Worcester Birding: Birdwatching at the Malvern Hills, Worcestershire-WORCESTER BIRDING
This spectacular range of hills dominates the south-western corner of the county and stretch for 8 miles peaking at the Worcestershire Beacon which rises to a height of 1,395 feet. Being such a dominant natural feature, many migrating birds use the hills as a navigational aid and during the spring and autumn migration periods unusual species can be encountered.
Ravens are now a regular feature and can often be seen in flocks of well in to double figures while Stonechats are a conspicuous resident throughout the hills and Peregrines are also present. Late March to April sees the arrival of Ring Ouzels, especially in Happy Valley, situated between the Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill. Early mornings are best as the birds quickly move on as walkers take to the hills. There is also a good chance of Black Redstart with Chat Valley being a favoured site, while Redstart and Wheatear are regular. The autumn is the prime time for encountering an increasing variety of migrants particulary between mid-September to late November. Ring Ouzels are again present and usually in larger numbers with birds often lingering for several days. A few Pied Flycatcher are often recorded with Redstart and Wheatear again more regular and Black Redstart is a possibility. This area is one of the prime inland sites in England for encountering Snow Buntings which are recorded annually. The favoured areas are around the summits of Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill with birds often lingering for days and occasionally small parties may be seen. Rarities recorded during the autumn have included Yellow-browed Warbler, Dotterel, Shorelark, Lapland Bunting, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler.
The commoner resident species are also present including Raven, Peregrine and Stonechat, while there is an increased variety in the range of summer migrants nesting in the area. Redstart and Tree Pipit are regular with Pied Flycatcher present around Midsummer Hill and Wheatears have bred on British Camp. This latter site attracts the occasional passage Ring Ouzel, while Black Redstart, Snow Bunting and Great Grey Shrike have been encountered. The main focus of attention during the winter months is at Chase End Hill which is a regular haunt of the Hawfinch. November often sees the first arrivals with birds in residence through to February or March when as many as 20 birds may be present. This is also a reliable location for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Woodcock while both Brambling and Crossbill can occur and Firecrest has also been recorded.
Located under the shadow of the Malvern Hills, Castlemorton Common is the largest of the Malvern commons while a little further south lies Hollybed Common. Stonechat is a resident species and Ravens frequently fly over heading to and from the hills. During the summer this is a favourite haunt of Grasshopper Warblers and although numbers have declined there has been a slight recovery during the past couple of years. Turtle Doves can also be found in small numbers and Hobby is regular while Whinchat and Redstart occur on passage. The winter months attract good numbers of Lesser Redpolls while a few Jack Snipe and Woodcock lurk in the damper areas. Long-eared and Short-eared Owls have been recorded although they are far from regular while past rarities have included Dartford Warbler, Firecrest and Wryneck. In addition, at least twelve Great Grey Shrikes have occurred over the years making this the most reliable area in the county for this exciting species, although none have been reported since the last record in 2000.