WRYNECK! Sorry, had to get that out! It was an early and chilly start from Bristol producing beautiful misty vistas in the Gordano Valley and across the Somerset levels. The trip was a week earlier than originally intended so the tide was still up when the six of us met at Ferrybridge. We saw Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail and five types of gull, including 3 Meds. We decided to cut our losses and head for the Bill and the Wryneck reported to be in the Observatory quarry. The approach looked promising; a long line of birders ringing the edge of the quarry and peering into the scrub. “Any sign of the Wryneck?” “It was seen early this morning but not since.” Ever heard that before? A couple of passing Germans were mildly amused at all these eccentric Brits staring at grass and found it worthy of a photo. A passing Peregrine provided some distraction. Hope it wasn’t feasting on Wryneck. Suddenly someone was on it, provoking a polite stampede to his position. The Wryneck made a couple of fleeting appearances, obscured by bramble and then, there it was, on the grassy bank, in full sun, picking off insects. The resident Little Owl also made an appearance before scuttling back into its cave.There was not a vast amount around the Observatory or the huts. Buzzards, a Raven, and a Sparrowhawk soaring above. Kestrel flying over the fields. A large flock of Linnets, a Stonechat and many Swallows.We went down to the coast for a bit of sea watching. We had Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and a Turnstone along the rocky shore and a Grey Seal in one of the coves. Out to sea, a passing Cormorant, 2 Shags and a couple of distant Gannet and basically nothing else. A lovely, sunny day with a light off-shore breeze is less than ideal for sea watching. We needed a South Westerly gale! We stopped at Southwell quarry on the way back to Ferrybridge, again not much about. We saw a distant flock of Starling flying over Weston where there is reported to be one juv. Rosy Starling. It was low tide at Ferrybridge. We now had waders but miles away! However, with a bit of patience we saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Gulls, and Dunlin, including some delightful synchronised flying displays with the odd Godwit joining in. Radipole was the final stop. More Gulls, including Meds, a siege (that’s their collective name apparently) of 14 Herons, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, squealing Water Rail. We saw Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit together which always helps with ID. Calling Cettis always just out of view. Bearded Tits were reported so we had a careful look for them, weather just about ideal but no signs. On one of the board walks, suddenly two small birds diving into reeds. And then, out they came for a brief, but unmistakable sighting of Bearded Tits by Judy and Ann. Finally, back at the RSPB centre, half a dozen Snipe were out on the mud in the later afternoon. Total species count 50. Also seen: Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral. Thanks to Cecile, Colin, Robert and Ann for coming and Judy for the lift. (Many thanks for stepping in to lead, Alastair) Alastair Fraser
A cloudy but warm morning saw 14 members meet for a walk north of Frampton Cotterell. On our way to the River Frome Jackdaws and Carrion Crows were on the church tower and adjacent buildings and Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits and a few Goldfinch were in the hedgerows aloud with some Long-tailed Tits. A solitary Grey Wagtail flew along the river for those of us at the back of the party. Herring and Black-headed Gulls flew over and a Buzzard briefly came in to view as we had coffee. As we continued Chiffchaff were heard, a Mistle Thrush seen, several Goldcrest flitted about in a yew tree in Iron Acton churchyard and a single Greenfinch perched at the top of an Ash tree. We crossed the Frome again and went along a rather squelchy path where a Raven was heard but invisible in the distance but loud Robins called in the adjacent woodland. A distant Great Spotted Woodpecker sat at the top of a dead tree and as we returned to the start a Green Woodpecker, Stonechat, Collared Dove and Jay were added to the list to give a total of 32 species. Thanks to David Body for leading in place of Peter Holbrook who met us at the start to organise lunch and to Nick Hawkridge for the definitive list. Mark Watson
How nice to start a walk with an old favourite – Raven, a pair cavorting in the wind over the church. Sad however to see a line full of House Martins, chitter chattering, shooting away, and then back, almost saying ‘are we going yet’? Eighteen walkers headed just a little east of north into the countryside. The lake we passed was, as usual, home only to Coot, Moorhen and Mallard and the trees contained a few Chiffchaff and one bright Willow Warbler. A Green Woodpecker graced the horse paddocks. We climbed up towards the fine looking house where, at the top, we found the Millennium Tower, funded by The Owl and Swallow Trust, but apparently empty. Here we stopped for coffee and a Nuthatch – calling from and flying between patches of woods. Not until we had traversed the asphalt of New Tynings Lane did we get back to any other birds beside Woodpigeon. Some Chaffinch called from the hedge and the first of three Buzzards turned lazily. After saying goodbye to the non-picnickers a Jay was about all that was new as we headed towards lunch at Old Sodbury Church, after which a Mistle Thrush and a flock of 30 Goldfinch were spotted heading east. The walk back gave us only one extra species (of the 32 we saw) and they were Long-tailed Tits. The greyness of the day denied us the views westward towards the Severn and the hills of Wales but this beautiful walk always provides us with an enjoyable day.. (thanks to Nick for leading) Nick Hawkridge
16 people gathered on a beautiful still morning for a walk along New Passage and the Pilning Wetlands. Many came early to catch the extra-high tide covering pill and salt marsh right up to the embankment. As the walk proper started the river had dropped to expose the edge of the marsh, now full of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails as well as Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Skylarks and a Whinchat. Inland pools included Mute Swans, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Grebe and Gadwall, and the sea bank of the marsh showed flocks of Curlew, Godwits, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Teal, Canada Geese, Pintail, and a Grey Plover. Numbers of hirundines hunted with a Buzzard above, though the hedgerows were oddly empty apart from the ubiquitous Robins. The group pushed on to the scrape past the second sentry box, where 100 plus Dunlin edged the water, and keen eyes found a single Golden Plover and a Little Stint amongst them. We turned down the side lane to see the far pools where sadly that morning’s Wood Sandpiper had just flown away, but saw Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Lapwing. Returning to the shore, the falling tide had now left mud for a lovely array of waders stretching into the distance, including Godwits, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstones, a few Knot and a Curlew Sandpiper. A total of 54 species seen. (Thank you, Lois, for leading) Lois Pryce
It was a very warm humid morning for the 24 of us, with a very distant rumble of thunder being heard as we left Portbury village for our walk around the Warth area. In the distance a Buzzard soared over the Gordano valley, with Chiffchaff and Greenfinch seen. A number of Mistle Thrush played high in the trees and close at hand a Great Spotted Woodpecker “chipped”. As we headed along Wharf Lane towards the reserve the thunder became louder with very dark clouds over South Wales. At the first hide the scrapes were almost dry, so few birds were seen. At the second hide volunteers were working on the island so there were fewer birds than normal but Little Grebe, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall were present. Along the path to the sea bank Cetti’s Warbler shouted from the bushes and 30 plus Linnet bounced over the marsh. Along the shore line were Redshank and Black-headed Gulls, a single Curlew and a small flock of Dunlin. A large black-backed gull flew by, ‘It is ugly’ was one comment so it must be a Great! Three Yellow Wagtails appeared by the track, along with the ever present Reed Bunting and a hovering Kestrel. Approaching the creek quietly at the end of the marsh there were the usual Teal and in the willows many Long-tailed Tits, Blue tits and a Blackcap. On the way back to the cars the thunder became ouder and the rain started, lightly at first but most of us were back in time to avoid a soaking and finished with a total of 48 species. (Many thanks to Roger for leading.) Roger and Lana Hawley
Having met up at the car park at Aylesbeare we had a walk around this unique pebble bed heathland reserve managed by the RSPB for its special wildlife. We made our way around the various footpaths on the heath in search for Dartford Warbler, which had proved elusive for me throughout the summer, Stonechats could be seen on many parts of the heath, looking as if they have had a good breeding season, Siskin were seen and heard as were singing Chiffchaff, Long- Tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Green Woodpeckers, Meadow Pipits, Kestrel and Buzzards. On our way back to the cars we found a Dartford Warbler in the gorse, but although it kept very low and elusive at times most of the group did pick up on the bird. I had noticed through the summer the large number of Stonechat around the heath and I wonder if the Dartford Warbler here is finding it difficult to compete, time will tell. We then moved down to the Axe Estuary and visited Black Hole Marsh, one of the local reserves managed by the East Devon Council. We made our way down to the Tower Hide overlooking the river Axe and looking back towards the reserve pool, and here we picked out waders such as Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Common and Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. On the river we could see and hear Curlew, various wintering duck and gulls that had just arrived, including Wigeon and Teal. A Kingfisher flew in and sat by the hide giving everyone a view of this colourful bird and Water Rail was heard calling in the nearby reeds. We then moved on to the island hide situated near to the middle of the pool, which gives you chance to get close to the birds. Here we saw more Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and even a Wheatear that was sitting on one of the islands, presumably taking a break from its travels. We could not, however, find the reported Little Stint that had been present earlier even though we spent a lot of time looking. We then walked to Colyford Common and visited the hides there but this was quiet, although we had good views of a juvenile Peregrine hunting and sitting in the nearby field and a Cetti’s Warbler singing nearby. We did manage to get a total of 55 species and my thanks to those of you who joined me on the day. (Thank you to Gordon for leading.) Gordon Youdale
20 people walked through Tickenham levels, along the Land Yeo and up woods and meadows on a warm humid day, where birds often seemed thin on the ground except for the ubiquitous Robins singing and ticking – but still we ended up with 33 species. In the woods one group of trees had Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits together, a feeder attracted Nuthatches, and Chiffchaffs called. On Cadbury Camp (guarded by a bull and cows) were Wheatear and a Meadow Pipit in a tree, a Raven doing aerobatics, a lurking Jay, and a large group of Mute Swans visible on distant lowland. On the levels Buzzards perched on hay bales and Grey Herons were silhouetted, with Swans, Little Egret, Green Woodpeckers, Kestrel and Rooks busy on and above the meadows. Starlings perched on a power line with two Mistle Thrush, and a Hobby flew through. We also saw Common Darter and Emperor Dragonflies, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies, and Bellflowers edging the Cadbury Camp embankments. (Many thanks to Jan Pridie and Lois Pryce for leading.) Lois Pryce
Five members attended this meeting on an initially dry and pleasant day, however heavy rain was forecast for later in the morning. In the car park we had flyovers of both Greylag and Canada Geese, many Swallows and a group of Sand Martins. We set off for the summer walkway but saw little other than a single Wheatear, a few Cormorants and fair numbers of Swallows and House Martins. We retreated to the Holden tower as the rain approached and had good views of a variety of birds including Barnacle Geese, Avocets, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwits. We proceeded to the Zeiss hide to obtain closer views of the waders. At the Kingfisher hide despite the downpour we had excellent view of a number of Whitethroats and Blackcap. We were lucky enough to see a Kingfisher which streaked in front of the hide and then obligingly perched on a log. We then went on to the South Lake hide where we saw four Cranes, Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebe amongst others. We finished at the Rushy Hide with lovely views of a Snipe. Throughout the morning we heard Cetti’s Warblers, although none were seen. Overall the weather although wet it did not significantly spoil the meeting with over 50 species listed. (thanks to Sue for leading)
A group of 19 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful summer’s morning. As we left the car park we started our list with Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Collared Dove. We also spotted groups of House Martins and Swallows. As expected for this time of the year the count for these two species was high with 50 plus House Martins and 45 Swallows (mostly on wires) for the whole walk. We passed the Stanton Drew stone circle. Those of us at the back of the group were treated to the sight of a Sparrowhawk circling overhead among a number of House Martins. It was thought that this was a male as a few minutes later a second Sparrowhawk was seen by everyone. This appeared to be a larger bird so it is likely that they were a pair, with this one being a female. It was also circling and being harried by a Carrion Crow. The light was excellent and we had a good view of the bird’s beautiful plumage. This was the highlight of the walk. Two Buzzards were then seen. We added twelve Goldfinches as well as four Rooks, 40 Starlings, 30 plus House Sparrows and two Chiffchaffs. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly and a Linnet was also spotted. A party of Long-tailed Tits was first heard and then about six seen. One member of the group saw a Wheatear and when we arrived at a small clump of conifers we looked for Coal Tits and Goldcrests but saw neither. However, those who are able to detect the higher frequencies heard three Goldcrests. We had a total of 25 species with many thanks to Mark Watson for keeping an excellent record of species seen. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and we were very grateful to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk.
Hints of autumn may have been noticed during the last few days but the forecast for this walk was definitely a summer one and some of us were glad of the unexpected breeze as we set out with the promise of a flat walk with no stiles from our leader. Initially it did seem to be rush hour on a narrow Cotswold lane with cars, vans and a very large lorry all pushing us to the verges but there were Swallows and House Martins in the air and soon a large group of gulls at rest in a nearby field was the centre of attention – about 375 Common Gulls. A Raven was heard and then seen and, at the other end of the size scale, a Wren. The treat of the day came next with first a dozen and then more and more Ravens perched on bales and lifting out of trees and eventually all 29 were in the air – a wonderful sight with the sun on the golden fields and maize rustling at our backs. More large, and more distant, flocks of gulls were seen behind a tractor – other notables were Yellowhammers, Stock Dove, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, four Buzzards and a Kestrel. Near the end of the walk our party of 24 split and some saw a few Speckled Wood butterflies and a Brimstone on the way back. Total bird species tally was 30 – many thanks to Peter Holbrook for leading.