Cheered by the singing of Skylarks, we huddled together at the golf course café trying to keep out of the bitter wind while waiting for all 25 walkers to arrive. We then set off at a brisk pace for Leigh Woods and some shelter. Robin, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Blackbird and Blackcap sang as we walked among the Bluebells, and Jay, Great, Coal and Blue Tits put in an appearance. There were plenty of corvids about as we made our way to the coffee stop – there’s obviously a rookery nearby. A Greenfinch called, two Ravens flew over, and a pair of Buzzards turned up. On to Abbot’s Pool, passing a well-stocked birdfeeder busy with tits and Nuthatch. At the Pool everyone saw the Moorhen and Mallard but, sadly, only the very keen-eyed spotted a Pied Flycatcher fly over the water. Back to Ashton Court and a short walk back to the warmth of the cars through grassland dotted with Green-veined Orchids. A delightful ending to a walk filled with blossom, Bluebells and birdsong – Skylarks still filling the air with their song – and a total of 30 species. (Many thanks to Brenda for leading this walk.)
Nineteen of us set off on a bright yet mainly overcast morning, leaving the car park meeting point to the sound of both Blackbird and Song Thrush. The road down towards the village gave us good views of Long-tailed Tits, a male Blackcap and an obliging Nuthatch that was feeding along the top of a horizontal bough. A House Martin passed overhead. On the steep climb through the woods we heard Nuthatch, a sound that continued to accompany us throughout the morning. We emerged in Upper Castle Combe where two rookeries (or one split rookery) hosted some 16 active nests. We then walked through quiet lanes where we saw three Buzzards soaring, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, both male and female Blackcaps (three in one tree) and the first Swallow of the morning. In the middle of an adjacent field five roe deer relaxed, eyeing us warily. Some of the group diverted to a newly created pond, which held a Little Grebe as well as Mallard, Canada Geese and a Moorhen. Skylarks were heard and subsequently spotted. After the coffee break we made the long descent towards the village though the valley with its varying landscape. On this stretch we added Mistle Thrush, both Green and Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer and Kestrel; a Cuckoo and Raven were heard. Back in Castle Combe village a Goldcrest showed well as did a calling Coal Tit. There was lots of vibrant Bluebells along the way but not enough sun to encourage the butterflies. Back in the car park a Song Thrush foraged on the grass verge, exactly where it had been when we left three hours earlier. In total some 45 species were recorded. Thanks to Dave for leading this very pleasant and always rewarding walk. John Lees
In the car park a Goldfinch was “wall-creeping” under a window ledge, picking off the spider webs for nest making, with Greenfinch and Robin about. The walk started on the south side and wound round the park clockwise. We began by walking down to the junction of the motorway and river. In the playing fields 40-odd corvids rummaged with three Starlings, a Stock Dove flew over and the first of ten Great Tits was heard and seen. Up above circled 33 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Herring Gulls. An unseen Green Woodpecker teased us with its ‘yaffling’ somewhere on the woody hillside, with Blackbird, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, singing spring Wrens, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit. In the tall trees at the bottom, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen by all. The allotments across the river gave Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Song Thrush. Near the lake a Goldcrest’s song caught our attention swiftly followed by two Stock Doves hiding in the branches – a treat to see them so close. On the lake a Grey Heron fished among the urban waterfowl, with a couple of Muscovy Ducks. Two Collared Doves cooed and a Kingfisher flashed by, too fast for many. At this point a group photo was taken, now posted on the BOC’s Facebook. In the dried rushes was a Comma butterfly, with Peacock, Brimstone and Orange Tip all about. The return walk brought two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Jay and a couple of House Sparrows. It was a glorious sunny day, and very enjoyable. Thanks to Richard Scantlebury for leading, and Nick Hawkridge for the count. Robert Hargreaves
Nine members met on a sunny but gusty morning for a walk around the high downland in a quest for Ring Ouzel. In the absence of a designated leader, Annie, the only person who had visited the area previously, led the walk. We were slow setting off from the car park with golfers teeing off over the car park entrance and in the direction of our path. Almost immediately we were lucky enough to see a Red Kite being mobbed by a crow. As we walked down an enclosed path bordered by hedge and small trees we saw a variety of birds including Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and two Swallows. As we proceeded we had splendid views of Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook and a Raven. Once we reached the Washpool Valley we scanned carefully for possible Ring Ouzel or indeed any other spring migrants – but without success. However we did see Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard. We also heard a Willow Warbler and Goldcrest. As it was such a lovely day the whole area was busy with families walking and lots of dog walkers and this probably didn’t help our search. It was a very windy walk over the higher downland back to the car park. Thank you to Annie for stepping up to lead the group. Sue Kempson
On a beautiful sunny, warm morning 26 members set off for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Recent changes to the scheme have seen the sowing of more wildflower meadows to enhance the insect populations for birds and also to provide seed later in the year. As we set off we saw Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a Pied Wagtail around the farm buildings. As walked across the fields we saw two Buzzards in the distance, a Kestrel, a solitary House Martin passed by and a Green Woodpecker was heard. The farm always has a good crop of Yellowhammers and this year was no exception and we had excellent views of 19 taking advantage of feed on a farm track accompanied by 25 Linnets and a single Brambling. As we skirted woodland a Nuthatch sang in the distance along with competing Blackcap. As we started back to the farm on the quiet lane a Jay was spotted and we had fine views of three Willow Warblers in the hedgerow. The walk ended with a Barn Swallow swerving between houses in the village as we approached the farmyard. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and for arranging a lift for those who wanted to avoid the walk up the hill to Burnett. In all we saw 38 species on an enjoyable walk. Mark Watson
Fourteen members met in the National Trust car park on a rather windy and cloudy start to the day. Early arrivals were rewarded with views of Raven, Kestrel, Swallows and the first of many sightings of Chiffchaff. Skylarks were singing in the adjacent fields. As we started our walk to Middle Hope we sighted a group of 14 Wheatears. On the rather exposed ground we saw a variety of birds including Meadow Pipit, many Blackbirds (sadly no Ring Ouzels amongst them), Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit, Stonechat and Chaffinch. As we continued our walk overlooking the sloping coastal edge we had excellent views of a pair of Blackcaps and many sightings of both Sand Martin and Swallow. Once we descended to the more sheltered coastal paths we spent some time observing a number of very active Chiffchaffs and Jane was able to identify a Willow Warbler. By now the sun was appearing and the light was vastly improved. We saw Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, more Blackcaps, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and a Cormorant. One keen-eyed member spotted a House Martin amongst more Swallows and Sand Martins. Half the group went on to walk out to Sand Point and saw a pair of Oystercatchers, a Curlew, Mallard, a male Bullfinch, Rock Pipit, Buzzard and a male Redstart. The earlier returnees had to content themselves with a Jay. Overall, a lovely walk with excellent scenic views in pleasant company and with good birding, 36 species in all. Many thanks to Jane for leading.
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