Thirty club members travelled down to Devon for ourannual walk down the River Exe. On arriving at our drop-off spot at Exminster, we found that many of the fields on the RSPB reserve were flooded due to the recent heavy rainfall in Devon, but we made our way down the lane (through the flooded road) to theTurf Hotel at Powderham. Many wildfowl were seen on our way down: Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese. A couple of members had a Water Rail walk across a gateway as they were looking into the fields, then we picked out a Peregrine sitting on the nearby pylon watching the prey below. Waders included many Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plover and Oystercatchers. Some Redwing and Fieldfare were still in the fields with Cetti’s Warbler singing in the hedgerow. Brent Geese were in large numbers although a good search failed to locate the reported Black Brant. A coastguard helicopter flew over and the geese took to the air flying over us calling -what a splendid sight and sound. At the Turf Hotel, even though we were an hour after high tide the river was still very high, presumably flood water making its way down-river, which meant no Avocets could be located. They were probably sitting on Bowling Green Marsh on theother side of the river. We did however pick up Red-breasted Merganser and Turnstone, and our walk down to Powderham church to meet the coach did produce Stonechat, Little Egret and Buzzard. Having had lunch we moved on to Dawlish Warren where we found Common Scoter, Guillemot and many Great Crested Grebe on the sea. Moving on to Warren Point and the shelter of the hide we picked out Grey Plover, many more Red-breasted Merganser, Slavonian Grebe, Shag, Stonechat and Linnets. On our coach trip back homea few lucky members on the right side of the coach had views of a Barn Owl quartering fields on the Powderham estate. My thanks to all who travelled. The weather was kind – dry, sunny although cool – and it was an enjoyable day’s birding with a count of around 70 species. (Thanks to Gordon for leading.) Gordon Youdale
Thirteen members met at Greylake on a cold but fine and dry morning. In the car park we had a good start, immediately seeing Dunnock, Reed Bunting, and many Great Tit and Blue Tit along with Goldfinch and Chaffinch. As we set off around the reed beds numerous Starlings were on the ground feeding along with some Fieldfares. Wood Pigeons flew overhead and Stock Doves were also seen. A flock of over 100 Snipe flew over providing a wonderful sight and about 150 Golden Plovers followed and a smaller flock of Lapwings. A Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree and kept us company for a short time. In the distance a Marsh Harrier flew over the wetland and we later saw a pair from the hide. Large numbers of duck including Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard were on the water, as well as Coot. Water Rails were heard but not seen, and Black-tailed Godwit were spotted in the distance. Access to the hide included a short, shallow water feature to cross and some returned to the car park at this stage. Other species seen included Little Egret, Jay, Bullfinch, Peregrine, Buzzard and Redwing. In the afternoon a few went on the find the Common Cranes and were rewarded with 12 in view along a rhyne bank viewed from the very wet bank of the River Parrett at Staithe. In total 44 species were seen. (Many thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson
Dewlands Farm was our gathering point for this visit to RSPB West Sedgemoor and as the cars arrived our numbers gradually swelled to 14. Local volunteer, Nigel Smith, led us out in cold, damp conditions and gave us a brief summary of the background to the reserve. By the time we approached the viewing barn the weather was beginning to improve and we had seen and heard a good variety of passerines in the hedgerows. The flooded fields in front of the barn were packed with wildfowl and telescopes were soon picking out Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler,Gadwall and Teal. Nigel’s more experienced eyes located two distant Cranes which everyone was able to see in his scope, and later an equally distant Peregrine. Large flocks of birds were also criss-crossing in the sky at regular intervals and we were ableto pick out Golden Plover as well as Lapwing and Starlings, stirred up by a passing Marsh Harrier. One small group of Pintails gave particularly frequent fly-bys, giving good views of their distinctive angular silhouette. Sharp eyes in the group also picked out a Stonechat, which proved difficult to spot as it flicked from one perch to another, but a Kingfisher was much more obliging, remaining for an extended time on the railings by a sluice. By this time the light was excellent and its colours showed well in the sunshine. Both Whooper and Bewick’s Swans had been reported that week near Burrow Mump, so we moved on to the car-park there to see if we could find them. Plenty of Mute Swans were visible and very distantly near Pathe were some swans with definite yellow rather than orange bills. They were too far away to be sure of identification, so we moved to Aller Drove in the hope of closer views, but unfortunately they were hidden by hedges from this angle. A lone Kestrel took our total species list for theday over the 40 mark and the group then split, with some moving on to Greylake and the rest returning to Bristol. All in all this was a splendid morning’s birding, with an impressive panorama of wildfowl on display. Many thanks to Nigel for hosting us at West Sedgemoor. Giles Morris
Wrens and Robins trilling, Daffodils and Primroses flowering, green shoots in hedgerows… Spring must be on the way, we thought optimistically. Certainly the sun shone all morning -albeit the wind was chilly -and birdlife was abundant. Before our 21-strong group left the Kendleshire Golf Course, led by Duncan and Pat Gill, we noted a Redwing in a hedge, three Bullfinches atop an Ash tree, five Black-headed Gulls, Robin, Blackbird, Coot, Mallard, Greenfinch (heard), a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrest. Then came a Herring Gull “paddling” (Nick’s description) on the mown grass, apparently seeking worms. A Buzzard flew from a green (no golfers present to admire it), then leaving the golf course we saw a Mistle Thrush and Sparrowhawk while we walked down the lane. A flock of 30 Redwings with a few Fieldfares were gorging themselves on windfall apples, and a Jay flew past. After our coffee stop, things were quiet as we walked along the Dramway, but we did see two Buzzards. Then came the highlight as we stopped for a while to watch activity in a hedge which was alive with up to a dozen Yellowhammers, large flocks of Chaffinches and two Goldfinches. It was a delight to see the colour of the Yellowhammers glowing in the sunshine like a beacon. There was constant movement in the hedge as the birds made frequent forays to feed in the stubble field where there were also 200-plus Rooks.In all, 36 species (thanks for the count, Nick). John Beaven
Nine hardy people turned up on this very wet and windy day. The terrain was boggy in places but the aspects were nice and in more clement weather would be excellent. We had a sheltered coffee stop in a convenient open-sided barn. Just after this, along and to the left of the path, was a large meadow/field, whose top edge held a flock of 40 Fieldfare and twelve Starling, feeding using the jump over method – as your neighbour walks forward feeding you fly over him to start your feeding, repeat. Most of the birds we saw were either flushed by our passing (Redwing, Blackbird, Dunnock) or were on feeders (Coal, Great and Blue Tit). The Buzzard and the Jackdaw we saw, seemed to be rather enjoying the wind – shooting upward, pausing in the updraft, and then ‘close wing’ descents, it looked exhilarating. Twenty one species noted, the nine of us feeling “refreshed” from our airy walk. Very many thanks to Bill and Maureen for leading (and managing a smile when we turned up)! Nick Hawkridge
Eighteen people met on a mild dry day to walk past Castle Farm on a circuit of small back roads. We managed to see many of the classic Cotswolds uplands winter birds one might hope for: scattered Yellowhammers, up to fifty Corn Buntings, sixteen Golden Plover, two Lapwing, a handful of Red-legged Partridges, and a few Skylarks singing. In the rather poor light, Jane helped us recognize Golden Plover in flight by their close formation wheeling together, their sharply pointed wings and their pale undersides. Of note we also saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle and Song Thrush, four Stonechats, large flocks of Jackdaws constantly passing overhead, five Buzzards and one Kestrel. As usual we looked for Little Owls and didn’t find them – we each seem to know one tumbledown building in this area where someone USED to see them! A total of 34 species. Thanks to Jane Cumming for leading.
It was a beautiful winter’s morning as 16 members set out from Bridgeyate. Although cold it was pleasant in the sunshine so we were all looking forward to a good morning’s birding. In the car park and on the first part of the walk through a modern housing estate we started our list with a number of common species which included Starling, Jackdaw, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pied Wagtail. As we left the houses a Jay gave us a fleeting, but nice view and approaching a brook some of the group saw a Grey Wagtail. We also saw a small party of Long-tailed Tits with a total of 17 for this species by the end of the walk. We crossed the A420 and walked along the Warmley Forest Trail. Not far along the trail we had ten to fifteen minutes of excellent birding. Firstly, we found a group of Siskin feeding at the top of a couple of Alders and then a little further on a second group, making a total of about 20. We met up with a member who was birding on his own who mentioned that there were Lesser Redpolls around and sure enough within a couple of minutes we had good views of a pair. We also saw three Bullfinches with the two males looking particularly striking in the sunlight. At one point there appeared to be Bullfinches everywhere and we had a total of twelve. To finish off this brilliant period we saw two Goldcrests one of which gave a very good close up view. Later on we saw a single Redwing, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard and a very nice view of a Sparrowhawk which flew fairly low, directly over our heads. To complete the morning’s birding we added Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Mistle Thrush, Raven and some of us heard a Green Woodpecker. This was a very enjoyable walk which had some real highlights and it was certainly worth negotiating some quite heavy mud, as well as a couple of tricky stiles. We had a final total of 34 species. Thanks to Nick for keeping the list and to David Body for leading such a successful walk. Mike Landen
On a fine but very cold and blustery morning 29 walkers met at Heron’s Green on the west side of CVL. The lake held Mute Swan, Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and a male Goldeneye. Crossing the road we found a small party of Long-tailed Tits in the rough vegetation by Heron’s Green pool. We walked up the lanes past the farms to Breach Hill where we had marvellous views of Blagdon Lake. The highlights were at least four sightings of Bullfinches. There were also Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit. Five swans flying towards Blagdon Lake were identified as Bewick’s Swans. We stopped at the entrance to Blagdon Lake where Teal called in the flooded areas. There were peanuts hung up at the Ubley Hatchery where we enjoyed a Nuthatch and two Coal Tits feeding alongside the Blue and Great Tits. On the way back to CVL along two miles of lane we saw Redwing, Fieldfare and nine Little Egrets in a field. A Goldcrest gave us really close views in the hedge. Our final species total was 42. This included a Buzzard, a possible Peregrine and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard.
The weather was kind and it did not start to rain until we were nearly back at the cars. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince
Twelve members met on a dry overcast morning. From the car park on the adjoining field were some Common and Herring Gulls accompanied by two Mistle Thrushes. A Song Thrush was calling nearby with Blue, Great Tits and a Cormorant flew overhead. As we made our way through the village it was very satisfying to find a great number of House Sparrows. Into our first field it became very evident that the ground would be very muddy and so it proved – all the way round. A Goldcrest was seen by a number of people, and then a single Redwing on a bush was seen by most people – eventually. Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Coal Tit were noted in an isolated tree, and later a Buzzard sitting in another tree giving everyone good views, with, close by, a flock of Fieldfares behind, on other trees. At our coffee stop a flight of 40/50 Lapwings was seen at a distance. At Nutgrove Farm a lone Pied Wagtail was spied on an old field roller, and a Jay, a Nuthatch, and two Raven were seen at Compton Common. The River Chew only gave us Moorhen and Mallard and at Publow Church a flock of Long-tailed Tits flitting around the trees, where finally a lone Treecreeper was noted making its way from tree to tree by the river. We also saw Robins and Blackbirds all the way round. A total of 35 species seen and heard. (Thanks for leading Geoff). Geoff Harris
We had a lucky break in the weather which was generally fine until the end, when rain arrived. Allowing for early arrivals and late-comers 30 members gathered for the walk. We trooped off to the Holden Tower and hides adjacent to the Tack piece to enjoy the ‘feast’ of birds before us. A large flock of Lapwings and Golden Plover were frequently ‘spooked’ and, sure enough, a Peregrine was soon seen out on the edge of the Dumbles. It must have been responsible for the flights. Other waders included Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin. A few Ruff were present too, but more difficult to pin down. A small flock of White-fronted Geese were spread out beyond the waders and ducks (see below) and we managed to sort out the few Greenland race amongst them. There was also a scattering of Canada, Greylag and Barnacle Geese as well as Bewick’s Swans. Ducks included Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and we also found the three Scaup outside Peter Scott’s House! Before that a lovely Sparrowhawk gave prolonged views as it sat on a fence post just below the tower. It was, no doubt, looking for lesser fry and we did encounter a number of passerines – Blue and Great Tits, Robin, Wren, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Starling, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. Other notables included Little and Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret and Grey Heron, Water Rail, Cetti’s Warbler and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Oh, and I almost forgot – Buzzard! I’ve mentioned only about two-thirds of the 60 species noted. A splendid start to the year! Thanks to Judy Copeland for organising the lunch and I usually get thanked for leading, although I am often the one who is led! Robin Prytherch