A brilliant and informative introduction to the area by the leader (from inside the church as a tree shredder was howling outside) was a novel way to start our walk along the Kennet and Avon canal. The playing fields were alive with Swift and Swallow, some Collared Doves were spooning on the roof tops and just as Tiny was bemoaning the fact that the narrow boat from which delicious cake could be bought was closed, a Kingfisher made its speedy exit, stage right, towards Bath. As we passed the many sculptures on the canal side, a Grey Wagtail bobbed along the water’s edge, catching low flying insects. Magpies were attempting to rustle up a good feed from the many young birds that we heard along the way, Goldfinch and Chiffchaff among them. It was good to hear and eventually see the Whitethroat that abounded along this stretch and, drawn by that lovely song, catch sight of Blackcaps. A friendly dog walker regaled us with tales of the many raptors he’d seen the previous day and when we met again, as we climbed to the hill to Claverton church, he said we’d just missed a Water Rail his dog had flushed. In the churchyard for a belated coffee stop and while Tiny got the key and fought with his thoughtfully provided coffee machine we watched the Blue and Great Tits working hard in the Yew tree above us. Some further Swallows, House Martins and Swifts played in the air and around the church tower before we departed back along the canal for a rerun of the species seen on our way out. A notable Buzzard circled over the hill and Raven had a quick pass at some Jackdaws before disappearing into or behind the trees. As far as totals go; 23 walkers and 29 species, and a huge thanks to Dave ’Tiny’ French for leading and doing all the prep work that made this such a memorable walk.
As eleven walkers mustered at the Ashley Walk Car Park, two members wandered down the slope and got off to a great start with fleeting glimpses of a female Montagu’s Harrier! As we set off, we had high hopes of seeing Dartford Warblers, Woodlark and possibly Honey Buzzard. Early sightings included Stonechat, Linnets, a good number of Mistle Thrushes, and a very young Blue Tit which floated by and flopped to the ground. A calling Cuckoo was heard as we reached a small wooded area which revealed a number of Redstarts, including a youngster. There was then an opportunity to compare the songs of Blackcap and Garden Warbler as they conveniently sang on either side of the path. Even so, discussion ensued as to which was which. As we made our way, other songsters included Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Wren, but the next highlight was a beautifully performing Tree Pipit which gave great views of its parachuting song flight. Just before our lunch stop we came across an active Great Spotted Woodpecker’s nest, and two or three Siskins flitted around here too. As we ate our sandwiches beside a stream we were entertained by more Redstarts, and some Great Tits which were picking at ant hill mounds. A few Stock Doves put in an appearance, including one that called close by. Unfortunately, Woodlark and Honey Buzzard remained elusive, probably not helped by what turned out to be a showery and breezy day, though one back marker did catch sight of a Dartford Warbler. The two who had started with the Harrier got lucky again near the end with a brief Spotted Flycatcher. There were sightings of some Roe Deer and a couple of Fallow Deer also turned up. We finished off by trying for the Montagu’s Harrier along the road at Black Gutter Bottom, but with no luck. Our total of species seen and/or heard was 36. Many thanks to Jane for leading such an enjoyable day.
16 members met on an overcast and humid morning by the Ring O’ Bells pub. A Song Thrush was singing and a Chiffchaff calling as we set off along the lanes to Coley. A Hare crossing in front of us was a surprise and on a house in Coley we observed six active House Martin nests. Brown Trout idled in the stream. The lower lake at Litton had been drained for repair works so the upper lake was our best bet for water birds, but we did see a family of Grey Wagtails on the way. Mallard and Tufted Duck were on the upper lake with a couple of Great Crested Grebes – what a gruff call they make! In an Ash tree we were lucky enough to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker family and get good views of a youngster with its red cap. A Coal Tit was heard and during the walk we heard at least four Song Thrushes, four Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We had a Yellowhammer, Long-tailed Tits, two Bullfinches, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. The fields by the long green lane held families of Rooks. At this time of year there were many wildflowers in bloom. It was a very pleasant walk of four and a half miles with a total of 36 species. Thanks go to Sue and John Prince for leading.
Fifteen birders met in the car park below the point and collected Jay, Magpie and Woodpigeon, plus some distant Swift before we attempted the steep path to the Trig point. Beside the steeply climbing path a couple of Chiffchaff sang and distantly a Blackcap, while above our heads a Kestrel hovered and a Cormorant flew past. Along the point we saw and heard very little as the wind was rather brisk, apart from a couple of Shelducks foraging on the tide line, but this didn’t detract from the beauty of the setting with abundant wild flowers and lovely sea views. Down on the channel side of the point and out of the wind we could hear at last and we were soon on to Whitethroat, Wren, Linnet and Goldfinch, while on the shore a solitary Rock Pipit stood sentinel guard near his nest. After the coffee stop and a prolonged search for a sight of the Whitethroat, we saw several Starlings, Carrion Crows, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and a single Great Tit. Going down towards our lunch spot, two Curlews were identified on the river bank alongside a Lapwing. During our leisurely stop we debated the identity of two duck 11 shaped blobs in among the grassy tussocks. A Greenfinch and then a Robin serenaded us from the power cables and then the birds stood up and revealed themselves as Shelducks. The walk back across the ancient field system and by the mine research establishment gave us a solitary Mallard asleep among the weed strewn stones. Before we reached the car park we saw more Jackdaws and our first House Martins. A bag of 34 for the day. Many thanks for leading, Nick.
Eight members gathered on a glorious morning in this most stunning of locations. We were soon on our way along the board walk. Were those singing birds Blackcaps or Garden Warblers? Well both, which either helped or confused! That challenge was soon forgotten as we listened to a Redstart and eventually saw it. A Willow Warbler fussed around us – it had a nest nearby, no doubt. Then a Pied Flycatcher caught our attention before Nuthatches took over. They were feeding chicks in the same nest box as eight years ago! We were then looking at the River Towy/Afon Tywi but apart from Grey Wagtails and a Buzzard overhead it was just a stunning vista. A fantastic male Redstart showed itself off just as we started the rocky footpath around the hill. There were many Wood Warblers but they mostly eluded our gaze although one lucky member had a good view. A freshly fledged family of Treecreepers stopped us as we watched the busy parents passing over freshly found insects. How many were there? two, three, four, well possibly seven, including the parents. Marsh Tits were heard, but proved elusive. Goosanders were spotted flying down stream along the Tywi. Then at a clearing a Tree Pipit rewarded us with a song flight, a Cuckoo called from the far mountainside and the bluebells were magnificent. After lunch six of us decided to explore the broad combe on the south-west side of the Gwenffrwd. This turned out to be quite an exploration! The pathways had fallen into disrepair but at least the bridge over the Gwenffrwd stream was still standing. We battled on up and up and eventually got to the open well maintained track. It was all downhill from here, fording the stream this time…wet feet! But, on the home stretch Red Kites gave excellent views, so it was worth the struggle. Thank goodness Richard Brown still had his old map from the previous visit; it was a great help.
(PS. I have since spoken to the RSPB to confirm that the Gwenffrwd is still in the reserve, but that access is too expensive to maintain.) Thanks for leading, Robin.