Three unusual birds can’t be bad!!? Eight members met the leader at the Seaton Wetlands, an extensive mosaic of habitats created specifically for wildlife watching. We walked along to Colyford Common hide (tidal saltmarsh and reed) and then back to Stafford Marsh (ponds, reeds and Stafford Brook). Ducks included Shelduck, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon. There were also Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Waders included Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Little Egret were also noted. We visited the Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh which is a saline lagoon with islands and added Little Grebe, Coot and Grey Heron to the list. The Tower Hide also at Black Marsh but with views also of the Axe Estuary produced several Common Gulls, Cormorant, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan and a very obliging Kingfisher on the rail outside. We then drove to Budleigh Salterton where we walked along the River Otter- there we added Glossy Ibis. On to Mud Bank Hide at Exmouth which overlooks the River Exe where, despite the very choppy waters, there were many Wigeon and Pintail and even a Bahama Pintail. Turnstones were present on the beach and across on the mudbank could be seen many Dark-bellied Brent Geese at a distance. Some of us went onto Bowling Green Marsh hide where we added Shoveler and Greylag Geese. Two members went on with the leader to the viewing platform adding Black Swan, Red-breasted Merganser, 100+ Avocets, Golden Plover, Knot, Stock Doves, Fieldfare and Redwing. Unfortunately, the Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Cattle Egrets seen earlier in the week failed to show. Altogether, about 55 species were seen, on a good day, with sunny spells and a couple of light showers and a northerly wind. Thanks to Gordon for leading and sharing his local knowledge.
Fourteen eager birders, including two guests, met at the car park near the sailing club in spite of a poor weather forecast. We set off for a walk around the lake stopping at the club launch area for a good look across the water. A Little Egret danced past us and several Moorhens pottered about. Great Crested Grebes were quite close. The sole intrepid ‘scope bearer, Rob Hargreaves, enabled examination of the raft of Coots and the large number of Tufted Duck for anything special, and a Yellow-legged Gull was spotted among the other gulls (yes, for once it had truly yellow legs!). Showery rain didn’t stop us walking on, hearing and seeing the usual small birds in the trees and bushes. Looking across the open fields a large flock of winter thrushes was spotted in the distance. A newly turned field produced a large number of Pied Wagtails, with quite a few Chaffinch hopping around the base of the pylon. The tree-lined path at the bottom of the lake gave us groups of Long-tailed Tits, a Bullfinch calling, Coal Tits and a Treecreeper. We were all quite damp by now and happy to shelter under trees for our coffee stop, where we were pleased to see two Jays (probably caching food) and a Song Thrush perched on the fence, among other birds. At this point our leader decided to forego the pleasures of the extremely muddy path through the woods in favour of returning between lakes. Trees and bushes here gave us Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinch, a flock of Goldfinches, good sightings of Redwing, a fly-past Mistle Thrush and our only raptor of the day, a Kestrel. The small private fishing lake gave us a very clean, bright Mute Swan – a shame it turned out to be a dummy! Court Lake was more productive with Gadwall, Pochard and Mallard to add to our duck list, Little Grebe and a flighty Green Sandpiper. Further along Rob’s ‘scope helped us obtain a good view of the single Whooper Swan, an exciting find. At noon, exactly as forecast, heavy rain came in; our walk was curtailed and we beat a hasty retreat to our cars, or in our brave leader’s case, motorbike, but it had been a good walk with around 40 species seen. Thanks to Alistair for leading the walk. Anne Crowe
Arrived at Herriotts Bridge to find a new member, Pete, had found two Goosanders. Before I could get to see them a rumbling noise could be heard approaching from the Mendips – quite intimidating. As it got louder we saw this dark line bearing down on us. A flock of 150 Canada Geese came in close over our heads, half turning to the lake, and the rest landing on the pool – a very memorable sight. As we all gathered we noted a Kingfisher in the channel, 13 Pintails on the pool, two Dunlins by the lake, and Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard. Herons Green first, as there were large numbers of Great White Egrets reported but to my surprise there were only seven present: a Green Sandpiper in the corner was hard to see and only two Black-tailed Godwits. Later we started finding Common Gulls, then eleven Goosanders, a Kestrel, and lastly an immature Yellow-legged Gull. Paying for a permit was not popular so we headed round to Hollowbrook: another Chiffchaff in the woods, two Buzzards flew over and, at the half-finished new Bernard King hide, we found eight Goldeneye and 226 Cormorant in a line, off Denny Island. At lunch at the Dam another three Goldeneye were diving, but no Egyptian Geese. Finally to the Bristol Water hide at Stratford which was pretty full – a good sign. Parades of Wigeon and a Dunlin, two drake Red-crested Pochards in a group of three out in the middle, with more Pintails and gulls. Next was a search for a Jack Snipe in the reeds below – difficult but a Snipe was found. And then, as we got our eyes in, a Snipe deep in the reeds was bobbing up and down. The stripes on its head and short bill confirmed a Jack Snipe. To finish off the day a Water Rail paraded along the front of the reeds and a Bearded Tit called. Thirteen participants enjoyed the day. (Very many thanks, again, to Robert for leading this field meeting)
Starting below the Bird in Hand pub we went up to the cycle track, where the first arrivals caught sight of a Kingfisher. Walking west along the cycle track Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were found. After 400 yards we turned into the fields along a path with six rickety stiles. Large numbers of Blackbirds and a Redwing flitted along the hedgerows. At the grass airfield there were a few Pied Wagtails with Meadow Pipits mixed in among the sheep. The more we looked the more we saw, 36 Pied Wagtails and 15 Meadow Pipits. Then, in the trees behind, large flocks of Goldfinches, and a Bullfinch and Redwings across the skyline – all so busy. What a buzz. No Red-legged Partridges in the next fields but a Pheasant ran off. Coffee break at Avon Farm and a flock of 19 Longtailed Tits passed through. Down the avenue of trees we heard Green Woodpecker and then photographed a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a treetop. Down by Swineford Lock were four Moorhens, two Swans, and another Kingfisher, and finally two Mallards. Walking downriver a Grey Heron flew over and then another Great Spotted Woodpecker, which turned into three at once. Finally a raptor passed over, a Buzzard. The last fields on the walk back above the cycle track revealed a flock of several hundred Goldfinches and 300 Woodpigeons – winter magic. In the last copse Jean Oliver found a male Bullfinch. The best walk I’ve had there for some time. 18 walkers and 38 species. (Thank you Robert for leading this walk) Robert Hargreaves
Fourteen club members joined me on a dry but quite cool day with a brisk NW wind. We started by walking to the ‘viz mig’ spot of Wains Hill, but this produced only a few Chaffinch and Winter thrushes. The loop around the headland was generally very quiet with little of note. We spied a few Redshank, Curlew, Wigeon and a lone Little Egret on Blackstone Rocks below us. Proceeding down to Clevedon Pill we watched a Rock Pipit before walking to the Blind-Yeo sluice; alas, there were no birds on the Yeo. A Peregrine drifted by putting up most of the Gulls and a few Lapwing. At Blackstone Rocks two male Stonechats buzzed around us for a while. The walk down to the Kenn produced small numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipits and Linnet. A Buzzard did a good impression of a chicken, sticking out it’s white rump as it sat in a bush. At the Kenn there were a few Dunlin and Curlew along with Redshank. The best find of the day was here, a female Scaup. The walk back to the cars was uneventful. A total of 40 species for the morning. Thanks to those who joined me. (thanks also to Jason for leading) Jason Williams