The two groups, arriving on busesfrom different directions, met at the gateway to Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh on a lovely sunny morning, 14 of us in all. I decided to divert from the direct path to the river into Paradise Bottom and this proved fruitful. Tits of almost every sort were flitting high in the very tall trees (deciduous, redwoods and pines) and necks were craned trying to follow them and also a couple of Treecreepers. Nuthatch and Goldcrest were heard, a Green Woodpecker called, a Wren sang and Comma and Speckled Wood butterflies were found basking in the sunshine, so I called an early coffee break in this beautiful area. We then retraced our steps to the main path to the river. The high tide meant we did not find Redshank or Lapwing (seen on a recce the previous week) but the setting was lovely and we did find a Common Sandpiper, courtesy of Roger’s scope. Also 50+ Black-headed Gulls, an immature probable Lesser Black-backed Gulland some Mallardwereon the water, and four Herons on the bank. Ham Green pool produced a Moorhen and a Mute Swan among the water lilies and a young Rook in a tree above us. 32 species in all.
19 people set off on a warm, calm morning and accumulated eleven species by the time we had left the village. These included House Martins (still nesting), Swallows, Blackbird, Gulls, a flock of Jackdaws and a Greenfinch on a Hawthorn by the Churchyard. Down the lane by Priddy Pond, a Nuthatch called then landed close by, giving good views. There was also a distant view of a Jay. Climbing through fields, the wider horizon revealed Buzzards, a Magpie (surprisingly few around), a flock of Goldfinch on Teasels and a flock of Linnets. Bullfinch and Wren were heard. On the high ground, by the nine Barrows, Ravens, Crows and a pair of Meadow Pipits flew off.
Several Buzzards were up by now and we watched Wheatears on the stone walls and fence posts. A Moorhen was heard down by the ponds near Stock Hill. The hot sun brought out a number of butterflies, including Clouded Yellow and Small Copper. The day’s total was 26 bird species.
The few spots of drizzle at the beginning gave way to bright skies and, at times, sunshine. Eleven of us set off from Elberton and were soon walking through a forest of three metre high sweet corn which, fortunately, was still dry. Reaching Littleton-on-Severn with18 bird species on our list, including House Martin, Swallow, Collared Dove and Pied Wagtail, we bade farewell to two in our group and continued up to a magnificent view-point overlooking the Severn, which was at flood-tide, and there we rested a while, having added Mallard, Goldfinch and Blue Tit to our totals. Two more members then left as the remaining seven headed further up the hill to reach our lunch stop at a viewpoint overlooking Thornbury. Refreshed, we then walked the remaining two miles back to our cars, passing through Elberton churchyard on the way and with only 23 regularly seen birds on the list, which included Blackbird, Jackdaw and Raven.
A return to warm sunny weather welcomed the eighteen members who set off from the Globe in Frampton Cotterell. House Sparrows and Jackdaws accompanied us as we approached the adjacent meadows which had been refreshed by the previous days rain. The first section of the walk took us in the direction of Iron Acton alongside a very narrow River Frome where a flyover of Goldfinches and a startled Green Woodpecker were the best of the early sightings. The pre-coffee break highlight for some of the group, however, was the slow procession across a gap between two trees of a flock of Blue, Great and some 16 Long-tailed Tits. We left the stream and moved along hedgerows where Bullfinch were seen and a family of warblers flitted around, eventually being identified as Willow Warblers. Moving uphill we skirted horse fields, corn fields and hay meadows where Swallows and House Martins zoomed around in the warm conditions. Two Swifts were also spotted. There were several sightings of a Buzzard which proved to be the only raptor of the day. Mention must be made of the multitude of butterflies encountered particularly the abundance of the Large and Small White variety (100+). Others identified include Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Peacock and the once common Small Tortoiseshell. As to the birds, 27 species were noted. Thanks to Peter for leading a very pleasant walk.
Waders were the day’s main highlights, with 16 different species encountered. The weather was perfect for the start of Cowes week – sunny with a brisk wind. Ten birders met at the harbour where a number of Turnstone made use of a blue boat to perch on as the tide was high. A walk along the shoreline produced Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Curlew on the salt-marsh. Further along on the landward side of the path were Linnet, a distant Kestrel, Starling, Swallow and Shelduck. At the first freshwater pool gulls including a Mediterranean Gull and a Greenshank and Little Egret congregated on the outward leg, and 120 Black-tailed Godwits and 300 Dunlins on the return journey. The second pool provided the most interest however – highlights being Curlew Sandpiper (picked out amongst the numbers of Dunlin by their peachy summer plumage), Ringed Plover, a juvenile and adult Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and a Water Rail (seen briefly by some). After a quick lunch stop we all nipped round to the other side of the pool to twitch a Long-billed Dowitcher which had been in the area for a few days. After a little patience, good views were had by all. An obliging Snipe came alongside at one point affording a good comparison between the two species. Some of the group rounded the day off nicely with a Hobby on the way back to the cars – making it around 40 species in all.
The Avon Gorge Peregrine Falcons raised four young this year. Due to various other events which clashed with our normal programme we had to hold our two watch weekends later this year, which apart from the weather conditions did not cause us many problems.
By the date of the first watch weekend on Saturday 22 June all four chicks had fledged and had been seen perfecting their flying skills in and around the Gorge, still dependant on their parents for supplying food. Saturday 22 June turned out to be a very cold overcast day with quite a strong breeze and the odd squally shower which did deplete the numbers of watchers at the site. Phil Gentle from LCE was in attendance with his usual optics road show but due to damage caused to his Gazebo by the strong wind he had to call it a day by early afternoon. The 11 weather did not stop the four chicks giving the small number of visitors good views with all six birds in flight and they were treated to some close passes by two birds with the two adults watching from the trees on the opposite side of the Gorge. The watch on 23 Jun was no better weather-wise, it was still very cold with the odd sharp shower. LCE turned up late for their second visit but finished quite early on. The bad weather did not prevent three of the juvenile birds chasing a passing flock of pigeons without success. Later in the day two of the young birds were observed perched in the top of two nearby trees being buffeted by the strong wind.
In contrast, the second watch weekend was a very warm sunny one with very little wind which did cause a noticeable lack of activity from the birds. It was only during the early morning and the late afternoon they put in a flying display for the visitors who numbered fifteen at one stage. Both adult birds were for most of the day either sitting in the trees or on the old Raven’s nest on the opposite side of the Gorge. We did observe two pigeons being brought in by the parent birds to the old Raven’s nest for the waiting young birds during the morning session on Sunday 14 July with all six birds in the air later in the afternoon engaged in a game of tag around the Gorge.
Although due to the adverse weather conditions the number of visitors was well down, it still proved to be a successful watch. My thanks to those members who helped this year and to those members who braved the weather.
This years watchers were,:- Judy Copeland, Alison Levinson, Jeannette Maxwell, Peter Holbrook, Cecile Gillard, Barry Gray, Margaret Swatton, Jean Oliver, Phyl Dykes, Brenda Page, Chris Perry, Richard Bland, Gordon Youdale, William Earp, Mandy Leivers, Sue Sayers, Charles Stapleton
A brilliant and informative introduction to the area by the leader (from inside the church as a tree shredder was howling outside) was a novel way to start our walk along the Kennet and Avon canal. The playing fields were alive with Swift and Swallow, some Collared Doves were spooning on the roof tops and just as Tiny was bemoaning the fact that the narrow boat from which delicious cake could be bought was closed, a Kingfisher made its speedy exit, stage right, towards Bath. As we passed the many sculptures on the canal side, a Grey Wagtail bobbed along the water’s edge, catching low flying insects. Magpies were attempting to rustle up a good feed from the many young birds that we heard along the way, Goldfinch and Chiffchaff among them. It was good to hear and eventually see the Whitethroat that abounded along this stretch and, drawn by that lovely song, catch sight of Blackcaps. A friendly dog walker regaled us with tales of the many raptors he’d seen the previous day and when we met again, as we climbed to the hill to Claverton church, he said we’d just missed a Water Rail his dog had flushed. In the churchyard for a belated coffee stop and while Tiny got the key and fought with his thoughtfully provided coffee machine we watched the Blue and Great Tits working hard in the Yew tree above us. Some further Swallows, House Martins and Swifts played in the air and around the church tower before we departed back along the canal for a rerun of the species seen on our way out. A notable Buzzard circled over the hill and Raven had a quick pass at some Jackdaws before disappearing into or behind the trees. As far as totals go; 23 walkers and 29 species, and a huge thanks to Dave ’Tiny’ French for leading and doing all the prep work that made this such a memorable walk.
As eleven walkers mustered at the Ashley Walk Car Park, two members wandered down the slope and got off to a great start with fleeting glimpses of a female Montagu’s Harrier! As we set off, we had high hopes of seeing Dartford Warblers, Woodlark and possibly Honey Buzzard. Early sightings included Stonechat, Linnets, a good number of Mistle Thrushes, and a very young Blue Tit which floated by and flopped to the ground. A calling Cuckoo was heard as we reached a small wooded area which revealed a number of Redstarts, including a youngster. There was then an opportunity to compare the songs of Blackcap and Garden Warbler as they conveniently sang on either side of the path. Even so, discussion ensued as to which was which. As we made our way, other songsters included Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Wren, but the next highlight was a beautifully performing Tree Pipit which gave great views of its parachuting song flight. Just before our lunch stop we came across an active Great Spotted Woodpecker’s nest, and two or three Siskins flitted around here too. As we ate our sandwiches beside a stream we were entertained by more Redstarts, and some Great Tits which were picking at ant hill mounds. A few Stock Doves put in an appearance, including one that called close by. Unfortunately, Woodlark and Honey Buzzard remained elusive, probably not helped by what turned out to be a showery and breezy day, though one back marker did catch sight of a Dartford Warbler. The two who had started with the Harrier got lucky again near the end with a brief Spotted Flycatcher. There were sightings of some Roe Deer and a couple of Fallow Deer also turned up. We finished off by trying for the Montagu’s Harrier along the road at Black Gutter Bottom, but with no luck. Our total of species seen and/or heard was 36. Many thanks to Jane for leading such an enjoyable day.
16 members met on an overcast and humid morning by the Ring O’ Bells pub. A Song Thrush was singing and a Chiffchaff calling as we set off along the lanes to Coley. A Hare crossing in front of us was a surprise and on a house in Coley we observed six active House Martin nests. Brown Trout idled in the stream. The lower lake at Litton had been drained for repair works so the upper lake was our best bet for water birds, but we did see a family of Grey Wagtails on the way. Mallard and Tufted Duck were on the upper lake with a couple of Great Crested Grebes – what a gruff call they make! In an Ash tree we were lucky enough to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker family and get good views of a youngster with its red cap. A Coal Tit was heard and during the walk we heard at least four Song Thrushes, four Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We had a Yellowhammer, Long-tailed Tits, two Bullfinches, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. The fields by the long green lane held families of Rooks. At this time of year there were many wildflowers in bloom. It was a very pleasant walk of four and a half miles with a total of 36 species. Thanks go to Sue and John Prince for leading.
Fifteen birders met in the car park below the point and collected Jay, Magpie and Woodpigeon, plus some distant Swift before we attempted the steep path to the Trig point. Beside the steeply climbing path a couple of Chiffchaff sang and distantly a Blackcap, while above our heads a Kestrel hovered and a Cormorant flew past. Along the point we saw and heard very little as the wind was rather brisk, apart from a couple of Shelducks foraging on the tide line, but this didn’t detract from the beauty of the setting with abundant wild flowers and lovely sea views. Down on the channel side of the point and out of the wind we could hear at last and we were soon on to Whitethroat, Wren, Linnet and Goldfinch, while on the shore a solitary Rock Pipit stood sentinel guard near his nest. After the coffee stop and a prolonged search for a sight of the Whitethroat, we saw several Starlings, Carrion Crows, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and a single Great Tit. Going down towards our lunch spot, two Curlews were identified on the river bank alongside a Lapwing. During our leisurely stop we debated the identity of two duck 11 shaped blobs in among the grassy tussocks. A Greenfinch and then a Robin serenaded us from the power cables and then the birds stood up and revealed themselves as Shelducks. The walk back across the ancient field system and by the mine research establishment gave us a solitary Mallard asleep among the weed strewn stones. Before we reached the car park we saw more Jackdaws and our first House Martins. A bag of 34 for the day. Many thanks for leading, Nick.