Ten members gathered at the Uphill Boatyard, on what turned out to be a bright sunny morning – despite the earlier rain and the forecast of more wet. We set off along a new tarmac path towards and past the lake where we saw a couple of Mallard. Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls were overhead along with some noisy Jackdaws. A Sparrowhawk was seen flying overhead by some and Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch flitted about in the scrub that has been somewhat reduced in extent by the resurfaced path. A Greenfinch was heard but not seen whilst a Little Egret flew across the marsh. From the hill overlooking the marsh numerous Mute Swans and Shelducks were on the fields across the Axe, along with Teal and Gadwall. It was around high water when a flock of Redshank moved along the edge of the river and a solitary Oystercatcher foraged along the river edge. We were treated to an excellent view of a Stonechat perched on a fence post and the sound and sight of Skylarks high above and an obliging individual that lingered on a tussock. On the Bleadon Marsh we had clear views of two smart male Reed Buntings, one close by on the reeds. A Kestrel flew overhead in the distance and a Buzzard was mobbed by two Carrion Crows. As we returned to the car park a flock of about 50 Linnet flew by. The rain held off and the sun shone for most of the walk and we had a total of 33 species. Thanks to Jane for leading and organising the weather!
Thirty Three people gathered by Lansdown Racecourse above Bath on a still chilly day, to walk the high flat top and wooded escarpment sides of this Cotswold upland, with leader Jane Cumming hoping for late Golden Plovers and early Wheatears. As we set off, Skylarks and a Kestrel flew above the racecourse turf and a Mistle Thrush sat quietly on a roadside post. A large ploughed field hid a flock of 60 or more Chaffinches (mostly female) quietly feeding with a few Linnets. Adjacent woods held 20 plus Fieldfare, three or four Nuthatches (heard tapping), Goldcrest, Jay, Song Thrush and at the very far corner a Treecreeper. We entered Pipley Wood, a muddy tangled woodland on the hill slope with fallen trees left untouched. We saw three Siskins in low trees, more Nuthatches, and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The wood opened to a magnificent view northwest across Bristol to the Severn. Buzzards patrolled the valley below, and hearing a Raven we saw two black birds on the flat top of majestic cedar that we thought might be Ravens nesting. We climbed out of the wood to meadows running south along the escarpment edge with views down to the Avon and Keynsham, Buzzards and Green Woodpeckers calling and flocks of wheeling Jackdaws. Back on top, with Kelston Tump and Beckford’s Tower in view, the large ploughed fields still didn’t reveal Golden Plover nor did their drystone boundary walls show any Wheatear. But Skylarks and their song surrounded us as we walked back across the racecourse, with the cawing of Rooks, all busy excavating the fields and reminding us it is spring. A total of 35 species, and thanks to Jane for leading.
16 people met at New Fancy View on a beautiful sunny spring-like day. However, our arrival followed that of a large birding group from Gloucestershire. We amicably decided that the viewpoint was not big enough for both groups and so we left them to it and proceeded to Speech House. Walking to Crabtree Hill we were serenaded by Siskin, Dunnock, Nuthatch and a variety of tits, Coal being the most common. We had good views of all – as well as a Buzzard perched low in the trees. Arriving at Crabtree Hill we had excellent views of the Great Grey Shrike perched right on top of a tree and good views of a group of Stonechats. We continued on, in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but without success, sighting a single Great Spotted Woodpecker. On our return walk we had further views of the shrike and Ravens. We did meet the Gloucestershire bird group who gleefully described their wonderful views of Goshawk display when they arrived at the viewpoint. Lunch at Cannop Pond added Mandarin Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, and Grey Wagtail to our list. Marsh Tits were seen on the feeders. We proceeded to the stone quarry in a further attempt to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but with no joy, but had lots of woodland bird activity. At 1500 hrs we were back at New Fancy where we had more lizard than bird activity and no sign of Goshawk – apparently all the activity had been mid-morning. Some members finished the day at Parkend and had perfect views of a Hawfinch. Despite the absence of Goshawk and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, this was a very enjoyable day. Thanks to Jane for leading.
On a dry and sunny but cool, breezy morning, twelve people made the journey to Wareham Forest and met our leader for the walk – Ian Alexander of Natural England who knows the forest area well. Once assembled we saw Siskin, Stonechat and Mistle Thrush in the trees near Sherford Bridge and as we moved on towards a more open area of heath we passed Redwing, Goldfinch and Green Woodpecker among the trees. As we emerged onto the heath above Morden Bog, Moorhen and Mallard were on The Old Decoy Pond and we heard and saw four Curlews. As we walked slowly on, Dartford Warblers were heard and eventually we got good views of four or five birds on the gorse. Ian told us that earlier in the week he’d seen Woodlarks here but alas we did not hear or see them – the wind was cold and quite strong which probably kept them silent and down. We moved on into a delightful area of mature deciduous trees where a house once stood. Here we heard and saw more Goldcrest, numerous Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a Peregrine overhead and a passing Great Spotted Woodpecker. As we moved on, a Crossbill sat for some time on the top of a conifer giving good views; it eventually moved and, though we could hear it, we did not see it again. We continued our quest across open heath for more Dartford Warblers which we heard but the hoped for Woodlark was absent. On our return to the cars we saw Buzzard, several Greenfinch, Meadow Pipits, both Mistle and Song Thrush and heard a Raven. We decided to move on to Oakhill for lunch and then to see if the Great Grey Shrike reported there was about. Once again we were out of luck but did find a Grey Heron and a Treecreeper. After our return to the cars, Ian left with our thanks for an interesting morning enhanced by his local knowledge. Some of the party then moved onto Middlebere Farm and were rewarded with some excellent views of a Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel and a large flock of Brent Geese (800 plus) grazing a field on the way to the hide. Four Spoonbills were feeding along with Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, a solitary Dunlin, and a likewise lonely Grey Plover. On the walk back to the car a Stonechat appeared along with more Dartford Warblers. An enjoyable day out, with 52 species noted. Mark Watson
The arrangement to start at Parkend at 1000 hrs was all rather last minute; however, it was rewarded with sightings of a couple of Hawfinch, which was brilliant. Finally getting to New Fancy View, a little after our time, we made the party up to a dozen. As we walked onto the viewing platform, the sun emerged, which prompted the Goshawk to fly; this was very gratifying, it being so early in their courting season. Ravens appeared, a couple of Buzzards circled, Song and Mistle Thrush sang, some Coal Tits called and a Great Spotted Woodpecker gave a couple of ‘chip chips’. We drove to Speech House, parked, and wandered down to the Beechenhurst picnic site where we had some nice views of Nuthatch on the way and most had views of Treecreeper. We flushed some Redwing, and as we walked back, a couple of Jays cackled. A pleasant lunch in the sun at Cannop Pond allowed us to study Marsh Tit and one Mandarin Duck. It was a pleasure to walk round all the ponds, with possibly an extra 20 odd Mandarin of both sexes, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, and some gorgeously coloured Little Grebe. At the end of the ponds the feeders were well stocked and had a couple of Siskin a-dangle, along with many of the usual tit species. At the run-off sluice, a pair of Grey Wagtails was in their usual place (must be a nest site), and at the finish more sightings of the Marsh Tit. We did try again for better views of the Hawfinch at Parkend at the end of day, but nothing doing. A total count of 39 was a good tally for the day. (Very many thanks Nick).