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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Birds & Butterflies on Cannock Chase - 23rd April, 2010

I found time, and the right weather for a much wanted return visit to Cannock Chase. My main objectives were to get some more, and better, shots of Bullfinch (particularly female) and to try and find Dartford Warbler. In the first, I was reasonably successful. The latter objective was not achieved, however, partly for reasons that are rather upsetting for me and for the local ecology, as I will explain later.

On my way to the Chase I noticed four Buzzards wheeling around in the sky near Edingale. I stopped my car to observe, and immediately put up another Buzzard from a nearby tree. Camera out quickly, but it rapidly joined the other four. Suddenly a sixth took off from the field behind the hedge, against which I was standing. This one, however, did not fly away from me immediately, but did a couple of circuits towards me before going off to join the others!


On arrival at Cannock Chase, I set up my chair-hide in front of my car at the feeding station. The Bullfinches were quite cooperative, and would have been more so, but I had a seemingly endless stream of people who wanted to come and talk to me, either standing beside my hide, or even standing in front of it talking to me through the front aperture. It was very pleasant chatting away, but there were many missed opportunities! The Willow Tits didn't show whilst I was there.

Bullfinch (female)

Bullfinch (male)

Yellowhammer (male)

There were plenty of the more common birds around, and I took a few shots of some - well, it's all good practice!!


Coal Tit

Long-tailed tit

Great Tit

Pheasant (male)

After spending a few hours at the feeding station, I met up with a local birder who walks his dog on the Chase on a daily basis, we set off to see if we could find Dartford Warbler in his most favoured area for this bird. Alas, virtually no birds of any description was seen, possibly due to them skulking to avoid the Hobby that was hunting in the area (record shot below). The walk was not a wash-out however, as there were Green Hairstreak butterflies in profusion. For those not familiar with these butterflies, they are a brilliant green on the underside but brown on the upperside. In flight they look quite dull but when they settle (which they usually do with their wings closed) you see the brilliant green. In a couple of my shots below, you can just detect the brown top surface in places.


Green Hairstreak

After this walk, I set off in my car to the other area of the Chase that is known for Dartfords. Earlier I had seen some distant smoke, and been a little worried about what might be happening. I arrived at the second Dartford location to find fire engines and rangers vehicles in attendance. I was told that this was the worst fire that they had had in years and, although they could not forbid me to enter, they advised I didn't. It seems that the whole of the Dartford location had gone up in flames. I'm sure that the birds will have escaped, but a valuable bit of Dartford habitat seems to have been lost. Cannock Chase is, I believe, right at the northernmost limit of their range, which makes this even more saddening. I came home with a heavy heart.


  1. Some super images Richard, inparticular the Bullfinches.

  2. Beautiful images Richard. I have both male and female Bullfinches visiting my feeder daily at the moment.

    I assume the area you are talking about in Cannock Chase is heathland, Dartford Warbler habitat. Unfortunately, here in the South there has been several heath fires just recently, one on National Trust land, Godlingston Heath and it will take 20 years to recover. It is extreemly sad and the terrible thing about it all, the fires appear to have been started deliberately. I think there needs to be some sort of police patrols in these areas, after all, I remember years ago they had police on horseback patroling Studland beech (I won't say why, but part of the beech is a naturist beech, so I leave it to your imagination why they had police patroling this area) Something needs to be done, it takes years to build and maintain a wildlife habitat, five minutes to destroy it by fire. I know how you must have felt.


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