Friday, 24 February 2012

More History of the Reserve

Round Oak Shortcut

This was built back in 1858 and joined Dudley canal no1 to this spot, know as the 2 lock line. Eventually it collapsed and was abandoned, leaving the bridge on the right as the only reminder, that it was ever there.

Brewins Tunnel

The canal navigators hit a mass of Basalt rock. This forced them to cut Brewins Tunnel and was opene in 1858. This saved the leggers a tiresome job.
The photo also shows Brewin's cutting, on the Dudley no2 canal, which shows the conglomeratic base of the carboniferous rocks - the floor of the coal mine. 

24th February 2112

24th February 2012

Weather:- started off lovely and sunny, but soon went overcast and windy

Spent longer around the reserve today and went up to Netherton hill. Very quiet, with very little activity. Did however, hear the first chiffchaff of the year. Four buzzards over the hill, most I've seen before are three, also kestrel and sparrowhawk put in an appearence.

Back at the reservoir the cormorant, great-crested grebe and tufted duck as left, but now have 7 canadian geese.

Back in the wood all the usual suspects were there, with goldcrest putting in his usual appearence, but no sign of the treecreeper or nuthaches.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

13th February 2012

13th February 2012

Weather :- Overcast and dull. Snow has thawed, except for patches in Doultan Clay Pit and canal still frozen. Although reservoir has thawed. 

Again I stayed within the woods and reservoir, due to time restrictions. very quiet on the bird front in the woods, few wood pigeon and magpies, but alot busier on the reservoir. Here there were 45 black-headed gulls, 16 coots, 31 mallards and 11 moorhens. Couple of Canada geese just flying off when I arrived. Spotted 3 unknown ducks on the far side, I decided to walk round the the back path, (which was extremely muddy). Here there was a coot walking around with what looked like an injured leg and a rat running down the bank. One of the great-crested grebes were back and a cormorant was also present. Got a good view of those ducks from here - tufted ducks. Three have finally turned up. Also 2 carrion crows playing around on the frozen canal. Two of the coots starting to fight.
Three dunnocks seen by the reservoir, one attacked one of the others til he went, with loss of feathers.

Off down towards Doultan Clay Pit, revealed that the Exmoor ponies had been moved to the fields by the reservoir and spotted a redwing. Still little bird activity.

Over mouseweet brook and headed up to snake pool, usually reveals a couple of regular birds and today was no exception. Very brief views of 2 nuthatches and while waiting for a wren to pop out of a shrub, this little treecreeper actually hung around for a view photos.

Also this little poser stayed around for lots of photos.

Then time to go, just in time for it to start raining.

Birds spotted :- collared dove (1), blue tits (4), woodpigeons (8), robins (2), Magpies (5), carrion crows (2), blackbirds (4 male), chaffinch (male heard singing, but female seen), great tits (1 female, 3 male), bullfinch (female), black-headed gulls (45), goldcrest (1), dunnock (3), redwing (1), long-tailed tits (6), coal tit (1), wren (1), treecreeper (1), jay (1), nuthatch (2), cormorant (10), canada geese (2), coot (16), tufted ducks (1 female, 2 male), mallard (17 male, 14 female), moorhens (11).

Mammal's :- exmoor ponies, grey squirrel and brown rat.

Also spotted this sign of spring :-


2nd January 2012

2nd January 2012

Well, brand new year and hopefully lots more birds and try to keep the blog up to date.
(Ok last bit already a bit late, but I think I can be let off on that one)

Didn't quite make it out on the 1st, but there was 2 bank holidays so I got a second chance.

Weather :- clear blue sky and warm.

Stayed in the woods and around the reservoir. One of the first birds seen was a collared dove, which is a first for me here. Lots seen around the area, but never in the reserve. Woodpigeons, blackbirds, blue and great tits were the other first few birds seen.

On the reservoir saw black-headed gulls, coots, mallards and robin. The star of the day was a kingfisher, ( only seen once before), flying twice over the reservoir and then did a vanishing act. No sign of any tufted ducks, which have been present for the last couple of years.

On the way down to Doultan Clay Pit found brilliant views of a male and female bullfinches, the light showing of the males colours beautifully. Also long-tailed tits and a sparrowhawk being mobbed by a carrion crow.

Goldcrest spotted by snake pool, but no sign of the treecreeper. More blue and great tits, robin and nuthatch on the way back to the car park and the Exmoor ponies have been moved to the field next to the car park.

Swung round the back of the cliffs and glimpsed a last view of a buzzard.

Birds spotted :- woodpigeons, buzzard, sparrowhawk, nuthatch,robin,magpies, kingfisher, long-tailed tits,
blackbirds, blue and great tits, carrion crow, black-headed gulls, bullfinch (male and female), wren, goldcrest, mallard (male and female), collared dove, jay, lesser black-backed gull, coots.

Mammels :- grey squirrel, exmoor ponies.

Monday, 13 February 2012

History Of Saltwells Nature Reserve

Saltwells Nature Reserve

Saltwells is my local patch. I try to visit at least once a month and is a good place to watch the seasons go by.

It is located 2 miles south of Dudley, in the West Midlands.

Directions by car :- Travel along the A4036 and turn left at the Merry Hill traffic lights. It is signposted. Follow coppice road for half a mile and turn left at the sign for Saltwells pub. Car parking is free, but check for any closed times. Grid SO 935869

By bus :- You can get the nxwest midlands services 276 from Merry Hill, it's about 3 minutes. Or alternatively get the nxwest midlands service 276 from Dudley, about 10-15 minutes. Depart from the bus at The Bunch of Bluebells pub, Saltwells road, (ask the driver if unsure where that is). Then just walk up the alley next to Saltwells post office, turn left and continue straight ahead. This will take you in to the reserve from a side entrance.

The reserve is open all year round, access is via paths, stiles, gates and trails.

Saltwells deprived it's name from brine spas, which used to exist by Saltwells Inn. Saline water used to well up here during the early mining and were advertised for there healing qualities.

Saltwells is owned by Dudley council and was the first a nature reserve in the West Midlands in 1981. It also forms one of the largest urban reserves in the country at over 100 hectares. In 1992 it was the first reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere project.

The reserve is made up of woodland, grassland, scrub land, Dudley number 2 canal, reservoir, smaller pools, mousesweet brook and small patches of marshland and reed bed.

Saltwells woods make up the main part of the reserve. It has been established for quite a while, some of the trees where planted back in  the 18th century and is. It is comprised of mature oak, beech, sycamore, holly, hazel and rowan. The trees hide birds such as lesser spotted woodpecker, (apparently, still yet to see), great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, jay, treecreepers, sparrowhawks, blue, great,coal and long-tailed tits. There is a good choice of flowers too, including bluebells, primrose, wood anemone and violets. These bring in butterflies including small and large whites, ringlets, painted lady and orangetips.
Covering approx. 40 hectares, it is one of the largest woods in the borough.
Saltwells colliery was established in the 19th century. There were 33 pits served by the Saltwells Railway from 1851.
Doultan Clay Pit, formerly Saltwells Clay Fields, before it was brought by the Royal Doultan Company, are located in the woods. The clay was extracted for use in making china and sanitary ware for 70 years til the 1930s. It was taken out by canal.  This pit is now a Site of Special Interest.

The high cliffs reveal a section through the rocks of the middle and lower coal measures, laid down in the Carbonifererous Period, about 310 million years ago. These include river and lake deposits. The Pit has now been claimed back by nature. Originally, when it first closed it flooded and was the cause of many drownings. It supports plants such as Common spotted marsh orchids, as well as common lizards, grass snakes and smooth newts and until 1966, it was the only local breeding site of Red-backed Shrike. It is also home to around 16 species of dragonfly's and damselflies, including the Emperor.
There is a path down, which is quite steep, so that it can be explored.

This is not the only SSSI. The Clay was taken to the canal and taken out from Brewin's Cutting on Dudley canal number 2, under High bridge, Lodge Farm. This is the best place to view the conglometaic ,(pebble beds), base of the Carboniferous rocks, (the floor of the coalfield itself), resting on the older rocks of the Silurian Period, (415 million years ago).

Nertherton Hill is to the north of Saltwells wood, walking across the canal is the easiest way from the woods. It is gorse covered and is one of the areas that is naturally managed by Exmoor ponies.

The hill was originally called Knowle Hill from the medieval period. It was opencast for coal and clay, until the 1960s. It is now restored to nature. You may be lucky enough to spot linnets, bullfinches and reed buntings.

You are able to wonder around at your own pleasure, but there are three guided walks, all sign posted and start at the car park.

Sculpture Trail

2/3 mile long
no stiles, steps or road crossing
gentle gradients and good surfaced paths

This follows a gently sloping path through the heart of Saltwells Wood. Along the way you will find several sculptures showing the history and wildlife.

Doultan Trail

1 mile
2 steps flights, 1 long and steep.
generally good surfaced paths and gentle gradients

This takes you through parts of the woodland, before coming out at Doultans Clay Pit. ere you can see a panoramic view of this SSSI. It isn't part of the walk, but there is a steep path that allows you to explore the area.

Murray Grey Trail

2.5 miles
2 stiles, 1 small step flight and 2 road crossings
several ascents and descent's - 1 steep ascent
generally good surfaced paths, but Netherton hill can become muddy

This takes you around the back of Doultans Clay Pit, past the reservoir, then leaves the woods and up Netherton hill. You may be lucky enough to see the cattle or Exmoor ponies.

Mushroom Green

If time allows you can continue south of the woods, into Mushroom Green. This is the chain-makers hamlet and is an area of scrubland, meadow and reed swamp. Birds such as water rail, teal and common snipe have been spotted here. The reserve then follows mousesweet brook, as far as it's confluence with the River Stour.