A small but select group gathered in the car park of the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve in the presence of singing Chiffchaff and Greenfinch. As we made our way to the reserve centre we had the strident anthem of multiple Wrens & Cetti’s Warblers. The forecast of wind and rain proved to be correct as our group headed to the foreshore and lighthouse. It appeared that most passerines were sheltering from the torrid elements while their braver compatriots Pochards, Coots, Tufted Ducks & Little Grebes could be seen riding out the rough waters of the pools. Amongst the Curlews on the shoreline a smaller curlew-like bird was discovered and identified as a Whimbrel. While we sheltered from the inclement weather Teal, Cormorant and Canadian Geese were seen from the hide as well as some unidentified passerines. There was a debate over the parentage of a possible hybrid duck. Was it a Scaup mixed with Tufted or Gadwall duck? We retreated to the visitor centre. On route we found a Goldcrest, Marsh Harrier and another Chiffchaff. Coffee and cakes were on the agenda as we watched small flocks of Greenfinch and Reed Bunting, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Little Grebe demonstrating how small it was, almost under our feet. As the precipitation ceased and the outlook improved the group headed to Goldcliff. The stars of the afternoon were a Spotted Redshank, unfortunately not in summer plumage, and an elegant Greenshank. The supporting cast included Wigeon, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Shelduck, and Shovelers. The chorus lines of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were disturbed by a maundering Marsh Harrier, but practice was quickly resumed although the sound system seemed muffled probably due to the high winds. Thanks to Nick for leading this field trip in challenging conditions with nearly 50 species seen, identified & recorded.
On a mild and sunny day, 25 walkers set out across the Doynton farmland to take a northern route into the Golden Valley. The youngest of us by far was a journalist-in-training from UWE, tasked with interviewing us about our choice of an official UK bird between the suggested options of Robin, Wren or Kingfisher. I hope he wasn’t too bored!
Since I was last in this area, two of the quarries have filled up with water providing some interesting new habitat. It seems likely that breeding will be attempted by the pair of Greylags, two pairs of Dabchicks and two pairs of Coots that have taken up residence there – new birds for the site list, I’m sure. The older inhabitants, Raven and Peregrine, were both on station and showed nicely. If that Peregrine isn’t deaf it must have nerves of steel, as it completely ignored a large digger trundling around on the bank only about 20 yards above its perch. Familiarity breeds indifference?
Other birds of interest included a pair of Mistle Thrushes, so large and grey compared with the Song Thrush; at least four singing Chiffchaffs which were probably new arrivals; a Blackcap in close proximity to a fat-ball feeder who had probably wintered there; also Buzzard, Jay, Goldcrest and Meadow Pipit to add to the usual field and woodland species. Sadly, any Dipper on the river must have fled long before we all tramped over its bridge. It was a lovely early-spring morning, and thanks to Margaret for showing us some new footpaths through a beautiful rural landscape. Jane Cumming
A new walk in warm spring sunshine, vocal lambs, Celandines and Primroses, plenty of bird-life – truly glorious! Led by David Tombs, 25 of us set off from opposite the Village Hall just as the sun was breaking through the mist. Our departure was marked by the busy, noisy occupants of the Rookery in the trees above. Some were still repairing their nests; others might already have been sitting on eggs. After crossing the playing field, we entered the wide valley of the Doncombe Brook, having already seen a flock of 150 Common Gulls wheeling high above, as well as Long-tailed Tit, a flock of Chaffinches in a ploughed field, one Buzzard sitting in a tree and another Buzzard calling above us. As we entered the edge of Cloud Wood we heard Skylark, then Nuthatch, and noted Goldcrest, Wren, Pheasant and Magpie. At coffee break, before we entered Marshfield Wood, we saw a Kestrel being mobbed by a Crow while a Buzzard circled nearby. In the wood, a pair of Ravens were calling, and Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard. Back near the village, Jackdaw, Bullfinch, Jay and Yellowhammer were seen. Then, in the churchyard, came what for some was the star sighting: a female Grey Wagtail seeking insects on the church roof. As it posed obligingly, revelling in the sunshine, we admired its bright yellow markings which showed so well against the roof tiles. Species recorded, 37. Thank you, David, for finding and leading the walk – we hope it will become a regular. John Beaven
A group of 25 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful morning. Beneath the hedgerows and along the banks the early flowers of spring, the celandines, daffodils and primroses, provided welcome splashes of colour and the Stanton Drew stone circle gave us an historical theme. We were quickly treated to the sounds of many birds including Robins, House Sparrows, Great Tits and Wrens. This continued throughout the morning. We passed a garden which had some bird feeders one of which looked rather strange as it consisted of a long string to which was attached a quarter of a red cabbage about 18 inches above the ground. Having failed to think of any birds that might feed on red cabbage we then saw the chickens! We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and then spotted a flock of about 80 Starlings flying over. Later we saw another flock of about 30. Chiffchaff were either seen or heard and Coal Tit was added to our list. Small flocks of Common Gulls and Goldfinches of 19 and 35 respectively were also seen. A small number of Fieldfares and Redwings probably on their way north were in the nearby trees. We climbed Knowle Hill to gain a splendid view of Chew Valley Lake and on the way down we heard the sounds of a flock of birds in a large ash tree and were surprised to find there were over 60 Linnets. We saw a Kestrel mobbing a Buzzard and soon after some had a fleeting view of a Sparrowhawk. We passed some farm buildings and had nice views of four Yellowhammers on top of the barns. We had a total of 39 species and, thanks to Nick Hawkridge’s splendid record keeping, a total of almost 500 birds. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and many thanks to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk. Mike Landen
On a blustery morning 21 of us donned our waterproofs for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. As we set off we saw Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not far down the track we saw our first Yellowhammer and a little further on a flock of 20 took off from a field margin planted for winter feed. As we walked downhill our first Buzzard was spotted against the blue sky, the threatening rain clouds having departed. We walked through a small wood in the hope of seeing Woodcock that are there but most were disappointed; a splinter group of four who walked the field adjacent to the wood were however rewarded with a sight of one flushed downhill by the rest of us. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen in small numbers on several occasions along with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. We spotted a couple of hares in different parts of the walk – a bit early for a boxing display though – as well as Roe Deer. Several of the meadows we walked through have been sown with extensive wild flower mixes to provide food for insects and birds and will no doubt give an excellent visual display in a couple of months or so. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and John Paget for providing a lift for those who wanted one up the hill. In all we saw 39 species.
The cold east wind was barely offset by the warm sun; the track from The Sperrings to the lake thus offered a brief respite. Our walk began with a small party of House Sparrow on the roofs, with Goldfinch close by, but at the lake the sun threw such a dazzle on the water that those ducks and geese present were reduced to inky silhouettes. An obliging Redwing offered us clear views down to 10m, the eye stripe of this fine bird being particularly bright and the rufous under wing patches were simply bursting up the breast. The lake held plenty of Black-headed Gulls, some fine Mute Swans, Canada Goose, the usual duck population, a solitary Little Egret and just as we were moving from the water’s edge, a pair of Gadwalls churning across the billows. Before leaving the path a Mistle Thrush and two Song Thrushes had been seen, closely followed by more Redwings who lifted from the pasture at our approach and were kept company by several Chaffinches. A stray Grey Wagtail flew over as we made our way along the back lanes, with two Buzzards sitting atop posts and flying off as we mustered for coffee. Further along, one field held a creeping carpet of Meadow Pipits and the alders close by had Treecreeper, Long-tailed and Coal Tit. A field on the corner of the lane held two Stonechats and a different carpet, this time of feeding Black-headed Gulls who suddenly exploded into flight. A large, so probably female, Sparrowhawk circled and then flew quickly away. Following the top track back towards the Common, another field contained plenty of Redwings but we could only find two Fieldfares among them plus another good count of Chaffinches. Dropping down towards the cars a Bullfinch called from the hedge and Nuthatch from the top of the beech trees. In the hedge, try as we might, we could only locate five House Sparrows – the noise was that of 20. As we took our leave of the other 28 walkers the tally was 48 for the day. Our thanks to John for leading. Nick and Annie Hawkridge
Four BOC members gathered with me in the car park at Barrow Gurney reservoirs for the planned visit here. There was a threat of strong winds and rain coming in later and it was quite cold, with a southerly breeze, but dry. We proceeded to Tank Number 3, where we were able to watch a Common Sandpiper through telescopes, feeding on the concrete apron. We also saw some Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, and a superb male Goldeneye. There were several Cormorants in summer plumage with the white patch on their flanks and also white on the head and necks – they looked splendid. A pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls, and a candidate for an Adult Yellow-legged gull, were also present, along with some Little Grebes and Coots. Deciding not to walk all the way round number 3, and bearing in mind the impending weather, we moved to number 2 tank. Here it was less sheltered, with the wind a little stronger. There were some more duck here, and Cormorants. Discussion then took place on the identification of the various gulls that were roosting on the causeway between number 1 and 2 tanks, where we noted the difference between Common, Black-headed, and Lesser Black-backed gulls, mostly in winter or first winter plumage, but with at least one Black-headed Gull in its summer finery. A Raven flew over, briefly calling. We opted to take a short walk around No 1 reservoir, returning along the causeway with time (and weather) pressing. Two members opted to end their visit part way around, but the remaining members decided to press on, where there were more views and discussion relating to the gulls, and more views of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal. We saw various gulls trying to rob a Dabchick of its fish every time it surfaced. A Grey Wagtail flew over. Then with light rain now falling, along with the wind not subsiding, we decided to end the visit and return to the car park and call it a day. Most of the members had not been to this site before, and planned to visit again in more favourable conditions(Many thanks to Chris for leading.) Chris Stone
Twenty people met on a bright cold morning with puddles frozen over and a brisk wind. First sighting were four/five Ravens flying over, with Pheasants dotted along the valley, and Mistle Thrush and Great and Blue Tit singing. Greenfinch and Robins were in the hedges and later Blackbirds, Chaffinch and Goldfinch were seen. Some at the back of the group had a very good view of a Sparrowhawk flying low over the fields. As we crossed the valley three Buzzards were seen and two Stonechats, followed by two Kestrels – one on a post plucking at some prey or other; a bird, a mouse? A Grey Heron also came by with its characteristic lazy flight wending its way across the valley floor. As we continued through Common Hill Wood first Goldcrest, then Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen or heard. On coming down off Walton Common we were delighted to find a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, a first for the year. Last, but by no mean least, House Sparrow were seen in the gardens just before the finish. A total of 39 species were seen or heard during this stimulating walk (Thanks to Geoff for leading). Geoff Harris.
It was a windless morning of light mistiness and thick cloud but there were 34 smiling faces to see John Prince present me with a delightful Owl trophy in commemoration of walk 1000 at Ashton Park, and of my starting the Tuesday Club way back in November 1994. Thank you, John and everyone. Today, walk number 1015, we headed to the south beach area noting a good gathering on the exposed mud of Shelduck, Redshank, Dunlin, and Ringed Plover, and then we walked along a small lane behind the village where there were Song Thrush, Wagtails, and Blue and Great Tits. After heading across some fields, to give some distance from the M4, we had a coffee break before taking the bridge over the motorway and onto the wonderful new Pilning Wetlands Nature Reserve, formally a military firing range. There, on the pools, we saw Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, more Dunlin, Shoveler, and one Little Egret before the small climb to the River Severn flood bank pathway. Between there and New Passage we saw a large flock of Teal resting on the pill and 150 Wigeon feeding on the grass. The river, an hour or so after high water, was so exceedingly calm it gave the appearance of being iced over and a passing Cormorant was mirrored as it flew under the M4 bridge. It was closely followed at a more leisurely pace by a Grey Heron. Thanks go to Nick Hawkridge for kindly noting the bird species totalling 51. (Thanks to David for leading) David Tombs
Eleven members joined the leaders on a dull wintry day at Sheepway. The overnight frost kept the ground solid for most of the day and there was a distinct edge to the North Easterly wind. A number of species was logged before the start; along Sheepway were plenty of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, though the latter were easier to hear than see. Thrushes were easily found with five species being added. Fieldfares were not much in evidence but it was useful to find Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush close enough for comparison. A number of us were interested to learn of the existence of Dark-throated Thrush – though a long study failed to turn a rather dark headed Song Thrush into a star find! Everyone got to check the Goldcrest and then the first of several rather elusive Bullfinches put in an appearance. There were plenty more seen later but some of us missed them completely. Out of the lane through the fields and onto the sea wall produced the usual suspects. The proximity of the docks provided a constant background of noise making hearing bird calls a challenge. Only the first couple of people onto the sea wall managed to see a reasonable flock of Wigeon before they disappeared. Highlights along the bank were several Reed Buntings and a Stonechat. Distant Curlew and Redshank were the only waders. The tower hide provided a bit of respite from the cutting wind, and added more duck – total eight species. It’s an advantage having an AWT volunteer as one of the leaders. Not only did Giles update us on work on the Reserve but took us into the Sanctuary – normally closed to the public. Giles explained the management of this area – leaving plenty of scrub for the Portbury Ringing Group to work in but opening up the grassland to create meadow for wildflowers and invertebrates. Interesting to see how close the reserve is to the built-up area. Roe Deer and Fox were seen, a welcome addition to the list. This continued to expand back along Wharf Lane to Sheepway but a number of hoped for specialties hadn’t heard that we expected to see them. Despite that a very healthy 53 were recorded. It seemed that everyone had an enjoyable morning. (Thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading.) Bob Buck