The group met under blue skies and warm sunshine in contrast to last year’s snow and bitter wind. In consequence there was a splendid turnout of 28 members. We left Millennium Square and headed for Prince Street Bridge where our first birds were gulls, Mute Swans, a Great Crested Grebe and Cormorants. The latter were showing their white breeding patches and one magnificent male had a stunning grey face and neck and a black ‘Mohican’ crest. I initially thought he might be a continental variant but further research on the Internet revealed that a proportion of our older male cormorants develop this breeding plumage.
We next scoured the bushes alongside the harbour railway track which produced Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Blackbird. The roof of the barge adjacent to the Bacon Butty kiosk is always crowded with Black-headed Gulls with their eyes on the chance of some scraps. Many were showing their summer black heads. As we paused for coffee two Ravens and a Sparrow Hawk circled overhead. The walk beside the New Cut added nothing until we reached the flyover when a Redshank and Common Sandpiper were spotted on the edge of the mud. Some of the group also saw a Grey Wagtail. The party divided at Jacobs Wells Road with the more energetic climbing the steps up to Brandon Hill where they added Redwing to the list. The rest took the gentler route beside the water hoping to see the resident Moorhen who did not put in an appearance. The total number of species seen was thirty one.
It was a little after high water as 31 members walked beside the River Severn, which was flowing out very fast owing to recent excessive rains. The traffic noise from the M4 and Severn Bridge was disturbingly loud but we were rewarded with eleven bird species before reaching New Passage and there added Teal, Wigeon, Dunlin, and Shelduck. At the near-by Wetlands Reserve we added Curlew, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Lapwing, Shoveler, Mute Swan and Common Gull. Taking the New Passage Road we then saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Goldcrest and Goldfinch. We took the Severn Beach back road, noting Sparrowhawk on the way, and walked squelching footpaths and in a bramble-infested area to find Jay, Wren, Chaffinch, and Blue Tit before returning to the High Street. In all we had recorded 45 species, and what was taken as an American Canada Goose in a party of Canada Geese. Thanks to the large number of walker-watchers who turned out and what a calm, sunny warm morning we had.
We left Bristol early Friday morning in a gale. Our first notable birds were Red Kites as we drove along the M4. After a brief stop at Services on the M25 to meet up with the rest of the group travelling by car we carried on to Cliffe Pools. We met Lynn Griffiths, a member who had recently moved to the area, who guided us round the pools. The rain and gales worsened but despite this we had good views of Pintail, Shoveler and Goldeneye at our first stop. Further along on a strip of land not under water there was a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits with Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing. Upon reaching the Thames side there were Avocet and Shelduck on the foreshore.
Saturday proved to be slightly better weather-wise, but there were still gales. We first went to the Riverside Country Park where after leaving the minibus we had to dive for cover due to a hailstorm which passed through quickly. Along the riverside were Meadow Pipits and Grey Plover. At the point there were more Grey Plovers, Oystercatchers, Wigeon, Teal, Shelducks, Godwits, Redshanks and Dunlin. We went on to Bedlams Bottom where there was a nice flock of Avocet and more waders.
We continued to Capel Fleet where good views were had of Marsh Harriers
and a nice surprise was a pair of Green Sandpipers disturbed by the harriers. When we arrived at Elmley Marshes the wind had got up again and we seemed to be blown sideways. Along the path there were many Lapwings, Godwits, Wigeons and Teal. Approaching the hide we had to hurry as another storm was brewing. Wading across the submerged bridge to the hide the heavens opened again. We had good views of Brent Geese, Marsh Harriers, Golden Plover and Grey Plover plus many more Lapwings. Leaving the hide the sky was as black as night and the rain came down again. The rain relented and the wind almost dried us off by the time we reached the minibus.
Sunday, and what a difference! There were blue skies and no wind. What a relief! We travelled to Dungeness with a promise of Penduline Tit which had been reported the previous day. On arrival we went straight to the hide where they had been seen but, alas, they were not there. But we had good views of Smew and Little Gull. We left and continued to the beach for lunch where Kittiwakes,
Guillemots and Great Northern Diver were seen. On returning to the reserve two Black-throated Divers were seen on the pools by the road. The missing Penduline Tits were reported at another pool so we went to look for them. After an hour there was no sign of them but we were treated to good views of a Bearded Tit on top of a reed. At the gatehouse our last sightings were of Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting which was a nice end to the trip. The weekend tally was 95 species which was a pretty good count for a wet weekend.
The horrendous forecast of gales and heavy rain for Saturday obviously put off many people attending what turned out to be a really good walk, so it was six hardy souls who set off. We only had one short shower and the sun was out for most of the morning! We took the telescopes to look over the beach at Brean Down. High tide was at 13:00 so at 09:30 the birds were rather scattered but we saw a large flock of Lapwing, some Oystercatchers along the tideline along with Redshank, Dunlin and a few Curlews. In the marshy grass opposite were five Grey Herons standing like sentinels. A few Teal, Wigeon and Mallards were present. We then walked up past the quarry in the local nature reserve. In the lake by the boatyard we found three Dabchicks. From here we walked through the AWT reserve at Walborough adding the usual Robin, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. We also listened to a Goldcrest in the ivy but could not see it. Two Chaffinches were singing, a Reed Bunting called and Skylarks sang as we drank our coffee. There was little to be seen at the sewage works but from the sea wall we saw Snipe and Stonechat. On the return journey we had excellent views of a Kestrel hovering and a lovely rainbow. We should not overlook the masses of Corvids and Woodpigeon in a stubble field. In all we managed a list of 42 species.
Thirty three is a very respectable total for a Tuesday walk and an even more respectable number for lunch afterwards. This walk was the last with our organiser, Hazel Wilmott, before her move to Dorset in two weeks. At the start we had a fine pair of Mistle Thrushes who were searching the grass behind the pub car park and on the wing and Jackdaws – mostly as couples – were riding the brisk south easterly wind. Across from the car park and down a narrow lane, a Robin wanted to play at our feet and a Wren sat atop a thorn bush and blasted forth with full song. A couple of flocks of Starlings (one of over 200) flew over and in passing, attracted our attention to the Redwing in the trees. On the ground close by a Dunnock and above three Bullfinches were noted sitting in the sun, a great attraction for the year-listers. The first Buzzard circled overhead and a Green Woodpecker called and flew over the brook at Hancock’s Well. Our second Buzzard, accompanied by a Sparrowhawk circled together above the trees. Those at the front and middle saw a Kingfisher and a few saw it or another on a post, again by the Avon, a little further on towards Sherston, within whose bounds a Little Egret was spied roosting in a tree. Our final Buzzard was seen off by various Corvids, over 20 of which were Rooks who, when not chasing raptors were busily probing the grass for food. On the final part of the walk we followed The Macmillan Way where the fields either side of the path had plenty of Skylarks, some singing and others playing chase. Our final species was a distant flock of 50+ Lapwings giving us an excellent tally of 38. Big thanks and goodbye to Hazel who led this lovely (and hopefully to be repeated) new walk.