It was grey and windy with such choppy water, how were we to see the waterfowl? A good crowd (22) of dedicated watchers saw most of the birds on offer. As rain had fallen, the way across the moor was bound to be wet – twelve chose this way with me and the others stayed on the reservoir rim with Sue & John and Jane. We got onto Middle Moor Lane and then Stubbingham Drove where the call of Fieldfare was heard, the ‘caw’ of Rooks, and the ‘crackle’ of Pheasant. A mystery call was heard and a large winged bird disappeared into the trees- alas, the one that got away. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flashed from tree to tree and a Green Woodpecker disappeared into the scrub before reappearing again in a field where the boundary hedges were thick with Starlings, Fieldfare, and a few Redwing. We proceeded along the Cheddar Yeo where a couple of Little Grebes dived and swam, and back up Ellenge Stream (a previously seen Otter didn’t reappear!) and into Axbridge. Plenty of local songsters on offer in the village, a Grey Wagtail just by Walnut Farm, and Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch recorded , plus a small party of Long-tailed Tits – so plenty to watch. We went back onto the tank rim to view the ducks. A dozen Gadwalls, many ‘Heinz 57′ Mallards, Tufted, a few Wigeon, a good few Pochards and many, many Coot, but alas the Red-crested Pochard were not in our sight. How fortunate that the rim walkers recorded 36 species including three we had not seen- Red-crested Pochard, Meadow Pipit, and Song Thrush, bringing the total up to a credible 51. (Thanks to Sue & John and Jane for leading the tank rim party and to Nick for being in charge overall.) Nick Hawkridge
17 Members gathered in the new WWT Steart Marshes car park on a crisp, clear, sunny but extremely cold and very windy Saturday morning. We were met by two friendly assistant WWT wardens, Joe and Chloe, who gave us a brief but very informative overview of the 500 hectare site with its myriad salt and freshwater lagoons and its ever changing tidal coastal marsh at the frontier of Bridgwater Bay. We set off along the wetland walkway on our way to the very spacious Mendip hide, spotting a Stonechat on a fence post en route. Numerous small groups of thrushes flew over, mainly Fieldfares. The windows in the new hide were very swish, stiff to open but held up by hydraulic rams. There were some good screens outside which allowed clear views across the lagoons. Some of the many wintering Shelduck were feeding on the exposed mud and there was a lone Little Egret on the far bank and a Curlew plodded across the mud. There were lots of Lapwing and we had the first of many sightings of flocks of Dunlin dazzling us with their fluttering semaphore flight, wheeling around showing dark then snow white plumage sparkling in the sunshine, enough to confuse any marauding raptor. Our group then split into two, some walking out to the coast to see the breach site and the rest going to the other adjacent hide overlooking small lagoons, hosting more Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and lots of duck including Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and Mallard. There was also a good view of a solitary Snipe. Not too many birds were seen out on the edge of the saltmarsh and estuary, more Dunlin, a Redshank and overflying Shelduck. A flyover Stock Dove and lots of Meadow Pipits, a Skylark, two Pied Wagtails and a Grey Heron showed well on the walk back to the hide where the two groups came back together. A Kestrel sheltered on the far bank from the stiff breeze.
After lunch we drove to the Natural England car-park in Steart village for the second part of the visit. In the car park numerous House Sparrows and a few Blue and Great Tits showed well. From here Brian Gibbs and Brian Hill from the Somerset Ornithological Society led us on the northern path overlooking the marshes and the breach area. Unfortunately, it was a neap tide so at high water there was more mud than water and therefore not many waders had been driven off the estuary. There were still lots of good birds to see including Ruff and Redshank with a single Spotted Redshank amongst them, but these were distant birds and a scope was essential. This was a wonderful day out at this exciting new WWT site, which will adapt and change greatly over the next few years as the habitat responds to its new tidal life, slowly being colonised by salt tolerant plants. Thanks to Joe and Chloe and the two Brians for showing us around and to Nick Hawkridge for keeping the list which consisted of 48 species seen or heard. Rob Miles
With storm Barney predicted to drown us or blow us off a cliff, I rather hoped that no-one would turn up. In the event four mad people were waiting at my parking place – and six more at the official meeting place which I’d failed to notice in Club News! They were right to give it a go; apart from a couple of sharp showers, the worst weather came through only after lunch. It was mild and overcast, but mainly dry, as we walked past the cliff by the sailing club (noting two Dabchicks on the lake) and slowly on through a line of bushes heaving with thrushes and finches. The numbers flitting about and feeding on the blackberries suggested that many of them could be recent winter visitors from the continent, perhaps travelling ahead of the threatening storm. A flock of 250 Woodpigeons were also likely to be visitors passing through. From the hillside overlooking the salt marshes we counted a flock of 100 plus Lapwings and were delighted to see a late (or wintering) Common Sandpiper flitting down the pill and landing on a mud bank to provide a better view. Mute Swans and a few Redshanks moved about as the tide rose but astonishingly we failed to find a single Little Egret all morning! 15Teal sat quietly along the pill with a few Mallard. Black-headed Gull numbers were pushing a hundred but we saw only a handful of Herring and Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls. Passerines included Fieldfares and Redwings, Stonechats, at least ten Skylarks, a large flock of Linnets and some Reed Buntings. A Cetti’s Warbler sang explosively and so close to us that it made me jump. We watched a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk and some noticed a Buzzard being harassed by a Raven. Back at our starting point, we walked down to the main beach to add to our list Grey Heron, the expected Shelducks, and waders including Oystercatchers, Curlews, Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. In total, eleven walkers saw 49 species and had a better morning than we expected. (Jane, thanks for leading) Jane Cumming
This was a circular walk of about four miles, for which seven hardy souls made an appearance, even though rain was forecast for all day; in fact we had no rain whatsoever! At the start a Buzzard was heard mewing and we had good sightings of Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, and Wren, with three or four calling Nuthatches. Further on at the entrance to a field, a flock of at least 30 Chaffinches were spread across in front of us, along with Goldfinch feeding off the thistles, and a good sprinkling of Blackbirds – all male. During the walk three or four flocks of 15-20 Redwings were seen and at our coffee stop a small group of Long-tailed Tits flitted by; we also saw a Kestrel and some Starlings. To our surprise we saw both a Red Admiral and a Gatekeeper butterfly. Towards the end of the walk a Buzzard put in an appearance and a Raven was heard calling, and right at the end we were treated to a Treecreeper. Other species seen included Dunnock, House Sparrow, Herring and Lesser Black-blacked Gulls. A total of 25 species were seen or heard. (Thanks go to Geoff for leading). Geoff Harris
I had a fun visit with eleven BOC members, during which we saw some nice birds with a total of over 50 species. Sheila Ablitt spotted an adult drake Red-crested Pochard close to the boat quay by the Lodge, and we saw the adult female, found the day before, off the east end of Green Lawn as well. As we headed along the south side of the lake we spotted a Black-necked Grebe off Rugmoor Point, a group of Common Goldeneye between Rainbow and Rugmoor Points and a juvenile Greater Scaup in Wood Bay, where there was also an adult drake Ferruginous x Common Pochard hybrid. At Top End we found two Dunlin, four plus Little Egrets, two Great White Egrets and ten Bewick’s Swans. I noted that one of the adults had a darvic ring ‘white BCL’, and looking through my database, found out it was a cob named ‘Winkey’. He has been coming to the lake since 2003, first with partner ‘Tinkie’ and latterly with new mate ‘Winker’. Those were the highlights, but there were something like 5000 water birds on the lake which made for a great day’s birding. During the walk we spotted a late Migrant Hawker still on the wing; my latest record at the lake in the past is 12 November 2011. (Many thanks for leading, Nigel.) Nigel Milbourne