West Midland Bird Club

Bartley Reservoir Area, 1931 - 1962.

This article first appeared in the Annual Report of the Birmingham (latterly West Midland Bird Club for 1962.

Bird and place names were spelt as shown.


Birds in the Bartley Reservoir Area,
1931–1962
(Part I)

Bartley Reservoir, a city reserve water supply reservoir, is situated about six miles south-west of the centre of Birmingham between Bartley Green and Frankley, being about four miles north of the Bittell Reservoirs. The surface area is 114 acres, and the maximum depth is 60 feet. A well-kept grass verge a few feet wide surrounds the reservoir, which has a gravel bottom except for a concrete strip about 100 yards wide running all round the side. The whole area is surrounded by iron railings apart from the north- east, where there is a wall and no grass verge. This side constitutes the dam and has a road running along it. The reservoir is roughly three-quarters of a mile long and about one-third of a mile across at its widest point.

At the south-east end of the reservoir there is a smaller semi- circular subsidiary tank, which is referred to as Frankly Reservoir. Beyond this are a number of filter-beds. Other areas of ornithological interest include Bromwich Wood by the south-west corner of Bartley Reservoir, and other small wooded areas by the filter-beds. About 100 yards from the south end of the reservoir is Westminster Farm pool, formerly a small pool surrounded by a fairly substantial reed-bed. This pool has recently been used as a dumping tip by the Council. There is extensive farmland in the immediate area.

It seems clear that the wildfowl population of Bartley has suffered a considerable decline since its early years. The reservoir was filled in 1931 and up to the early forties Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks and Golden-Eye seem to have been resident in winter [cf. West Midland Bird Club Annual Reports, articles by W. E. Kenrick in 1934-5, and by P. J. Banks and A. R. Mead-Briggs in 1946]. However, since the mid-forties, Bartley has not had a genuine resident population of wildfowl in winter, except for small numbers of Golden-Eyes, which were a regular feature up to about 1953. Probably the chief reason for this decline is the disturbance caused by the Birmingham Water Department which, since 1945, has used explosives to prevent gulls from roosting and polluting the water. The wildfowl visiting Bartley now have three principal sources:

(a) Flocks flying over from the nearby Bittell Reservoirs. This used to be a regular occurrence but has, over the past few years, become very erratic. There seems no particular reason why the ducks change reservoirs during the day.

(b) Flocks visiting Bartley in very cold weather, when this is one of the last Midland reservoirs to freeze.

(c) The more unusual species, and often parties of commoner wildfowl, passing through on migration movements.

Apart from the wildfowl, the most interesting records from Bartley are of birds flying over or merely passing through and resting for a few minutes. It is clear that Bartley is on a migration route and in spring and autumn numbers of waders and terns pass overhead whilst, in October, considerable diurnal movement of passerines to the south-west takes place.

A few changes have taken place over the past few years which have affected the bird life. In the first place, the Water Department's "bombing" has become rather more intense. Secondly, a housing estate has encroached on the north side of the reservoir and robbed the area of farm-land and privacy. Finally, the dumping at Westminster Pool has left it far less attractive to birds.

Since the reservoir has only been in existence for 31 years it has been possible to document all records of rarer species and not merely those "in living memory" or "since records began." I have visited the reservoir at least once a week, and often many more times, since 1956. Finally, in answer to those who claim they have never seen anything at Bartley, I would remind them that long hours with ears open and eyes gazing upwards have produced most of the best records of recent years!

References:

"Report of Observations on Bartley Reservoir," by W. E. Kenrick. Birmingham Bird Club Report, 1934.

"Bartley Reservoir," by W. E. Kenrick, 1935 Report.

"A New Gull Roost in Warwickshire," by H. G. Alexander, 1943 Report.

"Report on the Birds of Bartley Reservoir, 1931-1946," by P. J. Banks and A. R. Mead-Briggs, 1946 Report.

"Visible Migration," by G. W. Rayner, 1944 Report.

 

BLACK-THROATED DIVER. One on December 23rd, 1956.

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. One from November 13th to December 15th, 1957; and almost certainly the same bird from November 30th to December 28th, 1958. One on December 20th, 1959.

RED-THROATED DIVER. Singles on January 29th, 1945; and from December 26th, 1947, to January 14th, 1948, this being an oiled bird which recovered.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE. Early records suggest that it was not common, but in recent years present from April to September, although irregular in winter. Maximum: 19 on June 20th, 1962. Does not breed.

SLAVONIAN GREBE. Recorded several times, probably different birds, between January 31st and March 14th, 1937. One from August 23rd to 26th, 1946; one or two from February 6th to 23rd, 1947.

BLACK-NECKED GREBE. Ones and twos have been recorded 15 times, mainly from October to December. Often stays for a few days and in the exceptional winter of 1937 was present throughout January, February and March with Slavonian Grebes.

LITTLE GREBE. Although in the late forties it was stated to be fairly uncommon, throughout the fifties up to three were present each year in winter. Less frequent in the past three years. One at Westminster Pool in summer, 1959, but did not breed.

LEACH'S PETrel. One on November 25th, 1950, after misty weather.

CORMORANT. Usually one or two records each year in various months. Maximum: nine, November 22nd, 1959.

SHAG. An immature on September 13th, 1948.

HERON. Small numbers, usually one or two, seen in all months of the year although in 1948 it was said to be "rather rare." Up to six seen in late autumn, 1958.

MALLARD. From 1931, when reservoir was filled, numbers increased each year and by the late forties the resident winter flock was over 100. Since about 1944 it has only occurred in large parties when birds come over from Bittell and although 360 were recorded on December 18th, 1937, and as many as 250 in December, 1947, the maximum during the past six years is only 92 on November 22nd, 1959. One or two pairs breed in the area.

TEAL. 31 on October 11th,1959, is the maximum. Small numbers, up to four, occur on Westminster Pool. No record of breeding.

GARGANEY. One on September 20th, 1958.

GADWALL. Singles, all ducks, from October 11th to 15th, 1947; on December 20th, 1957; and on December 5th, 1962.

WIGEON. Large parties used to visit the reservoir daily from Bittell, usually arriving about noon, and up to 300 were recorded in December, 1946. Since the late forties these visits have been far less regular and large parties are quite exceptional. Small numbers pass through on migration in spring and autumn.

PINTAIL. 17 records involving about 70 birds, most being between October and December and during the years 1946 to 1948. Several small parties involved and one of 24 on January 13th, 1948. Only recorded twice in the last six years, the last being four on December 7th, 1957.

SHOVELER. An irregular visitor, small numbers being recorded once or twice a year. Maximum: 11 on July 23rd, 1961.

SCAUP. Single birds, nearly all ducks, recorded in 1937, 1938, 1945, 1947, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1962, from October to February.

TUFTED DUCK. The commonest duck at Bartley but not as regular as formerly. In some years flocks resident for a few months, usually from September to December, with largest numbers in hard weather. Maximum: 220, January 11th, 1959.

POCHARD. An irregular visitor. In 1960 and 1961, when there were exceptional numbers in the Midlands, large flocks came from Bittell, including 260 on January 22nd, 1961. Maximum: 292, January 30th, 1947.

GOLDEN-EYE. Parties of about six used to be resident in winter and there was a maximum of 20 on December 19th, 1950. In 1953 only singles were recorded and since then rarely more than two or three. In 1960 a bird stayed until June 21st.

VELVET-SCOTER. Four immatures on October 19th, 1947; one immature, January 29th, 1956; and one female from October 5th to 13th, 1957.

COMMON SCOTER. In 31 years there have been 37 records involving over 100 birds. Recorded in all months except March and May, the peaks occurring in April and November. The largest parties were of 30 on November 9th, 1946, after easterly gales; and 11 on July 1st, 1950.

GOOSANDER. Small numbers each winter. Was resident in January and February, 1949, when a maximum of 11 was recorded.

SMEW. Single birds of either sex, January 5th, 1935; February 9th, 1946; from November 14th to 19th, 1948; from January 28th to February 5th, 1950; from February 7th to 12th, 1955; and from December 28th, 1961, to January 13th, 1962.

SHELL-DUCK. 26 records, most frequently from December to March. Frequently more than one bird and six on June 3rd, 1959.

WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. Singles on February 5th and March 6th, 1950; December 8th 1956; and October 19th, 1958. 14 on January 17th and II on March 17th, 1960.

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE. Two flew westerly on February 2nd, 1958.

BRENT GOOSE. One of the Dark-breasted form on March 23rd, 1934.

CANADA GOOSE. Rather surprisingly most uncommon. Only seen three times during the past six years. Maximum: 11 on April 3rd, 1960.

MUTE SWAN. Formerly bred at Westminster Pool, but not since 1956. Now only small numbers, up to five, occasionally recorded on the reservoir.

WHOOPER-SWAN. A juvenile on November 3rd, 1947, on Frankley Reservoir.

BEWICK'S SWAN. Two on December 26th, 1947; four on Frankley Reservoir on December 18th, 1960; and one December 15th, 1962.

BUZZARD. One or two fly over the reservoir each year in various months.

SPARROW-HAWK. One or two used to frequent the area each winter. Not recorded since 1955.

HOBBY. Single birds over the reservoir, September 2nd, 1959; and May 21st and August 18th, 1960.

PEREGRINE FALCON. Singles over reservoir, February 19th, 1949; December 24th, 1961; and December 30th, 1962.

MERLIN. One flying north-east on November 11th,1956.

KESTrel. Usually one or two and a pair probably breeds locally. A melanistic bird, dark grey in colour, reported in 1956 and 1957.

PARTRIDGE. Coveys of up to 12 reported in winter but appears to be less regular than in the early fifties. A few pairs breed in the farmland.

RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE. Probably a pair breeds each year and up to six birds recorded irregularly in winter.

QUAIL. One, and possibly two on one occasion, in barley and mowing-grass at Frankley from June 14th to July 9th, 1961.

WATER-RAIL. Up to five wintered each year at Westminster Pool but since the reed-beds have been used as a tip only one or two recorded.

SPOTTED CRAKE. One at Westminster Pool on September 27th, 1947.

CORNCRAKE. Heard on June 27th, 1950, and one found dead at Bartley Green in mid-October, 1958.

MOORHEN. Strangely enough, never recorded on the reservoir. About five pairs used to breed at Westminster Pool but since tipping, only one or two remain.

COOT. There has never been a winter flock resident at Bartley. Small numbers occur in hard weather. Maximum: 30 in December, 1946, and January, 1947. Bred at Westminster Pool in 1960.

(Part II will follow in the next Annual Report.)

W. E. ODDIE. [1]


[1] Better known nowadays as "Bill Oddie", TV presenter, birder, Club President and former Goodie.

© West Midland Bird Club, 147 World's End Lane, Birmingham, England B32 1JX
Registered charity, number 213311

Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.

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