Monday, 24 March 2014

The Ravens of Moor Green

A French tradition holds that bad priests become Ravens and bad nuns become Crows.

Many people talk of Ravens and other crows with a certain innate knowledge, often detailing things you wouldn't necessarily find in ornithological texts. Most texts will however relate to the 'folk lore' of crows and Ravens with depictions dating back a thousand years, providing evidence of long associations and affinities with Royalty and Peasantry alike.

The presence of Ravens above Centenary Wood and around Moor Green over the past few days is significant in terms of natural adaptation; my book, 'The Crows', from 1978, suggests that Ravens are "confined to - Scotland - the Shetlands, Orkneys and Scottish islands; the Lake District and part of the north Pennines, Wales, Devon and Cornwall with a few other scattered areas."

Way back in time, perhaps until the early 19th Century, Ravens were city dwelling scavengers along with Black Kites, both carrion eaters, so we must imagine the bountiful supply of dead rotting flesh to be found in the streets of Olde London Town, especially during the 15th and 16th centuries. They were eventually persecuted to the point of local extinction and only found now as captive birds at the Tower of London


Yeoman Warder and raven at the Tower of London

The ravens

Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. 
It was Charles II, according to the stories, who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be
protected.  
This was against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained that the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower. 
Despite their having one wing trimmed, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave and others have had to be sacked.

Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub. 
- See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/theravens#sthash.jLdAmind.dpuf

Over the past few years Ravens have bred at nearby Lickey Hills with further reports at other 'edge of Birmingham' sites. So their presence at Moor Green along with Rooks, breeding at Highbury in 2012, is an exciting movement within our ever changing world.

Some people confuse Carrion Crow and Raven, but amongst other ID features the unmistakable 'CRONK' is the certain give away.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Crow Wars revisited

Possibly the most spectacular of the early springtime changes is the behaviour of birds, many of them becoming more noticeable as they call, sing, postulate, display and fight; and these behaviours are arguably more exciting when the crows come out to play.

Yesterday, over Centenary Woodland, a relatively new Corvid came on the block when a pair of Ravens briefly made reconnoissance, their deep guttural 'cronk' drawing attention as they lazily floated across the patch, this was soon followed by a cacophony of cawing, hacking, chattering and kyacking as the locals received the news and made calls to order before closing in noisily.

Rooks successfully bred and raised young at nearby Highbury Park two years ago, and whilst they have not been reported since, we now have an impressive record of active crows in the area -

Raven
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Jay
Magpie
Rook

All fearful and respectful of each other, all intelligent, successful and impressive in their own right and each embraced with a variety of feelings by humans, either with hate or admiration, and each having a history of ambivalence stretching back into the mists of time.

I cross the Magpie
The Magpie crosses me
Bad luck to the Magpie
And good luck to me

The Ravens were mobbed with no uncertainty by all but the absent Rooks, and they were last seen diving for cover in Queen Mothers Woodland.


A French tradition holds that bad priests become Ravens and bad nuns become Crows.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Goldfinches at Centenary Woodland

Goldfinches

Next NIA phase



March 2014

During the last week of March, final touches for the season will be added to the woodland with a combination of tree and plug planting together with wildflower seed sowing. 

Still waiting to see the species list but the area would certainly improve with the addition of more hazel. (Corylus avellana).

 
Female Hazel Flower
Male flower

Coppice showing 1 year re-growth

A Natural History
This plant is a real woodland favourite for many and has been a human resource for centuries in the British Isles, mentioned in almost every commentary on Ancient Woodland and woodland management.

Hazel management at Centenary Woodland
Coppiced hazel stool

Coppice products - hedging stakes
























Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Crow Wars

Beautiful in Centenary Woodland this morning with increased sunlight levels warming the ground, it will be interesting to see what plants come through naturally, for now it's mainly planted Spanish Bluebell and we will eradicate these and replace with Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English Bluebell)
Birds were in fine song, especially Wrens and Robins-


and crows were frantic as they battled for supremacy; Jays, Jackdaws, Magpies and Carrion Crows fought arial battles and chattered incessantly, cavorting and caroling on top of the woodland.

More cutting work today from the guys and gals from PAWS (People and Wildlife Service)




George

Remains, looks like a Sparrowhawk attack




The grand Oak, around 250 tears old

PAWS at work




Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I hope no-one is getting too serious

I hope no-one is getting too serious regarding the choice of illustration for the selected birds of Centenary Woodland, most are cribbed from the internet, as is this one of a Chaffinch; nothing like a Chaffinch, I hear you, and I agree, for there is no colour, yet the proportions and topography are recognisable as finch, with the cap and nape contour suggesting Chaffinch.

Very active in Centenary Woodland at the moment, and like many other birds, often seen picking morsels from the woodland floor, maybe seeds or insects for they feed on both according to time of year and availability.

Not everyone appreciates this beautiful creature as evidenced in this cribbed article accompanying the illustration above - 

"Very pretty but common as muck. The scrounger of crisp crumbs, they loiter round car-parks at beauty-spots and even before you’ve got your boots off they’re at your car and after your lunch. Not that they will take a bit from your hand, they’re not that brave."


Monday, 10 March 2014

Location map of Centenary Woodland

1889 Moorgreen Farm and Moorcroft Farm (Centenary Woodland to the west of Hill Crest)
Centenary Woodland location map 

Cannon Hill Park contains a 5.2 acre woodland known as Centenary Woodland, planted in 1989 to commemorate the centenary of both the RSPB and Birmingham City Council.

Centenary Woodland is situated southwest of 'The Russells', (centre of map), and north of Moor Green Allotments, north and west of Goodby Road, (bottom of map).

The woodland today contains a closed canopy of mixed broadleaf trees and a swathe of Scots Pine.

The 'under' wood is generally poor with few woodland flowers apart from erroneously introduced Spanish Bluebell and a few other non native species such as soapwort, which is probably a garden escapee.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Always present and robust
Jay spotted this morning, sunning in the open woodland, taking advantage of early morning warmth penetrating the woodland canopy. Normally associated with anting posture.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Bullfinches seen today feeding on ground at Centenary Woodland

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Goldcrest in Centenary Woods

The two birds I was viewing in Centenary woodland were juvenile, lacking the bold head stripe  depicted in this image. I was puzzled initially, and without binoculars, had to concentrate the focus by cupping hands around the eyes to determine as much detail as possible.

The birds were 'little brown jobs' and although I recognised the movement and character associated with Goldcrest, it took me a little while to decide they were juvenile, and no where near as striking as this image. The yellow head stripe only evident as the birds landed on the trunk of a Silver Birch tree just a few feet away.
Fox skull found in Centenary Woods

The skull was attached to the rest of the skeleton, and separated from the backbone by a volunteer on the suggestion that he take it home to his son to scrutinize over dinner.