Map reference: SP0291
The area now known as Sandwell Valley is actually part of the Tame Valley, and was formerly made up of woodland, farmland and the Jubilee Colliery. After the closure of the mine and the building of the M5 the area was landscaped for various amenities such as golf, sailing and walking. The main area of interest to birders lies to the east of the motorway and is made up of the Sandwell Valley RSPB reserve and the adjacent country park owned by Sandwell Council. The reserve contains marsh and reedbed and one end of Forge Mill Lake. There is a visitors centre and a nature trail with viewing screens.
Forge Mill Lake extends into the country park, and the river Tame runs alongside it. The Beacon Way footpath can be followed southwest from here along the edge of the golf course to Swan Pool. South of Swan Pool are Priory Wood and the Icehouse pools.
Since the creation of the country park and nature reserve this has been the best place in the former West Midlands county for birdwatching. Forge Mill Lake is good for wildfowl during the winter, the star bird being Goosander with flocks of up to fifty from November to March. Up to sixty Wigeon are also present together with Teal, Shoveler (95 in October 2001), Pochard and Tufted Duck and occasionally Goldeneye. At this time of year the marsh on the RSPB reserve often holds Jack Snipe and Water Rail.
A visit during migration time is usually productive. Apart from the regulars listed below spring 2001 produced amongst others Knot, Whimbrel, Rock Pipit, and Pied Flycatcher. Sightings in autumn 2001 included Little Egret, Spotted Crake, Arctic Tern and Common Crossbill. Migrants during spring 2002 included Goshawk, Spotted Redshank, Turtle Dove, Barn Owl and Ring Ouzel.
Although the country park is a popular amenity it is usually fairly quiet during the winter, even at weekends. During the summer an early morning or weekday visit would be advisable to miss the crowds, although there are fewer birds of interest about between the two passage periods.
A book, Birds of Sandwell Valley by Forbes, Hackett and Hextell, was published in 2000. Details of this can be found on the West Midland Bird Club website here.
Access: Sandwell Valley is
located to the north of West Bromwich near the junction of the M5 and M6.
Those arriving by motorway should leave the M5 at junction 1 and take the
A41 (Birmingham Road) towards Birmingham. After passing the Hawthorns football ground
on the right take a left turn into Park Lane. This leads into Forge Lane with
the Swan Pool car park on the left followed by the Forge Mill Lake car park
on the right.
Resident: Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing, Stock Dove, Little Owl, Tawny Owl (scarce), Kingfisher, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Skylark, Grey Wagtail, Willow Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Tree Sparrow (scarce), Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.
April - September: Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Grasshopper, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler. Regular passage migrants include Hobby, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpiper, Kittiwake, Cuckoo, Sand Martin, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher.
October - March: Cormorant, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Buzzard, Water Rail, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Common Gull, Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll.