Elm Farm at Burnett, run by Philippa and John is under a stewardship scheme, so plenty of areas are left uncut and some areas are seeded for wildlife. With the rain after snow it was wet underfoot and the standing water in some fields developed quite well during our walk! Ten walkers were undeterred by the showers and pleased with our haul of 28 species. Several large flocks of mixed Fieldfare and Redwing were seen throughout but only the occasional Starling. Chaffinches were plentiful but we didn’t find any Brambling among them. We only identified one Yellowhammer for sure and some flocks of possible Linnet. A big party of Raven – some doing the tumble – came over, while another was being harassed by a Sparrowhawk who then confirmed his ID, going into a steep dive toward us, flashing across the path and away into a copse of ash trees. Down by the pond where the Owl and Kestrel boxes are, a lone Grey Heron stood – quite still – but looking very thin. Nothing else stirred although there was a hint of brown at the entrance to the Kestrel box – a nest prospector or, more likely, a foul weather refugee. The hoped for Woodcock didn’t materialise, and the Mistle Thrush was missing from his usual spot, although we did hear one singing from the woods. A Treecreeper was located and shown to most of us. Back at the farm, the feeder was playing host to many Blue and Great Tits, Gold and Green Finches and the boss of them all – House Sparrow. Thanks to Roger for leading this lovely walk and to Philippa for coming round with us and sharing her knowledge.
Thirty one people met at Portbury for one lap around the reserve on a bright and cold morning. As we started, a Grey Heron flew over and a Robin ticked from the bushes. At a bird feeder those rare birds House Sparrows shared the food with Blue and Great Tits. At the top of Wharf Lane the Little Owl showed well, eyes closed against the bright sun. From the middle hide, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Pochard were abundant and careful scrutiny revealed three Snipe at the waters edge of the island. It is a rare day indeed, even in summer, when you can stand on the sea bank and feel comfortable. The temperature was close to freezing but a total absence of wind and bright sun made our coffee break very pleasant as we watched Redshank, Shelduck and Dunlin on the estuary mud. On our way back through the fields, Bullfinch were seen and from where our cars were parked we observed Redwing worming in the adjacent field and two Buzzard soared to complete a very satisfactory total of 43 species.
Being retired and a Tuesday birder, it’s not often that I venture forth for a grown-up day at the weekend. As Nigel Milbourne, patch specialist, was leading I made a special effort to attend. I wasn’t disappointed and am sure the others in the group weren’t either. Nigel was confident we would see 50 species during the morning’s walk. BL is a haven for Tufted Duck, Coot, Wigeon and Pochard and these were seen aplenty. The strong SW wind had cleared most of the gulls from the dam wall but we did manage to ID the 5 most common species on our trip round. Five species of Thrush were also seen – nice that Fieldfare and Redwing were in the same oak tree to allow comparison and a pair of Mistle Thrushes stood to attention on the meadow to display their chest markings. We had a detailed lesson (six scopes being utilised) on the identification of Lesser Scaup, which stayed more or less in the same area for our education – poor light levels and distance made the upper mandible ‘Black Nail tip’ hard to distinguish. (Nigel later showed us a full size reproduction to round off the class). Black-necked Grebe showed surprisingly well for such a small bird in the choppy water conditions, although its cousin the Little Grebe was far less accommodating. The Great Crested Grebes we saw had no breeding plumage head gear visible. Two pairs of Goldeneye were found but the courting display previously seen wasn’t repeated. A wisp of 40 Snipe were flushed from the lake margins with an attendant Grey Heron plus the singular sound of a female Teal making her exit. Our final species was seen from the dam end of the lake looking into Butcombe Bay, a fine pair of Goosander. Nine damp birders finished with a count of 51 species. Thanks to Nigel for leading this most enlightening morning’s birding.
28 people set off on a very calm day. It was a shame that it was a low tide with no hope of seeing the Purple Sandpipers, but at the start a Grey Wagtail was seen just over the sea wall, with Goldfinch in a nearby tree. Walking along the front to the lake we saw Mallard, four or five Pochards, female Tufted Duck and numerous Moorhen and Mute Swan. Pied Wagtails milled about on the edge of the lake and on the shore Meadow Pipits were swirling around and two Linnets and a Curlew were spotted on the mud. We made a quick stop at Battery Point and then on through East Wood which was very quiet with only the occasional Blue and Great Tit, although some of the group at the rear saw Long-tailed Tit as well.
At Portishead Pier we all had very good views of the male Black Redstart, which was a first sighting for at least five people. There was a large flock of at least 400/500 Dunlins together with Redshank and Shelduck scattered on the mud. We made our way along the dock side to the swimming pool, where Goldcrest were seen flitting from tree to tree, and then back to the coast and along to the Sailing Club where six Turnstones were very busy feeding on the seaweed. A total of 34 species seen.
At least 26 members appeared in the car park (several others arrived later!) After the horrid weather of previous days, it was a joy to arrive in bright sunshine. A perfect morning, added to which it was just after high tide, so the Dumbles and Tack Piece were full of birds, dominated by large flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Wigeon. It was just a case of scanning through these to find the less numerous species. The Bewick’s Swans were easy and useful pointers to where the Ruff, Pintail, Shoveler and others were. There was a neat flock of Redshanks including one Spotted Redshank and a nice line of Black-tailed Godwits. Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Mallard were also noted. A small flock of White-fronted Geese was settled into the far side of the Tack Piece whilst out on the Dumbles, Canada and Barnacle Geese were showing, as well as Buzzards and two Peregrines. It was not long before the latter were off and put most of the waders to flight. It was spectacular!
On our walk around the various hides many song birds were noted as well as Water Rail and Mandarin (full-winged birds). I ought to mention a few others: Redwing, Blackbird, Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and Chaffinch, also Grey Heron and Curlew. (Sadly we missed the Bittern, again.) I’ve just mentioned some of the, at least, 54 species seen during a splendid morning’s walk in fine weather.