It drizzled most of the day and the target species – Bearded Tit – was absent… but all in all eleven walkers had a great day out in Wales. The walk started well with House Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff in the scrub along the lane to the visitor centre. The feeders there were alive with Greenfinch and below the raised walkway Coot juveniles, while pestering their parents, were calling in a most Water Rail fashion. As we approached the hot spot for Bearded Tits, the rain intensified. It deterred them, but not the Sedge Warblers, who hung from the top of the reed stalks long enough to be seen by all. The river was very high so only Shelduck were showing and, for the lucky few, a Wheatear. A sit in the hide for coffee allowed us to see Little Grebe with two tiny chicks and some Tufted Duck busily diving and one acting as though it was a decoy. Cuckoo was heard in the distance and as we went through the wood Blackcap and Willow Warbler sang. Beneath the pylons we had great views of Reed Buntings, Whitethroat, and House Martins who were weaving between the reed stalks, well below the seed heads. A group went on after lunch to the Goldcliff reserve and were lucky enough to see Little Ringed and Ringed 13 Plovers. The rest returned to the reserve to “twitch” the Woodchat Shrike that had been reported in the RSPB centre log as ‘A cracking little bird’. (It was!) We all met up at Goldcliff and from the first hide we saw Avocet, and Oystercatcher – both seen to be nesting, some very acrobatic Lapwing and ten (final count) Dunlin, all with the rich dark bellies of their summer plumage. As we plunged out of the hide into the heavier rain a Cuckoo disappeared southward pursued by angry Chaffinch. The day ended with a total of 57. Thanks to Peter Holbrook for co-leading.
Seventeen members met in this beautiful Oxfordshire reserve on a sunny, warm morning. The walk started brilliantly in the car park with a Cuckoo calling, the distant purring of a Turtle Dove and the song of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler. The reserve is a mosaic of wet meadows, and reed bed together with some hedges and mature trees and there are extensive big, wide-open sky views. Raptors then put on a good show with Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hobby all performing well. As we approached one of the mature trees another Turtle Dove began calling. Whether it was a master of camouflage or a ventriloquist, despite standing only a few yards from the bird, it remained unseen. We walked beside a ditch which was fringed with a small amount of reed. Small it may have been but good enough to give all a wonderful close view of a female Bearded Tit, with accompanying “pinging”. Also seen and heard were Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Bunting. The rattle of a Lesser Whitethroat was new for some and a Common Whitethroat was seen and heard for comparison. Bullfinch, Linnet, Stock Dove, Little Egret and Redshank were all noted and Common Terns were flying close by. About fifty four species were encountered during the morning including nine species of warbler.
The ‘Save Our Pub’ sign made a good perch for a Blackbird; let’s hope it works as well for the pub! Rain had fallen; the grey skies were thinning so we eleven set out with light hearts. House Sparrow, Robin, and Woodpigeon our sightings before a plunge down into Horsecombe Vale where the ‘squeaky wheel’ sound of Goldcrest mixed with that of Blackcap. A Greenfinch offered us his ‘zizzing’ call, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘chipped’ and a busy Nuthatch gathered a beak full and flew down the hill to its waiting family. A lone Jay flashed across a clearing, in the bottoms Chiffchaff sang, and by the time we reached the waterworks at Tucking Mill, Blue Tit and a Green Woodpecker had regaled us with their calls. The newly laid bed of the old Somerset and Dorset railway had plenty of human traffic – off to explore the newly opened tunnels. There was little avian life until the end, near to our start along the line of the Somerset Coal Canal where Swallows skimmed over the meadows, House Martins along the hedges and above them all, Swifts. The hovering Kestrel made a dark black cross against the blueing sky and a circling Buzzard joined the raptor count, while down on the grass, a Pied Wagtail leapt and fluttered catching beakfuls of newly hatched insects. A Long-tailed Tit was spied in the bushes and a Bullfinch called but, try as we might, no sighting, unlike a Song Thrush which sang from his favourite pitch with great gusto. Before our final climb up the Limestone Link an obliging Yellowhammer sang from his concealment behind the thickest of hedges, only occasionally finishing his song with ‘and no cheese’. The Chaffinches made themselves very obvious as did two male Pheasants trying to share the favours of several females. A tally of 31 species was seen and big ‘thank you’ to David Body for leading.
There were eight of us on this venture to Suffolk. We started out from Jane’s house in Portishead in misty weather and the day continued cool and overcast but our spirits were lifted with excellent views of three Stone Curlews from the hide at Weeting Heath. One male and female were clearly a pair. The heath was busy with rabbits, hundreds of corvids and a Mistle Thrush sat on a pile of sticks and serenaded us. We drove to Lakenheath where a Red-footed Falcon had joined with the Hobbies. He gave excellent views flying around and sat in a tree. The photographers were kept very busy! A lucky few briefly saw the male Golden Oriole in the Poplar grove. Unfortunately, he was too quick for me. Cuckoos called and we managed to see two. Bitterns were booming, 12 Reed Warblers were very noisy and further up the path a Crane flew out from a field of oil seed rape and across the reeds. Early next morning saw us out on Westleton Common. All the birds were singing well and we enjoyed Nightingale and Garden Warbler in the same Sallow with both showing well. Woodlarks were elusive but over three visits several of our group got good views; unfortunately Jane and I both missed out. Saturday was mainly spent at RSPB Minsmere where we visited all the hides and walked along the beach. Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Avocets were nesting on the scrapes. Turnstones flew over the sea. Bitterns boomed and Bearded Tits showed well and the usual warblers were singing. Next we went to Hen Fen where Hobbies were being mobbed by Black-headed Gulls and then we walked two miles along the River Blythe to see the reported Spoonbill. It was fishing in a shallow pool demonstrating its technique very clearly. Along the river we also saw Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Redshank. In the evening we went to Westleton Heath for Nightjars but no luck, perhaps it was too cold. We did hear Stone Curlew and Tawny Owl and saw four Red Deer. Our last day took us to Dunwich Heath where we added Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Whitethroat and another Hobby and there were lovely views of Minsmere reserve from above. The sun was finally out and it was warm. A return visit to Lakenheath was made but no luck with Golden Oriole. Thanks to Jane Cumming for all that driving and leading so well.
Due to the weather the annual BBQ was cancelled. Many thanks to Hazel and John for the invitation to invade their cottage garden. Good news – three Nightingales are singing in Lower Woods, the same number as last year.