Eight members gathered at the Steart Marshes car park on a chilly (but dry) Sunday morning. This new reserve is a work in progress with the old sea wall having been breached in September 2014 to create new areas of saltmarsh with ever-changing creeks and channels providing food and refuge for wildlife. From the Mendip hide there were good views of the lagoons but the birds were distant – Shovelers, Little Egrets, Canada Geese and a few Avocets. The walk out to the River Parrett allowed us to appreciate the amount and quality of landscaping undertaken by the WWT, and enjoy the Goldfinches, Linnets and Greenfinches. From the river viewpoint there were better views of Avocets but few other waders – only a distant Redshank. Returning to the Polden hide we passed flower and butterfly-rich grassland, with many Small Tortoiseshells and at least two Clouded Yellows, along with a Buzzard and various finches. From the Polden hide we added Pied Wagtail and a very pale Buzzard to the list. During lunch at the car park, Starlings, House Sparrows and a Pheasant were noted. After lunch we drove to Natural England’s car park at Dowell’s Farm and walked out to Steart Flats where views of Curlews, Shelduck and distant gulls were obscured by a heat haze. From the Tower hide we observed two Little Grebes, Redshank, juvenile Peregrine and Common Sandpiper; the views of Whinchats and Stonechats together were instructive. In the fields around the hide were Dunnocks, Linnets, Chaffinches and a Kestrel. The walk along the road to the car park brought the day’s species total to 33. This was a very enjoyable visit to the Steart area and, as the new WWT reserve “matures”, one that is sure to continue to attract visitors. Very many thanks to Richard for leading. Ken Carruthers
21 birders met in the village on an overcast but windless day. We took a new route up past the church and through lanes to come out at the far end of the houses. We soon saw both Green and Great Spotted 11 Woodpeckers and in Coley we watched House Martins visiting nests on one of the older houses. Some of the youngsters had already fledged as the sky nearby was full of birds. Litton reservoirs provided plenty of variety, with at least twelve Grey Wagtails, a Kingfisher, ten or so Little Grebes, six Cormorants, two Grey Herons along with Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen. We took a new route over Shortwood Common adding two Common Buzzards, Yellowhammer and a Pheasant. Chiffchaffs and Blackcap were heard and seen during the walk with all the usual pigeons, finches and corvids including two Ravens. We had a total of 39 species on a varied and enjoyable four mile walk. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince
Twelve members met at Herriott’s Bridge on a fairly warm and sunny morning. There were a number of Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing in the Pool on the opposite side to the main lake along with Gadwall, Teal, and a small number of Shoveler. A female Goldeneye was spotted by Louise,-well done, and later we all had close views of the male. A Kingfisher darted across the pool to end the stop and then we moved on to Stratford Hide. Whilst there we had Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck, Tufted Duck and Pochard all feeding nearby. In the reeds we had a Reed Bunting and also a Reed Warbler was noted. Just before we left the hide we observed a single Greenshank and a small number of Green Sandpiper. We then moved off on foot to the Moreton Hide and on the way had Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, and a Common Whitethroat. A Sparrowhawk made a slow pass over the trees as well as a distant soaring Buzzard and a croaking Raven was noted. In the hide our leader located a small number of Black Tern as well as two Common Tern, all observed dipping in the lake opposite the hide. We then walked back to our cars at Stratford and drove to Heron’s Green. In the bay we had Little Grebe, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron and numerous Pied Wagtails. This was a morning only meeting and as the time had moved past 13:00 hrs the members started to disperse. It was nice to see a number of new members present who told the leader that they looked forward to going out with the Club again. The total number of species seen during this meet was 42. (Our thanks to Charles for leading this most enjoyable morning’s birding.) Charles Stapleton.
A group of 18 set out from the Queen Victoria on a dull and overcast morning. There were 24 plus House Martins flying around the village and a little further on 90 plus Jackdaws which is evidently called a ‘clattering’ or ‘train’ of Jackdaws. A Raven was heard ‘honking’ and then seen and a few common bird species were noted including Swallow, Lesser black-Backed Gull and Long-tailed Tit. The walk along the old track involved carefully negotiating rather a lot of water and mud, so the birding was of secondary importance for this part! As we got to the highest point of the walk, Priddy Nine Barrows, we heard a Skylark singing and eventually it was spotted. After we had descended, a couple of young Coots were seen on a nice looking pond. As usual there were a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies and we also saw a few Marbled Whites and a Ringlet. Towards the end of the walk some of the group had superb views of a splendid low flying Buzzard. No binoculars were needed to appreciate how beautiful this bird of prey is. In spite of the weather not being ideal for birding, it was an enjoyable morning’s walk and we managed a total of 24 species. Thanks to Geoff Harris for keeping a record of species seen and thank you to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading. Mike Landen
On a bright breezy sunny day 18 walkers set out from the Griffin to see what we could find in the birding doldrums of late July. As expected, the total of 30 species was not high but we enjoyed watching the commoner species going about their business, albeit more quietly then usual – we coaxed the occasional song out of a Robin or Wren but generally the woods were silent. We argued over the identification of a young Linnet feeding in and out of the gutter on a farm roof, and noted several Swifts which will soon be on their way back to Africa. Swallows and House Martins were hawking for insects overhead or low over a mown field. One Blackcap showed briefly but made no sound. We glimpsed a Buzzard and had a better view of a Kestrel, but only the lucky front-runner saw the Kingfisher. Nevertheless, I was amazed to find out how much open hillside and varied woodland habitat there is north of Warmley, loads of space to wander around and so close to Bristol. (Many thanks to David for leading the walk and showing us an area that was new to most.)
19 walkers assembled in the Blaise car park on a warm morning after overnight rain. The conditions had encouraged the ant colonies to multiply and Swifts and gulls were massed taking advantage of the flying meal. 90 Lesser Black- backed Gull, 40 Herring Gull and 35 Swift were counted – but the aerial acrobatics made it hard to be sure of the numbers. Carrion Crow and Chaffinches were seen on the way to the churchyard and eleven Jackdaws were counted around the church tower where several of them had nests. Down at the Hazel Brook a rat was swimming in the water, then up in the meadow we were treated to a reprise of the gulls and Swifts spectacle, joined this time by a Common Gull. In the woods were Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Wren, Dunnock, Robin and on the meadows Magpie and Rook. Two Ravens were spotted and three Buzzards at different times, twice so close that their different markings could be clearly seen. We had our coffee break at the castle where two weeks previously a Red Kite paid a visit – unfortunately, this was not repeated – but we went on to hear Stock Dove, and see Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Chiffchaff and a solitary Long-tailed Tit. Seven Goldfinches congregated in trees near the old water mill. Altogether 27 species were recorded, not a huge count, but for a site in the city with many dogs and families enjoying themselves, it was a rewarding morning. (Thanks for leading, Ruth and Glyn.) Ruth Stanton
Twenty seven members gathered at the Natural England car park in Steart village on a good day for a picnic walk. Reports of Avocet chicks and a solitary Spoonbill raised our hopes for a successful day. Swallows flew overhead, a Pied Wagtail was on a nearby roof and a Greenfinch was calling as we set off towards Bridgwater Bay. Many Linnet were seen along the coast and several hundred Shelduck bobbed on the estuary with more on the mud. Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Sedge Warbler were spotted or heard on the reeds and in the adjacent meadows. We arrived at the Tower Hide and as we were a large group spilt up to visit this hide and the three hides beyond. The pools yielded Little Egret, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, a single Curlew Sandpiper, a Kestrel and a few gulls. On the way back to the car park for lunch Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Goldfinch were added to the list amongst others. After lunch we walked out to the breach in the River Parrett sea wall which was constructed by The Environment Agency as a managed retreat to help protect upstream areas from flooding and also to improve flood protection for Steart and other nearby villages. The breach feeds the newly created (2014) Steart Marshes wetland managed for the Environment Agency by WWT. It transpired that the Spoonbill had left for Slimbridge and the Avocets were not around but we did see 86 Black-tailed Godwits feeding. The walk ended back at the car park, though a few of us went to have a look at the area opposite the new WWT car park but the water had drained by then so nothing new turned up. Overall tally of 48 species made for a good days’ birding. (Our thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson
Ten people turned up at Capel, having negotiated the long narrow road on a morning with some dark clouds, but after a few spots of rain we had glorious sunshine most of the time. Early arrivals spotted one Red Kite in addition to the first of many Buzzards. House Martins were whizzing round and a Nuthatch was calling as we set off up the road towards the pony trekking centre. We soon found Redstarts flitting across between the trees and a big bright orange fritillary butterfly, probably Silver-washed. Beyond the woods we heard several Blackcaps tinkling and Swallows were flying low over the fields, then a ‘wheet’ call in a tree above us was identified by sight as a Willow Warbler. The scenery up the valley was spectacular throughout the walk, while we had fantastic views of three Ravens interacting, then three Buzzards and many Crows wheeling in the air above the mountain. Stonechats were quite numerous (six plus) and gave super views perching on bush and bracken with food in their beaks, and we saw several Wheatears, including one juvenile on a fence, followed by good views of single birds then two on a rock on the escarpment later. Someone then spotted a very smart Whinchat, who performed well with close views. Meadow Pipits were everywhere, alerting us with their ‘clink’ call and showing their white outer tail feathers (one member was checking her id details). We also found a good number of Small Heath butterflies, very small but noticeably bright flying among the bracken. The stream Nant Bwch was below us all the way and there was a small waterfall at one point, but there were no Dippers and only one Grey Wagtail.
During lunch on a grassy patch beside the track a raptor flew up the valley and back, causing some panic as bins were not at the ready, and was finally pronounced to be a Hobby. We continued to the top of the escarpment near Lord Hereford’s Knob, where the 180 degree view looking north towards Hay on Wye is wonderful at any time and particularly on such a clear day. The group then split up, with most returning the same four kilometres down the valley, some directly to the cars and others of us meandering along enjoying more butterflies – Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Ringlet – and moths and plants including one patch of butterwort – no doubt Jean could supply a list of the others! Final bird list was 30 species, including 15 Linnets, and a Green and two Great spotted Woodpeckers and a Jay, which called from the trees. Many thanks to Richard Brown for leading us.
Only six braves turned out on what was a very dull morning with rain forecast for later in the day. The rain, or rather fine drizzle, came on a little after we had passed Old Sodbury Church and spoiled what is normally a splendid view towards Chipping Sodbury and beyond. Despite the poor visibility up till then we had counted 13 bird species, including a mass of Lesser Black-blacked Gulls and Herring Gulls riding a thermal at the foot of the hill. Swallows and House Martins were abundant, a Kestrel, a Raven and a Green Woodpecker also ‘played’ the fine drizzle. However, after we had had a refreshment break under the cover of the trees on the climb up to Old Sodbury Fort, things improved; the drizzle stopped and there was brightness all about. We decided not to do the full walk, with picnic on the high view-point above Horton, because of the likelihood of further rain but, while on the short cut, we were rewarded with sightings of Red Kite, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Swift, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, and Blackcap. At the ‘pond’ we saw Moorhens, Little Grebes, and Mallards then, as we returned to the footpath, a Grey Herron rose up above the trees, bitterly complaining at something. Our total species count was 38. Thanks to the ‘brave six’ for coming, for despite the weather, we had a good walk (Thanks David for leading). David Tombs.
The Tuesday walkers who joined our annual visit to the Avon Gorge to see the Peregrines were well rewarded. Two juveniles were sitting on a bare tree stump when we arrived. When the brief shower of rain passed they took off, joined their sibling and the three of them presented us with a beautiful aerial display. They practised their passing techniques, before one of them broke away to chase a Carrion Crow, which appeared most surprised to be the pursued rather than the attacker. After watching the Peregrines, we walked past the wildflower meadow, with its Common Spotted Orchids, and on to Sea Walls. A family of Kestrels entertained us here, flying on to a ledge in the cliff face and into a garden, where one of them sat in the bird bath for quite a while before deciding he had better make the most of the opportunity to have a wash. Since we had spent so long enjoying the raptors, we decided not to go on to the Nature Reserve but instead visited the Gully where six feral Kashmiri goats from the Great Orme have been introduced to manage the scrub, allowing us to enjoy the rare limestone-loving plants. As we left the Gully, a Buzzard put in an appearance, bringing the total number of birds seen and heard to sixteen – Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Lesser Black- backed Gull, Magpie, Nuthatch, Wood Pigeon and Wren. Brenda Page