It was cold but dry and 29 birders, having placed lunch orders, left the ‘White Horse’ to meander around the many footways of the area. Not surprisingly, Mallard seen on Bradley Brook was first on our list of 22 species, which included Siskin, Skylark, Grey Wagtail and Fieldfare. Green Woodpecker put in a few calls as we walked across Bury Fort and Buzzard and Magpie also put in a brief appearance there. Ransom’s garlic scented the air beside the River Frome where a coffee stop was made and two members provided some delicious nibbles. There were 24 birders in the pub for lunch and a presentation by the ‘Princes’ was made to our outgoing super-organiser, Peter Holbrook.
With a trusty co-leader like Duncan and 30 enthusiastic walkers we were all set for a brisk trot around this four and a half mile bird walk. From the playgroup school – where three male Blackbirds chased and squabbled, we crossed the village green to find Mistle Thrushes fighting in the trees, Jackdaws all cosy in pairs and Greenfinches singing lustily from atop the, as yet, budless trees. Along Roach’s Lane where the feeders at Corner House were rich in tits and finches, and the trees above us were filled with the sound of chattering Starlings and the soft ‘chuck chuck’ of Fieldfares. They duly lifted off and flew to a single leafless Oak, displaying themselves to us allowing an inspection of size and posture differences. Along the beginning of the Seven Mile Plantation our first raptor of the day, a Buzzard, was perched on a wall, and we enjoyed our coffee break, soaking up the warm sun. Along the first half of the airstrip, we descended to cross the stream where a bright male Yellowhammer showed his canary-colouring to the whole party. As we walked towards Little Badminton several more were seen, along with Fieldfares, Jackdaws and Starlings. Our second and final raptor, a male Kestrel, alighted on the power lines and then flew off towards the American Barn. In the Deer Park, by its northern entrance, we passed the lake where a 14 pair of Canada Geese took to the water and about 150 Common Gulls were at roost on the grass beyond. The final stretch was through the stables and past the kennels, where a lively couple of male Greenfinches called and sang in their best circular swivel-hipped courtship dance, trying desperately to win the favours of the four or five females in the audience. Our tally of 28 species was, alas, missing some we might have expected to see at this time of year and, with the benefit of previous visits, had hoped to: no Chiffchaffs, no Woodpeckers, no Owls, no Ducks, but still, a lovely morning to be out birding.
Ten members met in the car park in the pretty village of Cwm Ivy where a Jay, Green Woodpecker and Coal Tits were spotted to give the day a flying start. The weather was perfect being sunny with no wind and, although a little cold, it warmed up pleasantly as the day went on. The descent to the woods turned up a Treecreeper, Wrens, Siskins and Goldcrests. Emerging from the woods on to the sand dunes we were delighted with Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. We then proceeded to the beach where there were Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, a large flock of Oystercatchers, Curlew, and Common Gulls; spectacular numbers of Brent Geese gaggled away to each other. Lunch was taken overlooking the estuary towards Burry Port and Llanelli with a backdrop of the snow-covered Black Mountain. How lucky we were to be eating our lunch watching Eider and Red-breasted Mergansers with a few Turnstones thrown in for good measure. It was back through the wood where a Raven, Song Thrush and Long-tailed Tits were spotted. The path over the marsh was quite wet but walking under the trees to our ascent up the hill revealed more Goldcrests and Robins. Forty-two species were recorded for the day. Thank you to Roger for leading a perfect birding day.
No rain this year on our urban walk – just snow! However, nothing daunted, nine, then ten and eventually a round dozen members turned up. We made our usual start crossing Pero’s Bridge from where we saw Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. With low temperatures and a strong wind, we weren’t surprised at having to work hard at spotting any birds but the chocolate-coloured heads of Black-headed Gulls reminded us that the season is changing. In spite of exposed mud along the New Cut we didn’t find a Common Sandpiper this year or a Redshank, though we saw the latter later. A group of Starlings flew over us and a Kestrel (our only raptor of the day) put in an appearance. By now, even this hardy bunch of members decided that coffee inside the Create Centre was a good idea and we lingered long enough to take a look at the display of “found” plastics in the gallery. With the sun now out, such small birds as Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Dunnock lengthened our list and we started back towards the Centre adding Grey Heron and Jackdaw. More than half the party took up the offer of yet another coffee in our leader’s flat and enjoyed great views of the SS Great Britain and Harbourside. For the final three of the party, Brandon Hill produced only an extra couple of species: Great and Blue Tits, thus making the total tally 21. Thanks Margaret for: leading, your local knowledge, and that second coffee!
Twenty-four members, joined by another before we left New Fancy View, gathered for the annual Tuesday morning Forest of Dean expedition. As the sun had already been shining for some hours we optimistically kept our eyes peeled for possible sunning adders on the climb up to the viewing point where the visibility wasn’t gin- clear, but quite good enough for us to enjoy repeated flypasts with some aerobatic manoeuvres by the local Ravens. While in the car park, we had already heard a Song Thrush singing. An early distant view of a raptor was judged to be a Peregrine. Buzzards and Sparrowhawks were also seen but not a Goshawk and few smaller birds. However, everyone seemed to be smiling – an hour of warm sun on our backs and wall-to-wall blue sky made sure of that. We moved on to Speech House where, predictably, the Mistle Thrushes were in the field and then, as we walked through the woods down to Beechenhurst, we spotted all the usual suspects including Greenfinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Wren and many singing Robins. On to the picnic site at Cannop Ponds and mid-summer (English!) temperatures. Here we did have to jump up from our lunches to view, at last, a circling Goshawk. There were also Long-tailed Tits flitting through the Alder catkins and a Grey Wagtail nearby, plus, of course, the handsome Mandarin Ducks among the Coots, Moorhens, Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, etc. on the lake. En route to Nagshead Reserve we saw the Greylags and some of the party saw Marsh Tit and Siskin. A visit to the Bruce Campbell hide gave good views of Nuthatch and, although a final walk through the oakwoods didn’t add to our total of 35 species, or reveal any Hawfinches or Crossbills, Colin was able to show us evidence of the latter on some discarded cones. Many thanks are due to him for both leading a very enjoyable walk and the work put in beforehand on his recces.