A breezy, sunny morning saw 13 of us head out across fields where Swallows swooped and Magpies upset the hedge occupants and a Song Thrush quickly hid from us. Along the lane a female Bullfinch dived into the hedge beside a field with neat green lines of maize appearing and numerous Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls brightly reflected the sun off their white backs. We passed the donkeys and loud Robins on Sandford Hill, and enjoyed butterflies before the trees where we encountered more Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits with a special treat of a family of Marsh Tits,( a parent and four fledglings) and a Treecreeper. Above the canopy a young raptor, possibly a Peregrine, begged for food and a Roe Deer kept stock still amongst the nearby saplings. It was camouflaged by the strong dappled sun giving its back a striped appearance. Emerging from the trees we had wide views of the Mendip Hills ahead of us and beyond Crook Peak, down to Bridgwater Bay and the distant Quantocks. We heard a faraway Cuckoo and as we descended the grassy slope, disturbed four Mistle Thrush and spied a Raven and Buzzard before crossing the yellow seas of buttercup meadows. We also came across a Green Woodpecker and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and then back near the car park found the Pied Wagtails (resident there), making a tally of 35. (Thank you for leading,Sue.) Sue Watson
A beautiful sunny day attracted 36 walkers and we hoped it would produce plenty of birds. From the car park, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were in full song. The pond had Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen. As yet, no Sand Martins are making use of the artificial nest site. The walk across the reed beds gave us Reed Bunting. The Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were remarkably quiet but did start up later. The hoped for Bearded Tits were only spotted by a lucky few, as the rest were chasing the Cuckoo and were rewarded by seeing two birds perched together. Summer visitors included Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Blackcaps, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and a very obliging Cetti’s Warbler who sat sunning itself in full view. After our picnic lunch we went to Goldcliff where we added both Avocets and Redshanks with chicks. The Marsh Harrier put in an appearance as did a Raven. Both were seen off by the adult birds. Ringed Plover and Greenshank were also in the pools and one keen spotter added a Little Ringed Plover. The few ducks around were Tufted, Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler. In all we had 58 species between the two sites and a lovely warm Spring day as a bonus. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading the walk) Margaret and Ray Bulmer
15 members met at the new RSPB car park at Ham Wall on a rather changeable day, when it was difficult to judge what to wear. It was warm in the sun, but cool when the sun went behind the clouds. For those of you who did not attend – you missed a treat! Before we left the car park we had already listed a good ten species including a Cuckoo (heard) and Hobby. Once on the main track there was a chorus of birdsong allowing plenty of practice in identifying calls and songs – Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Wren, Reed Warbler, Goldcrest amongst others. We saw a variety of ducks as we progressed to the first viewing platform, where we immediately had excellent views of two Bitterns, one chasing the other. It was assumed a male chasing a female and we were able to watch them for over ten minutes as they circled above , the ?female giving a croaking call. We then crossed to the hide and had excellent views of a male Reed Bunting singing, Hobby and Lapwing (only one or two). Overhead were many Swifts (very few House Martins & Swallows) and we had multiple sightings of Great White Egrets. We then proceeded to the new Avalon Hide seeing Great Spotted Woodpecker, Glossy Ibis and Bittern on the way. In the hide we watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker entering and emerging from the reed bed, unusual behaviour. A distant Marsh Harrier was seen. Returning to the track we saw a Cuckoo, a single Garganey, another Bittern, Marsh Harrier and a rather shivery looking Whimbrel. We stopped at the second viewing point and then proceeded back along the main track to the car park with further views of Hobby. Five members continued onto Shapwick Heath where we admired the new hide which gave good views over the scrape with nine Black- tailed Godwits and another Garganey.
Total species count was 57. Bird of the day had to be the Bittern with 13 sightings during the day, certainly a record for me! Many thanks to Mike Johnson for leading this very enjoyable walk. Sue Kempson
NB There are now onsite toilets available (open 10 am to 4pm) in the new Ham Wall car park
We set off from Snuff Mills Car Park under a broken sky which gradually became more cloudy as the morning progressed. Initially there was little to get excited about, Blackcap and Goldcrest could be heard, the River Frome hosted a solitary Heron and Mallard and a squirrel breakfasted on a bird table in an adjacent garden, oblivious to his audience. After passing through Stapleton Village and over the M32 a steep climb brought us to Purdown where we were treated to a hovering Kestrel, Swallows and a significant number of darting Swifts, not to mention stunning views over the city. After the coffee break we crossed fields containing lots of Corvids and dog walkers and on into a wood which proved to be the most productive area of the walk. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker flew across as we approached the trees. In the wood a Song Thrush sang, Coal Tit called, Greenfinches and a family of Long-tailed Tits shared the same tree and we all had a great view of a pair of Nuthatches repeated delivering food into a nesting hole (Nick pointed out that mud was clearly visible around the entrance, introduced to narrow the size). On leaving the wood a Chiffchaff showed well for some of the group. Our return to the car park took us past Duchess Pond where we added Whitethroat, Moorhen, Coot and Canada Geese. Nineteen of us were on parade and 36 species were recorded. Thanks to Rich Scantlebury for leading and for imparting his local knowledge. John Lees
The glorious sunny weather may have had something to do with the excellent turn-out of more than 20 members for this woodland and heathland walk. We set off through idyllic sunlit glades following a stream in Hodder’s Combe, picking out warbler song and watching Grey Wagtails on the water’s edge. Having separated Blackcap and Garden Warbler, we started hearing Wood Warblers as well as the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Goldcrest, Redstart and both flycatchers soon followed, and we could hear a Cuckoo for most of the morning. A large herd of Red Deer were following a skyline trail along the top of the combe. We emerged from the trees right beside song-flighting Tree Pipits, and watched Stonechats on the open gorse moorland as we tucked into our picnic lunches. Sadly, it seems that Whinchats no longer breed in the Quantocks, and Jeff had heard no recent news of Dartford Warbler or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there either. Many thanks as always to Jeff Holmes for kindly leading the walk and for sharing with us his extensive knowledge of the birds of these hills.