A small but select group gathered in the car park of the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve in the presence of singing Chiffchaff and Greenfinch. As we made our way to the reserve centre we had the strident anthem of multiple Wrens & Cetti’s Warblers. The forecast of wind and rain proved to be correct as our group headed to the foreshore and lighthouse. It appeared that most passerines were sheltering from the torrid elements while their braver compatriots Pochards, Coots, Tufted Ducks & Little Grebes could be seen riding out the rough waters of the pools. Amongst the Curlews on the shoreline a smaller curlew-like bird was discovered and identified as a Whimbrel. While we sheltered from the inclement weather Teal, Cormorant and Canadian Geese were seen from the hide as well as some unidentified passerines. There was a debate over the parentage of a possible hybrid duck. Was it a Scaup mixed with Tufted or Gadwall duck? We retreated to the visitor centre. On route we found a Goldcrest, Marsh Harrier and another Chiffchaff. Coffee and cakes were on the agenda as we watched small flocks of Greenfinch and Reed Bunting, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Little Grebe demonstrating how small it was, almost under our feet. As the precipitation ceased and the outlook improved the group headed to Goldcliff. The stars of the afternoon were a Spotted Redshank, unfortunately not in summer plumage, and an elegant Greenshank. The supporting cast included Wigeon, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Shelduck, and Shovelers. The chorus lines of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were disturbed by a maundering Marsh Harrier, but practice was quickly resumed although the sound system seemed muffled probably due to the high winds. Thanks to Nick for leading this field trip in challenging conditions with nearly 50 species seen, identified & recorded.
On a mild and sunny day, 25 walkers set out across the Doynton farmland to take a northern route into the Golden Valley. The youngest of us by far was a journalist-in-training from UWE, tasked with interviewing us about our choice of an official UK bird between the suggested options of Robin, Wren or Kingfisher. I hope he wasn’t too bored!
Since I was last in this area, two of the quarries have filled up with water providing some interesting new habitat. It seems likely that breeding will be attempted by the pair of Greylags, two pairs of Dabchicks and two pairs of Coots that have taken up residence there – new birds for the site list, I’m sure. The older inhabitants, Raven and Peregrine, were both on station and showed nicely. If that Peregrine isn’t deaf it must have nerves of steel, as it completely ignored a large digger trundling around on the bank only about 20 yards above its perch. Familiarity breeds indifference?
Other birds of interest included a pair of Mistle Thrushes, so large and grey compared with the Song Thrush; at least four singing Chiffchaffs which were probably new arrivals; a Blackcap in close proximity to a fat-ball feeder who had probably wintered there; also Buzzard, Jay, Goldcrest and Meadow Pipit to add to the usual field and woodland species. Sadly, any Dipper on the river must have fled long before we all tramped over its bridge. It was a lovely early-spring morning, and thanks to Margaret for showing us some new footpaths through a beautiful rural landscape. Jane Cumming
A new walk in warm spring sunshine, vocal lambs, Celandines and Primroses, plenty of bird-life – truly glorious! Led by David Tombs, 25 of us set off from opposite the Village Hall just as the sun was breaking through the mist. Our departure was marked by the busy, noisy occupants of the Rookery in the trees above. Some were still repairing their nests; others might already have been sitting on eggs. After crossing the playing field, we entered the wide valley of the Doncombe Brook, having already seen a flock of 150 Common Gulls wheeling high above, as well as Long-tailed Tit, a flock of Chaffinches in a ploughed field, one Buzzard sitting in a tree and another Buzzard calling above us. As we entered the edge of Cloud Wood we heard Skylark, then Nuthatch, and noted Goldcrest, Wren, Pheasant and Magpie. At coffee break, before we entered Marshfield Wood, we saw a Kestrel being mobbed by a Crow while a Buzzard circled nearby. In the wood, a pair of Ravens were calling, and Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard. Back near the village, Jackdaw, Bullfinch, Jay and Yellowhammer were seen. Then, in the churchyard, came what for some was the star sighting: a female Grey Wagtail seeking insects on the church roof. As it posed obligingly, revelling in the sunshine, we admired its bright yellow markings which showed so well against the roof tiles. Species recorded, 37. Thank you, David, for finding and leading the walk – we hope it will become a regular. John Beaven
A group of 25 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful morning. Beneath the hedgerows and along the banks the early flowers of spring, the celandines, daffodils and primroses, provided welcome splashes of colour and the Stanton Drew stone circle gave us an historical theme. We were quickly treated to the sounds of many birds including Robins, House Sparrows, Great Tits and Wrens. This continued throughout the morning. We passed a garden which had some bird feeders one of which looked rather strange as it consisted of a long string to which was attached a quarter of a red cabbage about 18 inches above the ground. Having failed to think of any birds that might feed on red cabbage we then saw the chickens! We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and then spotted a flock of about 80 Starlings flying over. Later we saw another flock of about 30. Chiffchaff were either seen or heard and Coal Tit was added to our list. Small flocks of Common Gulls and Goldfinches of 19 and 35 respectively were also seen. A small number of Fieldfares and Redwings probably on their way north were in the nearby trees. We climbed Knowle Hill to gain a splendid view of Chew Valley Lake and on the way down we heard the sounds of a flock of birds in a large ash tree and were surprised to find there were over 60 Linnets. We saw a Kestrel mobbing a Buzzard and soon after some had a fleeting view of a Sparrowhawk. We passed some farm buildings and had nice views of four Yellowhammers on top of the barns. We had a total of 39 species and, thanks to Nick Hawkridge’s splendid record keeping, a total of almost 500 birds. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and many thanks to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk. Mike Landen
On a blustery morning 21 of us donned our waterproofs for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. As we set off we saw Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not far down the track we saw our first Yellowhammer and a little further on a flock of 20 took off from a field margin planted for winter feed. As we walked downhill our first Buzzard was spotted against the blue sky, the threatening rain clouds having departed. We walked through a small wood in the hope of seeing Woodcock that are there but most were disappointed; a splinter group of four who walked the field adjacent to the wood were however rewarded with a sight of one flushed downhill by the rest of us. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen in small numbers on several occasions along with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. We spotted a couple of hares in different parts of the walk – a bit early for a boxing display though – as well as Roe Deer. Several of the meadows we walked through have been sown with extensive wild flower mixes to provide food for insects and birds and will no doubt give an excellent visual display in a couple of months or so. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and John Paget for providing a lift for those who wanted one up the hill. In all we saw 39 species.