Eleven members met at the lay-by on the Marshfield bypass on a fine sunny evening. We stuck to the lanes on the north side of the bypass, avoiding the muddy track. Our first sighting was of Swallows and Swifts busily soaring and diving after the numerous insects in the evening air. Then we came across a recently mown field on our left with a great flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows. On the other side of the road we saw, and some of us heard, our first Corn Bunting sitting in the top of a distant tree. Several more were spotted later on. Moving on, a Sparrowhawk was sighted and flocks of Rooks with young made their presence known. The roadside verges were bright with the beautiful blue Meadow Cranesbill, together with Scabious, Knapweed and the yellow Ladies Bedstraw. Further on, near farm buildings, we had sightings of Yellowhammers, resplendent in their bright yellow plumage. Also Pied Wagtails, both adults and young, were seen hopping about on the roof of a barn. On our return, flocks of Starlings with young flew by preparing for their evening roost. We were also delighted to hear Red-legged Partridge in a field close to the road, but they didn’t show themselves. In a tree nearby some activity was spotted which turned out to be Great Tits feeding their young. Then a Grey Heron flew overhead. Other common birds seen were Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, House Martin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Dunnock and a Pheasant. Our final sighting of the evening was of a Buzzard sitting on a telegraph pole. In total 27 species were identified. We did not see any Quail but, all in all, it was a very enjoyable evening out. Many thanks to Louise Bailey, who stood in for Charles Stapleton to lead the walk. Clive Burton.
Unlike previous years when the rain has been incessant or in deluge form, today was hot – hot – hot. Renowned for its lung-busting hill at the finish it was no surprise that only eight brave souls made the effort. From the shady side of the car park we had good views of Coal and Blue Tit, but special mention to the Nuthatches that played chase into the trees directly above. Along the lane towards the Chimney, the song or rather half the song of a Blackcap was heard – ‘it must be close’ and it was, throat pulsing to produce its liquid refrain. Nothing avian on the pond, but one splendid water lily, Common Newts on the surface, (we counted ten) and a Broad-bodied Chaser, fast and furious – out from its reed stem patrol around the area and back onto the stem – what a fat, powerful, powder blue body and swept wings he had. Spotted Orchid along the path down into the woods above the farm, where the first of the Raven was heard, and the first of six Chiffchaff called close by – very brave. A welcome rest in the shade for coffee and ‘I spy Swallows and House Martins’. Into Harptree Combe with more Chiffchaff and Blackcap calling, numerous Wrens, an obliging Treecreeper posing for us all, and a Song Thrush singing us out onto the road. Up through the village and our expected scream of Swift materialised, but it wasn’t until we’d climbed off the road that we got to do a proper count which was twelve. We admired a food-carrying Grey Wagtail, who refused to dive down towards her nest until we’d all got well clear. The final climb, with frequent rests to admire the view over CVL, a final Buzzard, a single Pied Wagtail and a couple of Linnets, finished our total at 29. Well done to all the walkers for ‘surviving’ this hot day and to Geoff for leading this beautiful walk. Nick Hawkridge
It was a warm sunny day with a light north-easterly breeze. 20 members met opposite Hinton Blewitt church and walked through the villages of Hinton Blewitt and Coley to the reservoirs. There were all the usual birds around, plenty of nesting House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Starlings, Wrens, Jackdaws and House Martins and Swallows. We saw a Mistle Thrush carrying food to its chicks. The water levels were high on the lakes. Two families of Mallard had young, Coots were nesting and a pair of Great Crested Grebes had a youngster riding on the parents’ back and being fed fish by its father. There was a dabchick but no Wagtails, Herons or Cormorants. We saw two Sparrowhawks flying high over the reservoirs and several Common Buzzards as well. A pair of Shelduck were perhaps unusual in this area. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard. The usual route back was surprisingly muddy which meant some detours and scrambling up the banks. We did add Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer to the list. The green lane was good for butterflies including Brimstone, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. It was an interesting walk of just over five miles with a total of 43 species seen. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince.
What a treat awaited us as we 22 Tuesday walkers assembled at the car park of Woodchester Park. A deep, densely-wooded valley with sides so steep that the trees providing us with a gorgeously dappled-shaded canopy – seemed amazingly tall. Ponds, one meandering so gracefully into the distance the eye was immediately drawn to far shore. A low mellow-stoned building where we lunched whilst thinking about its construction and previous use and a magnificent many-chimnied mansion. The National Trust leaflet describes Woodchester as “beautiful, peaceful, lovely and elegant”. Matt, an NT ranger who came to talk to us about the work being done here, said it was ‘romantic and tranquil’. We learnt how they are nurturing, amongst other things, the bat population – Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats who have a summer roost and nursery in the mansion – and that the building we were in was the kennels. And the birds? Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Wren, Blackbird, in the valley, with Song Thrush heard. Our first sighting of a Buzzard at the top, Blue and Great Tits at our coffee stop, Coots with young, Mallard and Treecreeper at the Old Pond, Tufted Duck, Grey Wagtails (described as ‘dancing on their tails’ by one of our party) and a Hobby at Middle Pond. Swallows at the kennels and House Martins and Rook at the Mansion, plus a handsome Mistle Thrush resting on the railings allowing us time to admire him. We also met three Exeter University PhD students looking for 15 badgers who had tracking collars; they located eight of them. Thank you Nancy for leading this lovely walk, providing us with a comfortable, pretty glade for elevenses and arranging for Matt to come and share his knowledge with us. It was a beautiful and interesting day with 31 species in all. Annie Hawkridge
A group of 16 led by Wendy Dickson flew from Heathrow to Keflavik, with a bus journey to Reykjavik’s domestic airport introducing us to the blue lupin-covered rocky landscape. We then took a further flight north to Akureyri and drove through rainy, misty conditions to Husavik, a fishing and whaling town on the north coast. There were good views of Ptarmigan and Black-tailed Godwits on the way.
Day 2 of the trip dawned – a beautiful sunny day – (similar weather stayed with us for the whole trip) with views of the magnificent sea bay bound by snow-capped mountains. The sound of the Redwings singing like Sedge Warblers competed with the many Snipe drumming above our heads. We had excellent views of two Short-eared Owls flying high overhead. Half the group went on a whale watching trip and saw Minke and Humpback whales and Harbour Porpoises, with a good range of seabirds, whilst others birdwatched from the harbourside seeing Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, Glaucous Gull, Common Scoters and a pair of Harlequin Ducks. During the afternoon we explored the Tjornes peninsula, picnicking near cliffs with good views of nesting Fulmars and with rafts of Puffins on the sea. We also had our first Gyrfalcon sighting. We then drove inland to Lake Myvatn, a large inland lake sitting in a partially farmed tundra-like plain. The lake is famous for its flies and the breeding wildfowl they attract.
Day 3, the morning was spent around Lake Myvatn and we had abundant views of Red-necked Phalaropes, Tufted and Long-tailed Ducks, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Scaup, Slavonian Grebes and Great Northern Divers. A short drive from the Hotel we found a part of the Laxa River with large numbers of Harlequin Ducks. The afternoon was spent at a local nature reserve where the highlight was a sighting of a male Crossbill. We also found an American Wigeon on the lake near Reykjahlid.
Day 4, we drove inland across miles of lava moonscape to Dettifoss, a spectacular waterfall, with Selfoss, another one just up river. We lunched by a small river where we saw our first Dunlin in summer plumage and a pair of Pink-footed Geese nesting. We visited Namafjall – sulphur springs with bubbling black and yellow mud springs and fumeroles. On our return to the hotel via the nature reserve we had another Gyrfalcon sighting, this time a juvenile.
Day 5, we returned to Husavik to gain a day’s respite from the flies! (Insect nets to protect your face were a must at Myvatn!) An enjoyable day was spent exploring – some members visiting the Whale Museum. Further good views of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. On the return journey we visited Godafoss, another beautiful waterfall, and had handsome views of Snow Bunting.
Day 6, a few members climbed the 900 foot volcanic peak of Vindbelgjarfall, whilst others searched for birds and plants below. We visited the Fuglasafn Bird Centre and a short walk away had beautiful views of a pair of Red-throated Divers and their single chick. Following the warm weather, the flies were particularly abundant and irritating. At times the air was filled with a loud hum as new hatchings erupted forming eight-foot-high columns of dense insects.
Day 7, we had an early start to return to Akureyri for our return flight to Reykjavik, but still added to our trip list with Bullfinch seen and a Goldcrest heard. In Reykjavik the group split, with some meeting friends, others exploring the city and a group exploring the foreshore of the Reykjavik Peninsula. At last – a Purple Sandpiper was seen and Turnstones in summer plumage. We then went to our final hotel, the Northern Light Inn, set in a rocky landscape, sited with a power station on one side and the Blue Lagoon geo-thermally heated pools on the other. Some members enjoyed the luxurious Blue Lagoon ‘experience’.
Day 8, we explored the coast near to Grindavik, searching unsuccessfully for the elusive Brunnich’s Guillemot. But some of us had fleeting glimpses of Orca whales .
The Bird count for the trip was 69 species, with 66 plant species identified.
Thanks to:- Wendy Dickson for leading. Alison Levinson and Judy Copeland for organising. Alistair Fraser & Andy Senior, Sue & Nigel Kempson for driving. Julie Evans for photography. Lois Pryce, Sue & Nigel Kempson, for trip notes. Jean Oliver for plant ID and everyone else for their company. Also thanks to Richard Belson, Tony Scott and Thordis Gudmundsdottir for their great help before and during the trip which was invaluable.
Sue Kempson & Lois Pryce