This article first appeared in the Annual Report of the Birmingham (latterly West Midland) Bird Club for 1954. Bird names/ spellings were used as given.
Birds of the Malvern District
The Malvern Hills lie in S.W. Worcestershire, and run north and south for a distance of nine miles. The Worcestershire Beacon the highest point is 1,395 feet. The lower slopes are well wooded down to the various Malverns, and so to the plain below, where the farmland commons and woods are all rich in bird-life.
I have seen 88 species and 76 of these breed here. During 1954 I have recorded 160 nests for The British Trust for Ornithology.
The Cirl-Bunting is a rare bird for the district, but a pair frequented my garden from October 1952–August 1954, often joined by Yellow Hammers. Contrary to usual reports, Yellow Hammers do come near habitations in this district; from February 15th-March 9th, a flock of up to 20 were continually in the trees in my small suburban garden.
Buzzards are in three areas, where they breed within a few miles of the centre of Malvern, and a pair of Ravens breeds in one of the areas. The Red-backed Shrike breeds here and a pair arrived on Malvern Common as usual this season; after three weeks they apparently disappeared, but I believe a pair nested on Castlemorton Common. Whinchats are on the Common too. Stonechats used to be very plentiful on the hills, but deserted the district some years ago. Redstarts are local, a pair always nest on the Bank Farm, Mathon, and there are a few pairs scattered over the hills. Meadow- Pipits are common locally on the hills, coming down to pasture land and the Sewage Farm in autumn and winter. I have recorded Tree-Pipits' nests in orchards away from habitation. The Wood- Lark is at the British Camp and there, every year, about six pairs of Wheatears breed. The Skylark is well distributed. The Kestrel hovers over the hills and lowlands too, but the Sparrow- Hawk is scarce.
The district has many rookeries, and Carrion-Crows nest too. Jackdaws and Magpies are abundant, while jays haunt the woods. Wood-Pigeons are plentiful and so are Stock-Doves; there was an increase in Turtle-Doves this season. The Green Woodpecker is very common over the district and while the Greater Spotted is less often seen, it visits our larger gardens and the Link Common. I saw three together on the hills in September. A Lesser Spotted does visit my garden but they are scarce.
The Nuthatch and Tree-Creeper are well to the fore in our parks and large gardens. Blue and Great Tits are widely distributed and the Coal-Tit seems on the increase, even visiting my garden lately. Long-Tailed Tits, though more exclusively woodland birds, are certainly spreading. The Marsh and Willow-Tits are here in small numbers. This year we had more than usual of Chiffchaffs and Willow- Warblers, and there did not seem a hedgerow without its Common Whitethroats, but the Lesser Whitethroat was scarce. The Wood- Warbler haunted the wooded areas, and the Garden-Warbler sang in the Bank Farm woods and a few other places. I recorded five Spotted Flycatchers' nests in Davenham Gardens, and they visited us in their usual numbers. I watched a Blackcap singing in the same gardens in April, but they were scarce this year, For the past two years there has been a noticeable decline in the number of Cuckoos heard. I have seen only one Sedge-Warbler this year. The Nightingale sings in Cowleigh and Storridge Woods, and in the Newland Common area. The Nightjar visits the same woods.
The Song-Thrush appeared to be up to full strength again by 1953, after being practically wiped out during the 1947 winter, but I still find double the number of Blackbirds' nests (and very few Mistle-Thrushes in comparison). Hedge Sparrows and Chaffinches tie for third place. The Goldfinch seems on the increase yearly and after breeding is over they wander in flocks of up to 80 or more. Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Linnets are well distributed. Though Bullfinches are birds which keep to themselves, they are quite numerous.
A weekly visit to the Sewage Farm at Guarlford is always rewarding but of recent years it has lost some of its rarer species, the Corncrake, Grasshopper-Warbler, etc. I recorded 37 nests in the area. A pair of Yellow Wagtails reared two broods this season, and a pair of Reed-Buntings nested there too. Pied Wagtails are very numerous and are also birds of the roadside and housetops. They nest in the crevices of the stone walls surrounding the filter beds, where Tree-Sparrows, Wrens and Robins nest too. Grey Wagtails are occasional visitors, and in July I saw a pair of Blue-headed Wagtails. Numbers of our summer visitors frequent the Farm. Yellow Hammers and Tree-Sparrows are prevalent in the area all the year round. The autumn brings large flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets with Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Meadow-Pipits in rather less numbers. I recorded Partridges nests, and the Red-legged Partridge is there too. Wheatears visit on migration. Rough weather brings in large flocks of Herring- and Black-headed Gulls. Lapwings visit less frequently of late, but always a large flock is to be seen on ploughed land beside the Ledbury road in autumn. Rooks are often a thousand strong, and all the young Starlings from the district appear to congregate on the filter beds. Herons fly over on their way to the Severn or the Teme.
Moorhens are very common on our pools and streams, but I have only seen one pair of Coots, and they were on Golden Valley pool, where there are resident Mute Swans and Mallard. Other ducks call in. Dippers have been reported to me, but I have not seen them.
The yelp of the Little Owl is heard by day and night, and I quite often see the Tawny Owl during the day in the Guarlford and Pickersleigh areas. It is not a Kingfisher district but one does fish in a gold fish pool in a town garden. I have no records of Curlew breeding here, but I have heard their call as they fly over on spring mornings, and on November 24th four circled over for 20 minutes, and then made off in a S.W. direction. I watch Pheasants at wood edges in several areas. The Goldcrest is common, always near conifers in breeding season, at other times wandering in hedgerows and deciduous woods.
Swallows, House-Martins and Swifts have been late arriving and on the decrease for the past two years.
Redwings and Fieldfares appear to be our only winter visitors. I have seen flocks of both at the Sewage Farm, and feeding on rough grassland elsewhere. Two Fieldfares fed on my lawn for several days with between 60-70 other birds, during the cold spell in February.
M. PALMER-SMITH, M.B.O.U
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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