A small band of twelve members set out on a sunny morning to enjoy an amble along Shapwick Heath, passing the lagoons and visiting Noah’s and Meare Heath hides. There was then time to picnic in the Ashcott car park before a pleasant hour on Ham Wall. We had lively action from the start with Reed Warbler, Coal, Great and Blue Tits at the car park edge. A Robin and juvenile were seen and in a short distance a pair of Cetti’s Warblers were displaying, waggling their wings alternately at each other, framed in a gap through the bushes. Several more were heard along the track as was a Cuckoo periodically calling and a booming Bittern, more of which were seen flying later in the day when we reached the new Ham Wall hide. The lagoons had a good variety of water birds but few waders. There was a pair of Marsh Harriers and swooping Hobbies, and a Sparrowhawk giving a ‘fly past’. Little Grebe and Great White Egret were in the middle distance and a Whitethroat moved around the scrub alongside the South Drain. We were entertained by a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the bare branches of trees in standing water near Noah’s hide. A number of different chicks were seen, with a Great Crested Grebe sheltering hers on the nest. It was lovely to see Common Tern on the Ham Wall and we rounded the day off with a juvenile Blackcap, Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper making 56 species in all. (Thanks to Sue for leading.) Sue Watson
This reserve was established in 2000 to mitigate losses of wildlife habitat when the Cardiff Bay Barrage scheme was built, and is owned by National Resources Wales. The RSPB Visitor Centre has a shop and café, and there is a good picnic area. 18 of us met up at the car park and spent the morning roaming the site. The main ponds are bordered by extensive reed beds and were established on a reclaimed fuel ash disposal site, so cannot be developed very much for fear of disturbing the underlying deposits. By contrast, the area around the Centre has been extensively managed and is now maturing very nicely. A new feature is a set of Sand Martin nesting boxes. Weather for the day was dry, with only a slight breeze – ideal conditions for seeing the Bearded Tits, but we did saw any. Nor did we see the Marsh Harrier! However, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warblers were calling loudly and some good sightings were reported, a Cuckoo made a brief appearance and Whimbrel were seen on the Severn mud flats, near the East Usk Lighthouse. After a picnic lunch we went by car to Goldcliff, at the other end of the reserve. This is an entirely different habitat, constructed on flooded fields in what was formerly a farming area. There are now a number of bird hides along the bank, with good views of the scrapes. Avocets breed here and we saw several chicks. It is a good area for waders and we saw Greenshank, Redshank, Little Egret, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, and a Dunlin in summer plumage. Shovelers, Shelduck and Gadwall swam around to keep us entertained. This is a good venue and well worth visiting every year to see the improvements and growing number of birds being attracted to the site. Total number of species seen on this occasion was 56. Ray & Margaret Bulmer
We met Mike Smart on a warm sunny evening for a guided walk around this wetland meadow alongside the canal. Brimstone butterflies were flitting around us as Swallows flew overhead to the sound of Skylarks. We took the circular walk through the SSSI spotting many plants before overlooking the first scrape. There were two Avocets feeding and the Oystercatchers had a chick following them about. Further on we heard the sound of Cuckoo and then it flew into the top of the nearest tree and gave us great views of it calling. The pond had lots of Mallards with their ducklings. Coming around to the other side of the scrape a Sedge Warbler sat on the fence post a few metres from us and gave us a serenade. We waited for dusk to arrive watching the wetland and were rewarded with a Whimbrel flying in and landing next to the Curlew; I didn’t realise there was such a size difference. This was a great end to an evening walk with 47 species seen. Thank you to Mike for leading. Louise Bailey
The wet, slippery and very muddy conditions of the previous week had fortunately dried up well in the sunshine and we were able to avoid the worst of it by keeping to the main path rather than the usual side track. Blackcaps were singing everywhere, also Wrens, Robins, Chaffinches and Goldcrests, though only one or two Chiffchaffs. On a thin downward-facing branch of a tree beside the path sat a Mistle Thrush, which I assumed to be a juvenile as it didn’t move while everyone traipsed past. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard in the distance and a Song Thrush was singing. When we eventually arrived at the Bluebell area we found them to be profuse and stunning amid the green bracken. AWT had kindly left some sawn tree trunks nearby for us to sit on so we stayed there for our break, but when we reached the slope leading down to the stream we almost wished we’d waited. It was paradise – Bluebells and Bracken, surrounded by a forest of green and some Copper Beeches and a blue blue sky. Orange Tip butterflies and one Brimstone added to the colour. We only lost two people before the climb up to the fields above Noah’s Ark where our first Swifts were flying. Towards the end of the walk a Sparrowhawk was noted by the frontrunners and we heard one Whitethroat. In the village at the start we had 12 House Martins, House Sparrows, Starlings, Jackdaws, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Goldfinch. Rain threatened at one point but stayed away, and we ended up with 35 species (24 people). Judy Copeland
What a pity only four members turned up for this meeting on a lovely sunny morning! Lower Woods is one of the largest oak-ash woodlands on heavy clay soils in England. Bill Heslegrave, a volunteer with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, led us through some of the grassy trenches, rides and 23 coppices in this ancient wood. Birds were surprisingly scarce but we did see or hear Swallow, three species of Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Jay, Grey Partridge, Buzzard, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush. Song Thrushes appeared to be present in most areas we visited. Sadly we did not hear or see any Nightingales – there are only one-two pairs here now compared to 12-15 pairs ten years ago. We walked through some beautiful flower-rich areas where we saw Early Purple Orchids, Twayblade, Pignut, leaves of Meadow Saffron and large swathes of Bluebells. Bill showed us some Cotham Marble as we walked along the Little Avon River and we learnt a lot about the history and management of this lovely area. Thanks to Bill for leading.