also become beneficiaries.

Any action taken in providing assistance with the breeding and wintering status of these threatened bird species is welcomed and to this end the West Midland Bird Club have also stepped up-to-the-mark by backing Steve's initiative in financially supporting the project.

The Club's Executive Committee thoroughly encourage this type of initiative and looks forward to being able to "make a difference" at a time when so many changes are affecting the fortunes of some of our iconic species.

Preparation work is already on-going and from here on, as appropriate, the progress of this scheme can be viewed via a link on the Research page of this website.

Harborne Reserve

West Midland Bird Club

Studying Birds in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands since 1929

Summer at Harborne Reserve - Jim Winsper

Summer birding in our region

Our summer birding scene focuses here on the current Regional Black Redstart Survey reaching the halfway mark.

The joint WMBC/Regional BTO Black Redstart Survey has now reached the halfway stage in the first year (a survey completion date is yet to be decided upon, observer coverage of the region will dictate this decision but as yet it is an open ended project) Already some interesting facts are beginning to emerge as we now investigate the whereabouts of breeding birds during the summer months. Accumulating records in all status categories is vital to the success of this project, anyone with an interest in becoming involved can find all the information they require by using the link to the survey that is placed on this page. The makeup of this species has some fascinating complexities that are not just confined to plumage but also involve the birds regional status too; it is categorised in our region as being a bird of passage, summer resident, over wintering and a winter visitor. Given the desired observer input, the results of this survey could be intriguing - the more we look the more we learn.

Male Black Redstart - Warwickshire - Dave Hutton

Male Black Redstart in undeveloped plumage - Warwickshire - Photo Dave Hutton

The photograph of the male Black Redstart above by Dave Hutton highlights some of the appearance variations that occur with this bird in its transitional plumage between the ages of juvenile and that of a fully developed male, a bird that has reached it's 3rd calendar year at least, or thereafter. Don't be fooled by the yellow gape that the bird in Dave's photograph possesses, this is not a juvenile bird, in fact it is a minimum of around seven months old when this photograph was taken in March. This age evaluation is based on this being a third brood bird, fledged in mid to late August/early September of the previous year. It is more likely, however, that this is a first or second brood bird, third broods being less common. This being the case we are looking at a bird that will reach sexual maturity within two months of this photograph being taken and therefore having the capability to form a reproductive partnership with a female in the approaching spring/summer - Black Redstarts become sexually mature at the age of one year - male birds retain a yellow gape throughout their lifetime. This feature can be deceiving in terms of assessing a male birds age when looking at a bird with a yellow gape while still in undeveloped plumage. Dave's photo also portrays a bird in fairly uniform dark grey plumage, lacking in any defined demarcation shades, however, black feathers can be seen to be emerging on the face and breast and this colouring will intensify with every moult until the bird reaches its 3rd calendar year or beyond when it then obtains what we regard as classic full male plumage. At this present stage in its life the bird in this photograph can be simply described as a male in undeveloped plumage. It would, however, as of May in its 2nd calendar year, be incorrect to refer to this bird as being sub-adult. Great care and attention to plumage detail and the timing of your sighting must be taken when evaluating the age of male Black Redstarts. In the early phase of their plumage development, the latter half of the twelve month period from post juvenile moult in the early autumn of the birds 1st calendar year to pre-second full moult in the early autumn of the birds 2nd calendar year, male birds can look very similar to females that they may be paired with, throw in an obvious yellow gape and we can be forgiven a double take.

Finding a Black Redstart is a memorable occurrence for us all, irrespective of the birds age, gender or time of year and while detailed accounts of sightings are very welcome and of great use, simply submitting your record of the species will be a huge contribution to this survey.    

Female Cuckoo - Ladywalk - Peter Lichfield - note

The Plight of the Cuckoo

Female Cuckoo - Ladywalk Reserve - Photo Peter Lichfield

Female Cuckoo 2 - Ladywalk - Peter Lichfield

Both photographs were taken by Peter in the same time frame. This second image provides a full frontal of the bird that further assists in idenifying its sex. In the photograph above we can clearly see a buff patch on the birds neck and upper breast, this is highlighted in the frontal image as extending across the birds breast and becoming fused with grey over light barring that graduates into a bolder pattern on the underparts. Male birds lack any sign of buff in this area. Their breast is a solid grey without any obvious indication of barring and, there is a strong demarcation between the breast and the underparts that are boldly barred over white. Female Cuckoos also occur in a rufus form that is clearly very distincive.

Second photo of the same female Cuckoo at Ladywalk Reserve

Photo Peter Lichfield

The plight of the Cuckoo has been well documented in recent times. Over a thirty year period, from the early 1980s to the present day there has been a deterioration in conservation status from green to red alert in the UK. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have been leading the way in the study of the Cuckoo and this involves monitoring by way of the Common Bird Census (CBC) the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and a satellite tagging programme that monitors the birds migration movements from the UK to their wintering grounds on the African continent. The overall picture is certainly not good, over this thirty year period the bird has shown a rapid population decline in the British Isles. There are, however, areas within the British Isles where the bird is holding its own, Scotland being the most prominent of these. Over much of England and including our region the population trend is downward but there are some signs that this trend may have bottomed out with even a hint of an up turn in some areas. Is this a sign that the Cuckoo is beginning to adapt to global warming and climate change? The reason for the decline remains unclear but the West Midland Bird Club Annual Report clearly shows that the long term average first arrival date in spring in our region is unchanged over a 77 year period. With some resident and summer resident species advancing their first clutch dates to earlier laying, this could have resulted in the Cuckoo having fewer nest hosts to choose from on their spring arrival, resulting in a reduction of reared young.  Hopefully, continued monitoring will throw further light on this possibility but whatever the outcome of our findings the predicament and its outcome lies within the actions of the bird.

One of the iconic sounds of British summertime is under threat of vanishing from some areas, assisting the BTO with their studies in trying to understand the reason behind this decline and by recording your sightings, will be of value.

Worcestershire County Recorder

After taking up the position of Worcestershire County Recorder in 2009, Steven Payne has decided to retire from the post upon the appointment of his successor. Steven has dedicated himself to the work involved and I am certain that everyone who has submitted records to him or simply been in contact with him would agree that he has not only done a first class job but conducted himself impeccably at all times, making the recording of birds in this county a pleasureable experience. When the time arrives for his departure he will be remembered with great respect.

Anyone who is interested in becoming Stevens successor to the position of Worcestershire County Recorder and who feel that they can carry out what is a demanding, important and satisfying role, should contact - Steven Payne at: - worcs-recorder@westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk where Steven will provide all the information that you require about the work involved and the role itself. Alternative contacts are: - chair@westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk and: - secretary@westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk where in both instances you will receive full assistance.

The West Midland Bird Club welcomes all those who wish to seek information about this position.