It was an extremely hot day with temperatures up to 29C and sun in a clear blue sky. Consequently, there were fewer walkers than usual and we walked the circuit in reverse so that the open fields were tackled first downhill. We heard three Yellowhammer and saw one in an Ash tree. The village held the usual House Sparrow and Jackdaw and several houses were adorned with House Martin nests. At the Litton reservoirs we enjoyed welcome shade and we saw a pair of Mute Swans, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Cormorant, two Grey Herons, and a Little Egret. Both Grey and Pied Wagtails flitted around. The only ducks were Mallard and Tufted. Two Common Buzzards flew over calling. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still singing. We saw Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits. There were many Dragonflies and Damselflies. Other birds of note were a Starling nesting in a hole in the wall of a house, Song Thrush and two Mistle Thrush, with at least eight Wren singing. 37 species were recorded in total. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading, Ed) Sue Prince
With little or no sun, it was hot and humid all day, as one guy we met said ‘the horse flies are biting and drawing blood’. The climb out of the car park allowed all 17 to see and hear many Jackdaw, all busy hoovering up some, but not all, of the wretched flies. The first Whitethroat was heard and for the impatient – not seen, while those at the rear had good views. A gang of four Magpies where ‘chacking’ and ‘cracking’ over something, unseen by us, in the grass. The hasty song of Dunnock, the tumbling refrains of a Garden Warbler, the first distant song of a Skylark, the near drowning out sound of two Song Thrushes and the tinkling of a couple of Linnets took us to the start of Velvet Bottom itself. The sharp eyed caught the quick drop, from hovering, of a Kestrel, and the keen eared, the sound of Coal Tit and the first Willow Warbler singing his mournful song. As we wandered along, the hedge line was temporary home to more Whitethroat, a Blackcap, some Robins, the first family of Great Tits and four Swallows who went skimming past. As we neared the coffee stop a pair of Bullfinches flew across, the one and only Swift slalomed away and the obligatory Buzzard circled. Above our usual seating area, where the bushes began, we found two Redstarts – both juvenile, who were happily foraging, so very close to us, and reducing the biting fly population in the process. As we entered Long Wood the call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker chipped out, the ‘ooh-ut ooh-ut’ of a Stock Dove was heard and the first Chiffchaff called. We braved the nasty-bitey flies all across the downs to the aerials; we added to the count of Linnets then finally back to the cars, with Goldfinch bringing the tally to 34 and a shocking number of bites. Many thanks to Geoff for leading us on this wonderful walk. Nick Hawkridge
After a pleasant journey spotting numerous Buzzards, several Kestrels, and of course the occasional Red Kite as we entered Wales, we arrived at Gronant near Prestatyn. Here on the beach is a breeding colony of Little Terns but sadly only the day before, due to a severe gale causing a tidal surge, the colony had been devastated. There were plenty of Terns to be seen in the air and an army of volunteers who were repairing the security fences. They reported that there were a few surviving chicks and some of the pairs had started nest building again so hopefully all is not lost. Skylarks were much in evidence on the surroundings dunes and Shelduck, Mallard, Moorhens and Little Egret were seen on the marsh. A Marsh Harrier, not common here, was also spotted. Those lucky enough to have good hearing were entertained by a Grasshopper Warbler. Many orchids were among the flowers blooming. We then continued our journey along the North Wales coast, the Menai Straits and finally to our destination near Holyhead.
We woke to heavy rain on Saturday but dressed for the weather and headed to South Stack. Here a gale was blowing and the foghorn was wailing in the low cloud. We took the path along the edge of the cliff but there was no sign of Choughs. The writer, for one, wished she was wearing lead boots to keep her tethered to the ground. It was not ideal birdwatching weather with rain on spectacles, binoculars and the windows of Elins Tower. Nevertheless, a good bird list soon built up including Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. Manx Shearwaters were also seen. The first Choughs were seen by those who headed towards the cafe for a comfort stop. We descended the steps towards the lighthouse battling against a wind that felt like a hurricane but were rewarded by the sighting of a Puffin. The rain then started to come down more heavily and we retreated to the cafe for a welcome coffee. Hearing reports of a Snowy Owl on Anglesey we made enquiries about its location and set off to look for it. Amlwch Port proved to be an attractive sheltered spot for birds and birders to eat their lunch. Sadly it was to be a ‘it was here yesterday’ occasion. However, we were rewarded by good sightings of about six Harbour Porpoises just offshore. Our next stop was Cemlyn Bay where there was much activity in the tern colony. It was a good opportunity to sort out identification of Common and Arctic terms as they were here side by side. Sandwich Terns had their own territory and were present in good numbers. Oystercatchers were also breeding there and two Curlew flew over. A female Red-breasted Merganser fished on the pond near the car park. Seals were singing on the rocks towards the Wherries.
The next day started very well with a flyover of about four Choughs before we had left the car park of our accommodation. Holyhead harbour was our next stop where we quickly spotted Black Guillemots. We had excellent views of at least six birds including one in its nest hole in the harbour wall. A male Red-breasted Merganser was seen in the distance and more seals. After a drive to the North East corner of the island via a very attractive Beaumaris and coast road we arrived at Penmon point opposite Puffin Island. Here in lovely weather was a raft of Eider off shore and Cormorants and Shags for us to practice identification. More Harbour Porpoises went by. After lunch we strolled through the sheltered clifftop habitat and soon saw Bullfinches, Rock Pipits and Whitethroat and heard Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. We next headed to the South Coast at Malltreath, returning to the wet and windy weather. After an excellent view of a Sparrowhawk with prey we saw a Little Egret, Ravens, Moorhen, Oystercatcher and heard Reed and Sedge Warbler.
On Monday morning we reluctantly left our excellent accommodation at Blackthorn farm and travelled south through lovely scenery. We arrived at the Osprey nest site at Cors Dyfed just as the rain started making viewing through the glass of the treetop hide less than satisfactory. There were big screens showing live footage which were the clearest pictures I have ever seen. Some of our telescopes were set up where there was no glass and good views were had of both adult birds. We ate our lunch in hides by the bird feeders and saw Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Coal Tit and brightly coloured Redpoll. A Snipe flew over. We then moved on to Bwylch Nant yr Arian Kite feeding station. Red Kites were already circling overhead waiting for the three o’clock tea time. The attractive lake gave us Tufted Duck and Little Grebe to add to the list. At 15:00 precisely the feeding frenzy started and what a sight it was with around 200 birds gliding in to snatch a morsel of the meat provided. It was an amazing finale to a great weekend. 93 bird species were recorded. Many thanks to Judy for making all the arrangements and to our two leaders and stalwart drivers Alastair and Keith. Thanks also to Jeff for sharing his detailed knowledge of all forms of wildlife. Margaret Gorely
It was a rather overcast morning and a little cooler than the previous few days as 16 of us set off from The Compton Inn. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, Collared Dove, Swallows and Jackdaws (45 for the whole walk). House Martins were absent from their usual haunt near to their nesting sites but we did see a good number (28) just outside the village. Swifts were also absent and, rather surprisingly we did not see any throughout the walk. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we were unable to find a Dipper, one of our target species for the walk, but we had a good view of a Grey Wagtail. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Wren. We climbed a steep path through the woods and then crossed a meadow but we did not see as many butterflies as usual, probably due to the lack of sunshine. Song Thrush, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard and Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to the list. We heard another Chiffchaff and eventually saw it singing from the top of a tall tree. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. There were some beautiful damselflies over the river and a family of Mallards were seen. We also had good views of Pied Wagtails, a Linnet and a Mistle Thrush. We found a nice spot by the river for our coffee break and then continued on towards Publow. We heard a Lesser Whitethroat but, although we spent some time trying to locate it in the gorse, we failed to see it. As we started the walk back along the other side of the River Chew we spotted a Grey Heron. We could still hear the Lesser Whitethroat and, at the same time we also heard a (Common) Whitethroat and managed to see it. We saw two Ravens and we finished our species count with Blackcap, Pheasant and Bullfinch A total of 36 species were seen or heard. Thanks very much to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. (Thanks to Mike for leading, Ed). Mike Landen
On a fine, warm evening eight of us met at Cannop Ponds. It was good to welcome new member John Dix, joining us for his first field meeting with the Club. The main theme here was “babies”; a Mandarin duck managing her brood of eight; Mute Swans with two cygnets; two Coot families; and families of Grey and Pied Wagtails. Star billing went to a very young Dipper, posing obligingly for some time. Most of us had never before seen a Dipper baby (except on Springwatch). Other birds included a handsome Little Grebe in fine summer plumage. We moved to Speech House Woodland car park for our walk up to Crabtree Hill, an easy and pleasant walk in the evening sun. Along the grassy path through the scrub on the lower slopes we were delighted by quite a few Tree Pipits singing and parachuting to the tree tops, the bright Stonechats and lovely red Linnets. A black boar crossed our path further up. At the top we took up our usual position to wait for the headline bird. We heard the calls of the Canada Geese flying in to the lake. While still light at 21:07 we heard our first churring – Nightjars were definitely around! Another wait, during which we were entertained by the songs of a Song Thrush and two Garden Warblers, was rewarded by much churring and spectacular flights of Nightjars. Some were close enough, after swooping over our heads, for us to see their white markings. One took up position on a dead branch (same tree as last year) so we could see that characteristic silhouette. In the middle of all this a Woodcock flew over, flying long enough for all except our unfortunate leader to get a good sighting. As it grew dark, having had plenty of excitement, we set off back down the hill. Suddenly another Woodcock flew over. This time our leader saw it, happy to see her first in ten years. We heard more Nightjars along the way churring and wing clapping. Our descent in the dark was enlivened by bats (being detected with a gadget) and the odd toad to be avoided. We knew we would be late home when we returned to our cars at around 22:30 but all felt we had enjoyed a truly thrilling evening with more than 30 species. Thanks to our leader Jane Cumming. Anne Crowe