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Venus Pool

My local patch and the best 'all round' reserve in Shropshire - (well I would say that wouldn't I) ! With a range of diverse habitats including:open water, muddy margins, gravel scrape, marsh, reedbeds, woodland, wild meadows and seedcrop, it's not surprising that a good number of birds may be seen during the year! The official list for the reserve stands at about 180 species, counting flyovers and birds seen from the reserve on the adjacent fishing pool

Bittern

A site for all seasons....

Winter birding here doesn't yield too many surprises although the Winter of 2008/9 produced a long staying Bittern! The Fen hide was the place to be for good views and Water Rail show well in front of this hide too! Good numbers of Geese and Wildfowl are to be seen. The latter include the 'residents' plus Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard, Wigeon and Pintail, seldom seen are Goldeneye or Scaup. Cold weather can produce a Smew (three Redheads on the adjacent trout pool in Jan 2010), a female Ring-necked Duck turned up in Jan 2009! Brambling and Tree Sparrow are invariably found at the feeder station and the top field will normally hold a substantial Finch flock. Numbers vary from year to year but impressive numbers of various Finches, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Lesser Redpoll can be seen. Siskin are likely to be found in the Alders on the path to the Fen hide or down by the bridge at Cound stank.

Spring is by far the time for exciting birding and a 'grim' overcast day is best for wader passage. Don't expect to be overwhelmed by waders but Spring passage is likely to yield Redshank, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit. Whimbrel are a good bet in the first week of May and Sanderling possible later in the month.

Temmincks Stint

The chance of local rarities such as Avocet (1 record April 2008), Bar-tailed Godwit (2 recent April records) and Temminck's Stint (pictured right, 1 record May 2008) are worth a few hours spent in the hide!

Little-ringed Plover arrive mid to late April and these will normally pair up and can sometimes successfully fledge young! May is a good time for a passage Garganey and one usually turns up each year. My one and only Shropshire Sandwich Tern was grounded by early morning rain in May 2007 and Black Tern in the right conditions are always on the cards!

The Warbler influx will begin in mid to late April with Lesser Whitethroat normally the earliest arrival - usually found singing in the roadside hedge in the top field. Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Willow, Reed and Sedge soon follow. Sedge warblers can usually be found singing in and around the 'Norfolk ditch', a pair successfully raised a young Cuckoo on the island in front of the memorial hide in the Summer of 2009.

Osprey

I haven't mentioned raptors, many of which are seen regularly throughout the year (Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk). Peregrine are frequent visitors, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Red Kite are uncommon but Barn Owl can occasionally be seen hunting at dusk.

A very good reason to visit Venus Pool in April is the chance to see an Osprey! One or two birds pass through each year, sometimes lingering and catching fish! I can't think of anywhere else where there is a chance of witnessing this amazing spectacle so close but you have to put some hours in!! Osprey are also possible on return passage and one individual in July 2009 stayed in the area for at least a week! Hobby can be seen at any time from April onwards. They sometimes hawk for dragonflies which VP produces by the 1,000 (but that's another subject) throughout the Summer months. You never know what may fly over in late Summer and my record of Honey Buzzard in August 2008 was a 'first' for the reserve.

Kingfisher

Summer can be quiet with not a lot of action but this is always a good time of year to see Kingfisher, Little Egret and later on, if the Severn is running high, Goosander. A small Gull presence is maintained, mostly Black-headed and Lesser black backed Gulls but other large Gulls drop in from time to time (I've had two Yellow-legged Gulls) and Mediterranean Gulls are always possible. A Sabine's Gull dropped in after a big blow in September 2011. Late Summer is the time to look out for smaller migrants almosy anywhere on the reserve: Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat, maybe even Tree Pipit (one record!)

Late Summer and Autumn also herald another period of potential activity with return passage and at this time of year, wader species in addition to those encountered in the Spring may be seen. Green Sandpiper and Greenshank are regulars, Ringed Plover, Ruff and Little Stint are less commonly seen. There's always a chance of rarities such as Pectoral Sandpiper (below), Curlew Sandpiper and Knot are seldom seen but there is a chance from September onwards. A Grey Phalarope paid a brief evening visit in October 2008! On an overcast day Terns may put in an appearance during their long migration, Common Tern are most likely with Arctic Tern or even Black Tern. A Whiskered Tern was one of the County highligts for 2010!

Pectoral Sandpiper

Autumn then drifts into Winter more with a whimper rather than a bang. The chance of Golden Plover (October 2009 onwards saw flocks of 300+) or a Whooper Swan - 2009 saw the first one for quite some time dropping in, make it all worth while! The months of November and December see a very quiet period of bird activity on the reserve but unless you go and have a look - you never know what might be lurking there? A Scoter maybe.......

I'm still after another 16 species to get to the heady heights of 180 - it will certainly take years but that's what birding is all about! My species photograph list is well in excess of the hundred mark and these images form the backbone of three illustrated presentations featuring the birds and other wildlife to be found on the reserve. Check out the lectures page for further details

The reserve is easy to find situated approx half a mile down a minor road off the A458, take the second right after heading out of Cross Houses in the direction of Bridgnorth (see map below). The car park is situated on the left approx half a mile along this minor road.


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