The sun was shining when the 20 walkers arrived at the car park and it kept shining all day. We started off from the centre with singing warblers in every bush, including Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and the noisy Cetti’s. It was an ideal day to see Bearded Tits and we were not disappointed. They were seen flying over the reeds but we also had very good views of the four juveniles (without beards). Next to the juveniles was a Reed Bunting in clear view and Reed Warblers were everywhere in full song. On the ponds were Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Pochard. The estuary had many Shelduck and a few Curlew, but a small party of juvenile Wrens had a captive audience. The Cuckoo remained elusive, although could be heard in the distance. After lunch we carried on to Goldcliff where we added Avocets with chicks, Redshank and Lapwing also with 12 chicks. Black-tailed Godwit, Gadwall and Little Egrets were also seen and helped make a total of 45 species for the day. Thanks to Ray and Margaret for leading.
Eleven members assembled on a warm and breezy day in unbroken sunshine in the very scenic Vale of Ewyas. Early birds seen included Swallow, Jackdaw, Blackbird and Dunnock, while a Buzzard soared overhead. An unseen Green Woodpecker yaffled in the distance, and an elusive warbler divided opinions between Garden and Blackcap. As the walk turned uphill, Goldfinch and Carrion Crow were added to the list. Meadow Pipits were common in the valley, and soon the first Redstart was heard and then seen by some at the back of the group. As we walked on, Tree Pipits vied for attention with Meadow Pipits, and the first pairs of what were to be several Stonechats appeared. A Grey Heron lifted off from the small stream in the valley, and a Pied Wagtail paddled in it. Linnets and Skylarks were abundant towards the top of the valley, and Magpies and Chaffinches were added to the day’s list. At the top of the hill, the breeze became a gale and a Swift and a group of (presumed) Racing Pigeons were observed before we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the stunning views north of the Brecon Beacons. Moving on, the wind made birding difficult until we dropped over the edge of the hill. A Wheatear was spotted soon after and a Coal Tit was seen in the woods. A Raven was discovered on the ground on the edge of the woods, and a very distant Cuckoo was heard by keen ears. A definite Blackcap was seen well and a flurry of Wrens kept the count ticking over, before Blue Tit and Robin belatedly joined the list. A short rest stop provided the best views of Redstart of the day, and also brief views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A mystery yellow bird was seen to fly in to the canopy and become elusive, with opinions ranging from Siskin to Wood Warbler, before the walk returned to the bridge where the cars had been left. A final bird was added to the list after some of the group had departed, as a large raptor soaring in the distance revealed itself to be a Red Kite. The final tally of 32 shouldn’t disguise what was a superb scenic walk in perfect weather, and very many thanks to Geoff for leading.
At last a bright sunny day and no cold wind! 18 birders arrived opposite the Ring O’ Bells pub to walk through the pretty village and across fields to Litton Reservoirs. A pair of Grey Wagtails, a Pied Wagtail, Coots, Mallard and a Tufted Duck were at the lower reservoir. Water levels were high. The upper reservoir held Dabchicks, two families of Coots with young and a pair of Great Crested Grebes. There were at least five Grey Herons around. Bird song included at least five Blackcaps, seven Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat. We also heard Pheasant, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Wren and Robin. A Skylark was heard from the bridleway. A family of Long-tailed Tits with eight young provided a pretty sight. Margaret and Sue saw a pair of Bullfinches from the lane. Altogether some 40 species were seen or heard. No great rarities but a good selection in pretty countryside. Butterflies were on the wing with Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, two Brimstones and an Orange Tip seen.
Although it was overcast with a slight chill in the northerly breeze we had a splendid morning’s walk. We were Phyl Dykes and myself. Where were you all? You really missed an enjoyable morning in superb scenery. Birds were a-plenty with a good mix of residents and migrants in song. We started off with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Skylark and Yellowhammers. Then, as we set off down into the first valley a Bullfinch was singing its quiet wheezy song. House Martins appeared, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard and so it went on. There was a slope full of cowslips with Thrushes singing from the woodland. A Sparrowhawk put in a brief appearance and Buzzards stayed aloft for longer. By the time we’d got to the mill pond, Nuthatch and Swallow had been noted. At the pond the Mute Swans had a nest almost within touching distance. Tufted Ducks and Moorhens were well out of the way. At Lower Kilcott a scan of the slopes above produced a couple of Red-legged Partridge where expected. At the top of the second big valley, Whitethroats were singing, a Raven called and a Kestrel hovered and finally House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Swifts were seen in Hawksbury Upton. Well, almost finally, as when I departed I found a Lapwing (the 46th species) which Phyl missed! Fortunately she had already thanked me for introducing her to a lovely place.
A party of Great Tits (adults + young) greeted us loudly from a horse chestnut tree near the car park as 14 members assembled for a somewhat gloomy evening stroll around Frampton Pools. The Sailing Club lake was quiet apart from a few Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swans and a distant pair of Terns (Common?) that skimmed the water before disappearing. Two Mistle Thrushes perching on the wires posed agitatedly until a Sparrowhawk skittered past us into the trees. A pair of Gadwalls drifted past on the lake as a huge flock of Swifts 11 and Hirundines (1000+) arced across the sky overhead all around us. Despite the poor light we identified them as predominantly Martins (House and Sand) together with a few Swallows. The woodland rewarded us with the distinctive bubbling calls of two Nightingales. Heading back to the village in the failing light we were serenaded by the high clear phrases of Song Thrushes while bats flitted by and a noisy flock of Jackdaws flew to roost in the trees. As night fell on the outskirts of the village a strange call eventually resolved itself into a Tawny Owl perched in a large garden conifer. It conveniently flew to a nearby TV aerial and was silhouetted against the sky before we we all dispersed into the night. Total number of bird species recorded was 27. Thanks to Phyl for leading.
Ten of us started walking the windswept track westward. Our first delights were Warblers: Reed, Sedge, Cetti’s, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff and only 100 yards covered. The next 100 yards were fantastic; a group of four Hobbies turning, darting, sprinting as they chased Swallows and House Martins. Rising above all this madness 20+ Bar-tailed Godwits fled east. A Buzzard floated serenely above them and to our left there was an Osprey with a tasty meal, slung fore and aft beneath, clenched in its awesome talons. A further few yards and we were rewarded with a Great White Egret, initially floundering in too deep water, then landing and starting to fish. With scopes all set to admire this beauty (three Darvic leg rings Red White Black) our interest was further tweaked by a loose group of 17 Black-tailed Godwits, some preening, some sleeping, but none feeding. A small group of Gadwall, some Coot and a lone Moorhen completed this ensemble. A male Reed Bunting sang from the top of a bush as we turned to continue our walk. We all trouped into the Meare Heath Hide for elevenses; the normally teeming waters held a solitary Pochard. Maybe our luck had changed – but it hadn’t ! Two Bitterns flopped down into the reeds on our right and as we left, a Marsh Harrier also shot off to the right. The woods were full of Blackcap and Wren, and then, on the stiffish breeze we heard “Cuckoo, Cuckoo.” Heading to the other hide came the unmistakable call of Goldcrest, which then showed itself. No pine type trees for miles, so there are exceptions. Double-decker Cormorants’ nests were perched on the dead branches above the very full lake and the ever present Lesser Black-backed Gulls were cruising over the reeds, watchful for a lax parent surrendering a tasty offspring. On our way back to the car park for lunch another Marsh Harrier was sighted and a couple of Kingfisher, one sitting, desperate to be admired, which it was. Would we be so lucky after lunch? Yes! An Osprey was sitting on top of a T bar in the reeds, giving ample time to register the markings and make a stab at its gender. Another Kingfisher showed well, and there was an actual sighting of a Willow Warbler. The day finished with our 48th and 49th species – a pair of Little Grebe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Great birding, convivial company, kind weather – who could ask for more? Well done ‘The Levels’.
Nick and Annie Hawkridge.
Despite the weather forecast 20 members joined me as we invaded Hazel’s cottage garden on Inglestone Common for our annual BBQ. After the social part of the evening we assembled outside, suitable booted, to enable Hazel to guide the party first by car to the Lodge and then a 20 minute walk along the very muddy Lower Woods paths to listen to two, possibly three, singing Nightingales (once the Thrushes and Robins were quiet). It’s quite true that it’s possible for the Tuesday walkers to be quiet when necessary! Another brilliant evening with many thanks to all who helped to organise the event, provided the refreshments (you should have seen the desserts again this year) and in particular thanks to Hazel and John for their warm hospitality.
Fourteen members met up at Ashcott Corner car park for this visit to the dual reserves of Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall. Early highlights included a singing Garden Warbler in the bushes near the car park as well as Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, and other common species on the walk towards Meare Heath lagoon. Overhead, Swallows and Swifts were joined by House Martins. The water held the usual Great Crested Grebes, Coots, Moorhens and common duck species. Bitterns boomed unseen, and distant Cuckoos called, and the explosive song of the Cetti’s Warbler was a constant accompaniment to the chattering Reed and Sedge Warblers in the reedbeds. Some of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Cetti’s before it disappeared into the undergrowth. The lagoon itself held Lapwing, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, two types of Alba Wagtail and a Little Ringed Plover and overhead Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Hobbies were competing for attention. The walk towards Meare Heath Bridge produced good views of displaying Whitethroats, more Hobbies, Cormorants and a Grey Heron in flight. Whilst the whole group did not continue to Noah’s Hide, the members that did reported Marsh Harrier and Bitterns in flight views. The return to Ashcott Corner produced more of the same species and the entrance to Ham Wall produced good views of a Great White Egret, and then a Kingfisher for some observers. Lingerers were rewarded with good views of both Garden Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. Moving on to the first viewing platform, a definite highlight of the trip was a view of two Bitterns chasing each other in flight, intentions unknown! A third Bittern appeared briefly in the reeds at the back of the pool. A Little Grebe was present on the water, and a stunning male Whinchat posed for all in front of the platform. The rest of the walk added several more common species to the list, a second Great White Egret, a Little Egret, a very obliging Garden Warbler and more Hobbies. In all 54 species were seen on a surprisingly fine spring day! Thanks to Mike Johnson for leading.
On a day dominated by extreme weather with trees toppled, roads flooded, and constant driving rain and wind, we arrived at Newport Wetlands Centre to find that all of three people (including the leader!) were ready to brave the elements. However the birds were undaunted despite the weather, and we totted up a very respectable tally of 36 species in the hour and a half that we spent before tumbling into the café to warm up, and to add a few more species through the window!! Almost as soon as we stepped out of the car Goldfinches were popping out of the bushes, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed warblers were warbling away in the reeds, and the sound of a pig squealing revealed the presence of a Water Rail. A possible “ping” suggested that there was a Bearded Tit lurking somewhere but they were sensibly not showing themselves in the teeth of the gale. Nearer the shore the tide was out and the mudflats were enjoyed by a Curlew as well as about half a dozen Whimbrel, plus the usual Dunlin, Shelduck and Oystercatchers. On the rocks below us was a flock of rosy Linnets and a brightly plumaged Wheatear. On the ponds were lots of Tufted Ducks and Pochards, and from the newish but nicely recycled hide we saw a very handsome Great Crested Grebe. Swallows and Sand Martins flew over in good numbers, and as we opened the door to the hide, a flock of Swallows twittered their way out through an open window. All the time we were in there they were doing a flypast in front of the hide, and even diving past our faces back into the hide, no doubt checking it out as a possible nest site. Eventually when we got to the point that our binoculars were being blown out of our hands we called it a day. It was a memorable morning, for the birds, the weather and that hot cup of coffee! Thank you very much Charles for leading.
A glorious day (hardly any rain) and mud glorious mud. Only the leader had her wellies on and a recce just
beforehand would have been a good idea (it was done a month earlier when all was dry and the bluebells were just starting)! The bluebells today gave us a good show, but there will be more to come. We heard plenty of birds singing as we walked up the track, perhaps more Blackcaps than anything else, but a few Chiffchaffs to help those wanting to learn song. Most of us had a good view of a Mistle Thrush high in a tree, a Song Thrush was singing, one Willow Warbler sang close to the track, we heard a Nuthatch and Alison spotted a Treecreeper. The party got well spread out as usual, but we joined up for coffee and a Sparrowhawk was spotted while we were looking at a Buzzard. Skylark was heard when we reached the field above Moat House Farm, a Swallow was seen and I was told that a Tawny Owl called on our return to the wood! Jean pointed out the plant Toothwort and she named a black bobble on a tree trunk as King Alfred’s Cake. We saw Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue butterflies. 32 people, 29 species.