32 members of BOC and Bristol Naturalists set off by coach for the mouth of the Exe Estuary. During the week storm Doris had poured, so we were lucky to have fair weather. After Exeter excitement rose as we saw some beautiful Brent Geese. By 10.30 hours we had arrived at Dawlish Warren. “Take your lunch with you”, said Gordon Youdale, “it’ll be four hours before you’re back”. Although at first the sea wall appeared to give an empty sea, a Great Northern Diver was soon found followed by Common Scoter, Shags, Cormorants and a few Great Crested Grebes. The walk east along the coast to the hide produced the first Turnstone, Rock Pipits and two Eider. Approaching the hide a wily member of the group caught site of a Peregrine catching a wader on the shingle beach. From the hide, lots of Oystercatcher and Dunlin could be seen. Looking further there were Grey Plovers, showing their black armpits, then racing Sanderling and Knot. Across the water, Goldeneye and two smaller Slavonian Grebes were noted, one coming in close later for good views. Finally, Gordon picked out a Bar-tailed Godwit. Time for lunch and watch the Brent Geese. The return walk gave another Great Northern Diver, a Water Rail and Snipe. Then across the far estuary both Red and Black-throated Divers were seen. On to Powderham for the walk along the estuary, sadly a walk to and back as Doris had flooded the fields and made thepath impassable. No Cirl Bunting, but a glorious Red-breasted Merganser by the bridge, cameras flashing. The look across the mud flats showed over a hundred Avocet, a flock of more than 500 Golden Plovers looking golden in the late afternoon sun, even the Curlew shining. Ending the day over 500 Brent Geese circled in the sky, a fine day, Nick recording over 60 species. And then Gordon found Black-tailed Godwits as well, but then he was the leader. (Many thanks to Gordon for leading) Robert Hargreaves
In view of the damp and unpromising weather, and thinking of dripping trees and slippery slopes, we agreed to move the start of the walk from Wain’s Hill to St Andrew’s Church, nearer to the pill, and concentrate on water birds. In the event, the weather improved considerably and 22 members had a lovely walk down the coast to the Dowlais farm track, left on Strode Road and back along the Blind Yeo. The harbour area usually holds Stonechats and Rock Pipits, which eventually gave themselves up, and as the high tide turned, the offshore mud banks began to reappear, attracting 45 Shelducks and twelve Oystercatchers back to join the amazing count of 55 plus Carrion Crows that were hanging around the shore and fields. Nick spotted a single Dunlin amongst 21 Turnstones – then we looked a half-mile down the beach to see a distant flight of about 300 Dunlin. Curlews were easier, 22 of them with 70 Lapwings feeding in the Dowlais fields.
The Blind Yeo produced a Little Grebe and a magnificent 18 Goosanders (six drakes) from the Strode Road Bridge. Along the river we added a Coot, a total of six Moorhens, and for the luckier walkers, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. As the tide fell, a few Redshanks returned to the emerging mud-banks and we picked out the larger gull species amongst at least 200 Black-headed Gulls around the harbour. A Buzzard in the churchyard was the last bird of the morning. Nick’s list totalled 47 species for a very pleasant walk. (Thanks to Jane for leading)
On a rather cold and cloudy morning 18 members (including three new members) met for a walk around Marshfield. As soon as we had crossed the A420 we flushed a Stonechat (one of many Stonechat sightings through the morning) that obligingly perched on a fencepost. As we reached the fields we could both see and hear many Skylarks that were present in large numbers throughout the walk. We made rather slow progress as we had many excellent views of Yellowhammers in both small and large groups. Also we were alerted to the presence of Corn Buntings by their characteristic ‘jangle of keys’ call. There were plenty of Fieldfares, accompanied by a few Redwings in the fields. A flock of about 110 Lapwings sat on a ploughed field interspersed with about 30 Golden Plovers (later on we saw a larger flock of Golden Plovers in flight). Unusually, a single Reed Bunting was seen. Circling back through Rushmead Lane we had views of a large flock of approximately 70 Fieldfares in flight and saw a group of seven Red-legged Partridges. The only raptors seen were Buzzards with, unfortunately, no views of Little Owl. Overall, as the cloud disappeared and the sun came out, we had a very pleasant walk with continuous Skylark and Corn Bunting song and good sightings of 29 species. Sue Kempson
Thirty-nine members met at the Perrings on a frosty morning to walk round Backwell Lake and along the lanes to the west of Nailsea. Despite the strong sunshine the lake was half-frozen. Two Mute Swans displayed and a Grey Heron flew into the willow tree on the island. There were plenty of gulls, mostly Black-headed, with Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed present. There were about 16 Shovelers plus Mallard, Pochard and Tufted Ducks with the usual Coots and Moorhens. A lucky few saw a Water Rail emerge from the reeds onto the ice. Another was seen later in a ditch along the lane. A Song Thrush sang lustily and a couple of Bullfinches and many Robins were seen in the trees. Leaving the lake area a Green Woodpecker provided a bit of excitement. We saw our first Redwings and Fieldfares and more were seen throughout the walk. As we headed along Youngwood Lane we saw three Stonechats as well as Mistle Thrushes, Goldcrests, Great and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. Several Pied Wagtails flew over. Three Sparrowhawks flew past pursued by corvids including a Raven. At Bizley Farm a Little Owl was seen on the roof of the farmhouse. Chaffinch and Greenfinch were added to the list. Coming back along Netherton Wood Lane we found two Common Buzzards in the field opposite Engine Lane. Returning to the cars a Nuthatch was heard calling so the total came to 43 species.
(Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince
The car park at RSPB Greylake is a great place to start a day’s birding. Whilst waiting for the group to assemble we had seen 16 species even before we set off into the reserve. Apart from tits and Reed Buntings on the feeders, the adjacent fields contained good numbers of foraging Fieldfares and Redwings. Once in the main hide we were soon treated to an aerial maelstrom of wildfowl as a Peregrine made repeated stoops into the whirling mass of duck. It soon gave up, having failed to make a kill, and the duck soon settled back down to feeding.Amongst the many hundreds of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler there were a good number of Pintails, the smartly marked drakes showing up particularly well. Greylake is usually a good place for close views of Snipe and once the first one was picked out we realised that there were about a dozen sitting quietly close in front of the hide. Other notables were Lapwings and distant Golden Plovers disturbed by one of the quartering Marsh Harriers.
We then moved north to Catcott Lows, where a wintering Chiffchaff was working the hedge in the car park. The main hide here provided a similar selection of species to Greylake, so we decided to walk to the wooded area of the reserve. Searching through the abundant alders, we found a large and restless flock of Goldfinches on the cones, but some thorough checking soon started to reveal Redpolls, with everyone finally getting good views.
A splendid morning’s birding had fallen just short of 50 species and it says something about the rapid changes to the rich diversity of the avifauna of the Levels that having Great White Egret on the list is now hardly worth a mention. (Many thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading) Giles Morris
The weather was not cold, just overcast, and miserable; this however did not deter 26 walkers from meeting at the Kendleshire Golf Club. Magpie were seen almost at once with Blue and Great Tit, but the first bit of magic was an overflight of a single female Peregrine. A few minutes later a Buzzard flapped from cover and circled over a single spot – suggesting a prey item, but we got too close and it departed. A Blackbird was flushed from the brambles and as our attention turned towards it, there sitting perched atop a bush – a russet-coloured Kestrel. Just past the greenkeeper’s fire we found a Song Thrush and a handsome Mistle Thrush, who came close enough for all its finer points to be seen. At the water hazards of the 12th green we discovered 31 Canada Geese busily cropping the grass with three Coots, several Mallards and some Black-headed Gulls. Redwings and Goldcrest were next on the list and a further raptor at the top of the lane, in the form of a Sparrowhawk. More Redwings were seen as we headed towards the railway line, but were eclipsed by a brilliantly coloured Bullfinch. At our coffee stop we added Collared Dove and House Sparrow. Out into the countryside parallel to the railway, we added Greenfinch, Wren, Jay and saw many more Goldfinches and Redwings. A single Coal Tit was heard, three Long-tailed Tits seen, several Rooks and then another magic moment, a mixed flock of Yellowhammers/Chaffinches numbering 50 plus falling from the hedges onto the ground with multiple flashes of bright yellow. Up into the air rose another flock, this time Redwings mixed with calling Skylarks, and the last addition – six Moorhens and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Thanks go to Duncan and Pat who, at the last moment, stepped in to lead.
Weather: dull and damp all day in Bristol but a lovely mild and sunny day in Portland so you know where you should have been. The day’s birding started with a quick twitch in Dorchester for a Rose-coloured Starling. Then on to Ferrybridge to join the rest of the group. Eighteen members made the trip including two new members. The tide was well out meaning the birds were a long way off so we stayed just long enough to see 60 plus Mediterranean Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Raven, Skylark and Little Egret. Not many waders (a couple of Oystercatchers) and no geese. (Over 500 Mediterranean Gulls are reported roosting in Portland Harbour). A quick stop at Portland Castle: Cormorant and Shag, 50 plus Red-breasted Mergansers, and Kingfisher. At Portland Bill the mild conditions and flat sea looked unpromising but there was quite a bit out there: 20 plus Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemot, Gannet and a probable skua, but too far away to identify for certain. On the cliff below we saw a Rock Pipit and a group of Turnstone with three Purple Sandpipers. A short stop at Chesil Cove for Black Redstart and on to Sandsfoot for a Great Northern Diver, a group of nine synchronised-swimming Black-necked Grebes, more Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe with the backing track of a Song Thrush. The final, scheduled stop was at Radipole where we had several stunning views of Bearded Tits, Reed Bunting, a good mix of ducks and a male and female Marsh Harrier. An additional twitch at Upway for Cattle Egret produced three egret-like birds, but two fields away and mostly obscured by a thick hedge – Cattle Egret not confirmed but a pager alert reported a Cattle Egret at Litton Cheney. Well, why not? It’s sort of on the way home. Where could it be though? Probably near the man with the long lens camera. And there is was – a herd of cows with one Cattle Egret and one Little Egret as a handy comparison. A Grey Wagtail flyover completed the day. Total species for the day: 58. Thank you to Jane for leading and to all the drivers.
Twenty-five members gathered at the RSPB Ham Wall car park on a cold dry afternoon in the hope of a good showing of Starlings towards dusk. We headed along the track on the Shapwick/Meare Heath side first towards the Tower Hide as a Great White Egret flew past. From the hide a few saw a Water Rail and many heard it and a Marsh Harrier quartered the reed beds. Numerous Robins sang and a Reed Bunting was seen as we moved on. On the water Moorhen, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard, Gadwall, Great Crested and Little Grebe were added to our list. Some of the group went to Noah’s Hide and most walked further on where four Whooper Swans were seen. Meare Heath Hide yielded a single Kingfisher flashing past and, from Noah’s Hide, the usual Cormorants and a Mink were seen. We moved back towards Ham Wall seeing Little Egrets on the way. As we started along the Ham Wall track a Tawny Owl was heard. Blue Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, a Jay and a Bittern were seen and on the pools we added Pintail to the list. A Kestrel, Snipe and a flock of 40 Linnet passed over as the sun stared to go down. We saw a huge number of Starlings streaming in to the reed beds at both the first and second watching points on the track, making a tremendous noise as they settled and shuttled between different parts of the reed beds to choose a spot for the night. On this occasion we were not treated to prolonged murmurations but it was nevertheless an impressive sight as tens of thousands of birds flowed into the reserve like rivers in the sky. A total of 55 species overall made for a worthwhile visit. (Many thanks to Mark for stepping in at the last moment to lead) Mark Watson
What a miserable start to the year! The morning was chilly and wet, and I doubt I would have bothered to turn out if I hadn’t been asked to lead at the last minute. However, 18 hardy souls braved the weather to join me on a search for interesting birds from various reasonably dry and comfortable hides. I believe this was the first time a winter visit to Slimbridge produced just a single Golden Plover and no White-fronted Geese at all (apparently 120 of them were feeding out of sight, two fields north of the reserve), but the Bewick’s Swans were showing well and we checked off the common duck species for our new year lists. We grilled a couple of Dunlins on Rushy Pen but couldn’t turn either of them into the Little Stint that was being reported regularly there. A few Snipe and a Redshank were some compensation. A group of nine or ten Common Cranes were a lovely sight but, of course, these birds were bred here in captivity so they don’t go on my list! The Zeiss Hide produced a Ruff or two, as well as the lone Golden Plover and plenty of Lapwings and Dunlins. We added more species at South Lake: Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, and Common Gull. I completed my day’s list with a few Fieldfares and a Reed Bunting, and retired to the pub for a good lunch, but some of the party persevered into the afternoon and Nick’s list got to 52 species, an excellent total under the circumstances. Thanks to all who joined me to carry on the Club’s New Year tradition of a Slimbridge start – and here’s hoping for better weather this time next year! (Jane, many thanks for stepping in as leader.) Jane Cumming
26 members set out on a nice winter’s day. A few common birds including Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, and Robin were seen in the car park. A Song Thrush was heard singing at the start and was still singing when we returned at the end of the walk. As we walked through the woods we spotted Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Great Tit and Woodpigeon. We added Wren and Carrion Crow which included one group of twelve. On reaching open parkland we saw Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull and some of the group heard a Green Woodpecker. There were also a flock of about 40 Black-headed Gulls and we then added Blackbird and Coal Tit to our list. We stopped for our usual coffee break and had an excellent view of a single Redwing perched in a nearby tree. On the return the footpath was officially closed due to a fallen tree, so we split into two groups with some returning through the village and others alongside the river. Between the two groups we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Grey Heron and Moorhen. Mallards had been seen earlier but there was a large group of about 22 in the water. Similarly Goldcrest had been either heard or seen earlier but some of us now had better views of three to four birds. We had a total of 27 species. Thank you to Nick for leading as well as for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen