Twenty-three members set off from a car park packed with dog-walkers and entered the glorious spring woodland, carpeted with Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Wild Garlic and orchids. Our wildflower experts were much in demand the whole trip. Bird song filled our ears on a beautiful spring morning – Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Wren and Blackcap especially singing their hearts out. Out on Wavering Down we saw several Song Thrush anvils – empty snail shells surrounded the large stones that had been used to crack them open. Linnets and Stonechats showed well, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Whitethroat gave song flights and a Green Woodpecker perched on a drystone wall watching us watching him. Our coffee stop had stunning views over the Somerset Levels, across the estuary to the West Somerset Coast and over to Wales (and we were out of the wind on that side!) We heard, but never saw, a probable Garden Warbler; Stock Dove and Raven were seen by some and it was good to see Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin all flying together near the quarry. Back in the woodland we surprised a perched Buzzard and the final bird count was 36 species. Thank you Clive for a lovely morning! Julie Ottley
Thirteen of us travelled to the New Forest for a walk from the Ashley Walk car park. The number was far from unlucky as we had sunny weather (albeit a bit cool at times) and great views of a pair of Woodlarks in Pitts Wood Enclosure. These were lifers for some members and a long-searched for UK-first for a few others. From the beginning of the walk we started to find the New Forest specialities we had come for such as Linnets, Stonechats and both Meadow and Tree Pipits. On closer examination, all of these refused to turn into a Dartford Warbler which remained elusive throughout the trip. Another highlight was a beautiful male Redstart perched at the top of a tree. Two Lapwings were spotted on a flypast and twice we heard a Cuckoo but it refused to show itself. Three raptors were seen – Buzzard, Kestrel with a single Red Kite as an added bonus; this species is really spreading out from the various reintroduction sites. The lone Hawthorn bush in front of the lunch stop had a Stonechat and Common Whitethroat competing for the highest branch to search for their lunch.
On St George’s Day, I wonder if we all realised the significance of the area to the defence of the realm. Who noticed the large white mound, which was not ash from a fire, but a pile of chalk used to mark the targets on the wartime bombing range? Lunch was taken on top of a replica German submarine bunker now covered in earth at the top of Hampton Ridge! The return route produced nice views of Green Woodpecker for the backmarkers and finally a Wheatear, which is unusual for this site, and did someone mention a Willow Warbler (or 20!)? A good time was had by all, with 34 species seen. Thanks to Jane for leading. Keith Williams
Today’s 21 walkers had been warned about quantities of mud during the pre-walk, but by this point in a parched spring the earth was cracked and dry everywhere which at least made for easy walking. We checked Northend for the traditional village species such as House Sparrow and Starling, Collared Dove, Swift and House Martin (the last two not back yet), then walked up the long slope to Solsbury Hill, watching Swallows, Linnets and Skylarks en route. We sat down for a coffee break on the ramparts of the hill fort to admire the views over Bath, while a Whitethroat sang in a nearby bush and Skylarks hovered over the summit serenading us. Swallows were coming in to perch on twigs around the large barn down the hill, perhaps checking out a potential nest site. We 14 walked round the summit and away down the northern slope through fields of sheep and greening woodlands. Turning down Chilcombe Bottom, we stopped to read signs about the disused reservoirs and their new life as part of a nature reserve, but the only waterbirds to be found were a couple of Moorhens. On through a pretty green valley full of sheep, with plenty of Buzzards around and a Raven calling, across a small stream and up to a market garden – this walk has a wonderful variety of habitat. Although some migrants hadn’t returned to their breeding locations yet, we managed a total of 37 species on a sunny spring morning. (Thank you Jane for leading one of your favourite walks.) Jane Cumming
Being at the top of the combe, the car park offered up many vocal corvids flying over, including; Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook. The first of 27 Chiffchaff was heard as we entered the lane and one even showed itself a bit further down. Some Blackbirds were singing fit to burst and filling the combe with noise, quite masking the soft ‘coocoocoo’ of a spooning pair of Stock Doves. Our climb up the opposite bank had Nuthatch calling and at the top, towards the houses, a Song Thrush and then some Greenfinches also lit up the soundscape and even afforded us a nice clear sighting. Many Blackcaps and Robins sang for us but were not often seen, but the squeaky toy call of the Coal Tit was rewarded with a sighting. The rookery at Upper Castle Combe had nine active nests, more spread out than last year with the old site containing many abandoned homes. Along Summer Track the first Buzzards were seen, a small flock of Linnets twittered their way across out path and we had a fleeting glimpse of a Bullfinch couple. We went for a short way on the B4039, then down to Kent Bottom where the pond had a nice selection of birds; a pair of Tufted Ducks, two House Martins, five Mallards (all male), 16 Canada Geese and singles of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Coot and Little Grebe. The racing circuit being in use made identifying a possible Garden Warbler very difficult. As the lure of identifying the Garden Warbler took so long, we were behind the rest of the group. Along Kent’s Bottom Plantation we had a splendid Peregrine flypast and two Marsh Tits ‘pitchoue-ing’ in the bushes with lengthy sightings of aggressive ‘battle stance’. At the mill in Long Dean a pair of Swallows were caught napping on the roof. Along the path above the river a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen, more Nuthatch and the lovely song of a Mistle Thrush echoed along the valley. Back in the village, one lucky person saw the Dipper fly round a corner of By Brook and we all heard Greenfinches calling. At the car park a few of the advance party were happily munching their lunch and told us of the finding of Lesser Whitethroat and Grey Wagtail, which brought the tally up to 49. A splendid walk was had by the 30 of us and our thanks go to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge
Fifteen members met on a perfect spring morning for a walk around Dundry, Dave’s local patch. Dave is a fount of information about Dundry – its history and birds, and today he expressed concern about the slow arrival of spring migrants. However, the corvids were very busy (the rookery contained 18 nests in 2016) and Dave involved the group in looking more closely at their identification features including when in flight and their calls. In the quarry area we saw Pied Wagtails and heard a Chiffchaff. As we enjoyed the views from Dundry Down we could see Stock Doves in the fields below. Two Swallows and three Buzzards raised our spirits, and passing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls provided another opportunity for Dave to give us some further identification tips. Although distant, a scan of the Barrow Gurney tanks gave us views of Mute Swan, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Cormorant, with a Little Egret in the surrounding fields. Making our way round to the south side of Dundry, a Raven flew overhead and a Green Woodpecker called; a Blackcap was seen and a Willow Warbler heard but still no Wheatears. A Yellowhammer eluded the group for some time before being located and giving good views to all. We also enjoyed hearing and seeing Skylark and Nuthatch. This was a delightful morning’s birding with Dave and at least 37 species were recorded. The group enjoyed and benefitted from his local knowledge and invaluable ID tips and would wish me to thank him very much indeed Ken Carruthers
PS A few days later, Dave reported 32 Wheatears, a male Redstart and a male Yellow Wagtail from Dundry.
On a warm, dry spring day, 32 of us met at the Chequers Inn, Hanham, for a new walk through deciduous woodland, along field edges and by the river Avon. Trees were almost in leaf, and we admired the billowing Blackthorn and Wild Cherry blossom and the profusion of spring flowers; carpets of Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Cowslips and Lady’s Smock. The bird list numbered 37 in all, either seen or heard. The highlights were the Grey Herons and chicks in the heronry, Buzzard on a nest, Goldfinch building nest, Peregrine, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreepers (three) but surprisingly only one Chaffinch. (Thank you to our leaders for introducing us to this new walk)
Eight members made the trip on a sunny spring day following a misty start. We visited three locations: Lytchett Fields, an RSPB managed wetland area on the edge of Lytchett Bay; Upton Park, an area of mixed woodland on the edge of Holes Bay; and Morden Bog, which is part of Wareham forest.
Lytchett Fields attracts a range of wildfowl, waders and their predators. A Green-winged Teal and Lesser Yellowlegs had entertained birders for some months and I had seen the Teal on a recce a few days before when the tide was high. However, neither bird could be located on the field trip itself when the tide was low. Many Teal were roosting or hidden in creeks or behind clumps of reed. Something (probably the fox seen on the far shore) put all the Teal up in the air and they landed largely out of sight. No sign at all of the Lesser Yellowlegs, which has been very elusive over the last few weeks. However, we saw about 20 species including Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenfinch. We also saw Orange-tip, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies.
At Upton Park we added two stunning Jays, Common Gull, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Wigeon, Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, several very noisy Nuthatches and Raven. The cold water of the incoming tide meeting the sun-warmed mud created a low level rolling mist that was very atmospheric but not ideal for watching distant birds. A couple of weeks ago there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen at the park. While we were eating our sandwiches Sue saw a small, black and white bird with a ‘bouncy’ flight. It whizzed across the walled garden, over the wall into the trees beyond. Lesser? The jury is still out, unfortunately, as the view was too fleeting for her to be sure and no one else saw it. On to Morden Bog where Great Grey Shrike and Woodlark are recent sightings. We walked though some mixed oak and conifer woodland (Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker) and onto the heathland. The heath seemed very quiet initially until Suk saw our first (of many) Stonechats followed by Linnet 13 (Suk again) a stunning Yellowhammer (Suk) and then, unexpectedly, the Great Grey Shrike (Anne this time) posing at the top of a conifer. On the walk back two Dartford Warblers (yes, Suk again) flew up and perched in a Birch tree. Although it was a bit of a journey and we missed four of our target species we all had an enjoyable day out in three lovely locations with 35 species of bird. (Many thanks to Alastair for organising and leading.)
Sand Point can be a brilliant migration watchpoint on a good day but unfortunately this wasn’t one – cool, dry and overcast with a light wind but very little moving. Eight people joined Paul in the car park and climbed the steps up to the grassy summit serenaded by singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We scanned the shore counting 20 plus Shelducks, 100 plus Curlews, a couple of Little Egrets and a handful of Mallard and Teal. Three waders flew by resolving into a Grey Plover with two Dunlins. We walked along the top ticking off the common passerines and remembering other visits where the fields were dripping with Wheatears – none today, nor any hirundines either. Never mind, the views were wonderful! The River Banwell held a good roost of 120 Redshanks and three Mute Swans. A Raven flew over croaking, a couple of Stonechats attracted our attention, and a couple of Cormorants passed overhead. Thanks to Paul for leading and for finding some 32 species on a very quiet day. Jane Cumming.
PS It was rather galling to watch reports of loads of great birds turning up at Sand Point over the following week or two, but that’s birding, isn’t it!
Starting in fog and ending in rain, sunny during the walk – excellent. The crowd of 21 (welcome to new walker Simon) gathered at the trees in Moor Lane to listen to the song of a male Blackcap (totally hidden), the rapid ‘cherteach, cherteach’ of a Coal Tit and the call of a distant Willow Warbler. A perching Buzzard resolved into a female Pheasant and the quack of Mallard revealed their position under the hedge. A true Buzzard posed for us as we climbed the slope, showing a strong dark necklace and many Greenfinch wheezed and sang us up the hill. Another Buzzard then flew past and we were delighted to see ‘Blondie’ (nearly all white underwing) one of the regulars in the valley (Not Blondie – one of a pair centred on Norton’s Village, both very pale – RJP). A collection of four Bullfinches showed well, with the males’ chest colour even discernible in the poor light. Linnet, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all found after the turn along Clevedon Lane, but alas the feeders in the garden opposite didn’t give us any Siskin as they had in previous years. We heard and finally saw our first Chaffinch of the day, near the turn across the Walton Moor and close to a group of five Pied Wagtails. The path was good and we found the first of five Reed Buntings; the splendidly marked male, singing strongly and the female answering with her own quiet whistle. Two distant Lapwing were seen, and a Skylark in song flight. Plenty of Buzzard action was visible across Walton Down including one very aggressive individual seeking to keep the park to itself. Within the trees on the Down we heard Nuthatch calling and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, then more Goldcrest and Coal Tit. A Treecreeper came to join the foraging throng – clearly old oak is rich with food at present. Back down towards the village and wondering if we’d see any Swallows or House Martins (alas not) we extended our list to 41 with the addition of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of popinjay Grey Wagtail. All was not finished however, for as we were getting out of boots and into shoes, a Cetti’s Warbler called from the edge of the stream. Well done to Geoff for leading and arranging the weather so conveniently for us.
As we set off in the car it started to rain, turning to hail before it eased off. Quite a surprise, then, to find that 23 people had decided to defy the dire weather forecast and risk a soaking, but there they were, admiring a couple of newly-arrived Wheatears at the edge of the golf course. We moved round to the beach to discover that the neap tide wasn’t coming far enough up the sand to force the waders to roost, so we counted 72 Oystercatchers feeding along the tideline, checked out a couple of dozen Wigeon and Teal, then followed the muddy path round to the salt-marsh. As we topped the dyke a Short-eared Owl flew off in front of us, but to our delight it settled on a fence post and sat there for some time, watching us as we watched it back. Great start! We spent a while on the dyke, scanning the marsh, and unexpectedly picked up a Sandwich Tern above the moored yachts – in fact it was fishing over the little boating lake. A good sighting – Avon doesn’t get a lot of these. We worked round back to the coast path, registering Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat on the way, to watch the tern plunge-diving into the boating lake and coursing up and down over our heads. Off to the hilltop overlook to scan Bleadon Levels, where we counted 69 Mute Swans, 42 Shelducks and 106 Redshanks, but not much else on the marsh other than a scattering of Teal. Some nice raptors though – Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Best of all was the Merlin that one lucky observer photographed on the hilltop, but sadly the rest of us missed it. We returned along the hedgerows (various singing finches but no warblers) to the cliff where a female Black Redstart blended completely into the dark grey boulders until she moved. A Green Woodpecker called and flew off. There was still no rain, despite heavy skies and threatening clouds all around us. In fact it was a really enjoyable morning with some great birds – 42 species on my list. (Thanks to Jane for leading). Jane Cumming