Eight members met on a beautifully bright but cold and frosty day. We spent the morning at the WWT reserve. Although it was high tide the water had not come into the pools outside of the Mendip Hide so views of the birds were a little distant – Shelduck, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin. Bird feeders on the way gave views of Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Robin. We walked out to the River Parrett where we saw Avocets, Grey Plover, Mute Swans and Teal. A Peregrine which had been sitting on a pylon flew and had an altercation with a Raven. During the day we had several views of Marsh Harriers. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen and heard as we walked to the Quantock Hide where Wigeon, Mallard and Little Stint were added to the list. A group of Roe Deer were seen nearby. On the way to the Polden Hide four Snipe were seen in the grass and two Skylarks seen and heard. After lunch we moved onto the Natural England reserve and walked along the shore by Stert Flats to the Tower Hide. Buzzard was added to the list and a mixed flock of Canada and Barnacle Geese grazed on Fenning Island. Several pairs of Shoveler were seen and four Little Grebes, as well as several Golden Plover. Other raptors included Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and for the four of us who walked up from Steart Gate car park to the ridge overlooking the Breach – a Merlin perched on a fence and then flew at lightning speed to the mud, returned with a wader and proceeded to pluck it. A stop on the way back at Wall Common unfortunately did not reward us with any Short-eared Owls. Over 50 species were recorded. Thanks to Richard Belson for leading. Rosemary Brown
A good turnout of 26 members set out from the main car park at Chew Valley on a beautiful day. At the dam wall it was slightly unfortunate that we were looking into the sun which prevented us from having a great view of the birds. However we did see Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe. We also saw a Goldeneye and a single Lapwing, although more were seen later. We then walked through fields to the north of the lake and added a number of common species to our list. These included Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Dunnock and Robin. Some of the group spotted a couple of Goldcrests and two Grey Wagtails were also seen, as well as our first winter thrush of the morning – a Redwing. As we continued the walk alongside the river we added Rook, Song Thrush and Goldfinch. After our coffee break we walked along Dumpers Lane where the light was now brilliant and we were rewarded with superb views of two Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush. As we reached the end of the lane two of the group were fortunate to see a Kingfisher flying along the River Chew. Making our way back towards the lake we saw Coal Tit, House Sparrow, and Starling and our only Buzzard of the morning. A small party of six Linnets were seen as well as a Meadow Pipit and a Yellowhammer. We had a very nice view of a male Stonechat showing really well in the bright sunshine. Walking back along the lake between the two car parks we added Teal and Mute Swan. It was a good walk and a respectable total of 47 species. Thank to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen
Eleven members met on a bright crisp mid – morning at the RSPB car park at Ham Wall. We were informed by RSPB staff that the Starlings had roosted on Ham Wall the previous evening so we opted to spend the morning walking through the Natural England Meare Heath reserve. There were a few Redwings in the trees by the car park, audible with their thin “tsueep” call. Goldfinches and Long-tailed Tits fed enthusiastically in the alders and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over with characteristically undulating motion. There followed the first of many sightings of Great White Egret both in flight and on the ground. It is amazing that this once “twitchable” species is quite often more numerous on the day than its cousin, the Little Egret. Both adult female and juvenile Marsh Harriers glided low over the reeds occasionally quickly dropping from view to pursue prey. We spent some time in the hide at Noah’s Lake as the wildfowl spectacle was brilliant with about 1000 birds on view, the majority being Wigeon. A flock of about twenty Black-tailed Godwits flew over and a Kingfisher darted past the hide, There were nice views of two male Pintail, and a Blackcap, more often in gardens in winter, was seen in adjoining willows. After lunch we walked into the Ham Wall reserve. There were three sightings of Bittern, two in flight and one occasionally seen standing camouflaged in the reeds. By late afternoon we had recorded 49 species but no Starling. This was soon rectified by the first of many flocks, some small and some enormous, swirling in over the reeds from all directions. The weather was perfect for a prolonged display as the flocks twisted and condensed together, particularly when attacked by a Peregrine. A splendid finale to a fine days birding. (Thank you Mike.) Mike Johnson
A hardy group of eleven members gathered in Wick despite the wet conditions for an interesting walk around Golden Valley. Happily the rain held off until the last quarter of the walk and we saw 29 species. As we left the car park, Starling flew over, several Jackdaws were on roof tops and a couple of Magpies were seen. As we walked up the valley alongside the River Boyd, House Sparrows chattered and Chaffinches flitted about the hedgerow and the first of several flocks of Redwings were spotted. On the river, some saw a Grey Wagtail on the far bank, two Goldcrests were spotted and as we crossed the fields above the quarry a male and female Bullfinch moved along the trees ahead of us. Numerous Robins and Wrens made themselves heard and Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls passed by. In a large flock of gulls on a field some distance away a few Common Gulls were distinguished. A Kestrel moved past and a few Carrion Crows and Rooks were on the ground. Thanks to Dave Body for leading.
In very misty weather eleven of us crested the reservoir bank and looked carefully for the opposite side which was faintly visible. Not deterred we set off towards the sailing clubhouse as Pied Wagtail danced along the embankment. The water was very low and a Great White Egret was on the ‘island’ about 50m away, along with Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Coot were much in evidence on the water with Teal, Mute Swans, Mallard, a couple of Great Crested Grebes, and bevy of Cormorants and a Grey Heron. Grey Wagtail were also around and a few Meadow Pipits flew by. As we neared our path towards Axbridge, we saw Tufted and Mandarin Duck, and Pochard as we left the reservoir. The ‘squelchy’ part of the walk began with a Goldcrest in the adjacent hedge. Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits were around as we entered Axbridge and many Goldfinches and a solitary Greenfinch moved about the hedgerow trees. We made our way over the levels to the River Axe, seeing two Little Egrets on grassland and a Great White Egret flying past (probably the same one that was on the reservoir). A Little Grebe and two Moorhen were hugging the banks of the Axe and an adjacent rhyne. Many Fieldfares were around, though fewer Redwings, and a Buzzard flew overhead. As we walked back to the southern side of the reservoir a Green Woodpecker was heard. The weather proved to be better than expected and 46 species were seen. Many thanks Mark. Mark Watson
The appointed leader, Kim Howard, found himself alone at the reservoir – maybe because of the Tuesday meeting scheduled two days later. Thanks Kim.
This autumn has seen water levels at Cheddar Reservoir fall to their lowest for a number of years and that has provided abundant habitat for many birds. Even though levels had already started to rise, this Sunday walk provided an opportunity to see many of the autumn’s visitors at relatively close quarters but, unfortunately, that opportunity was taken only by me. Perhaps others were off hunting White-tailed Eagles or knew that October’s Lesser Yellowlegs had already departed, but they missed hundreds of wildfowl, including Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall, a thousand or more Coots and four of the spectacular Great White Egrets which have adorned the reservoirs of late. Three small waders dodging between the loafing Cormorants offered an identification challenge and turned out to be day-tripping Dunlin. (Thanks for agreeing to lead the trip, Kim – see what you missed, folks? – ed.) Kim Howard
A dry day with a sharp wind greeted us as we gathered on the sea front at Clevedon for a walk along Poet’s Walk and the Blind Yeo. On our arrival at the sea wall Turnstone were on the beach along with a solitary Curlew and Oystercatchers. As we started through the woodland Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin and Blackbirds were seen and heard. Blue and Great Tits were also present as we moved on to open ground on the headland overlooking the mudflats and creeks where the Yeo enters the Bristol Channel. Here we saw a good collection of waders and duck including Shelduck, Little Egret, a Canada Goose, Wigeon, 15 Redshanks and a couple of Grey Herons. Whist we had coffee on the breakwater at the foot of Wains Hill, a Stonechat and Wheatear give us excellent close views. We moved along the sea bank to the Blind Yeo and a few saw both Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit, and a couple of Moorhens were skulking along the river bank. Along the Blind Yeo we saw Goldfinch, Greenfinch, a Green Woodpecker, and Jay. Further on a Sparrowhawk flew low overhead and on the way back a Kestrel sat in a bush giving excellent views, and Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed over. Thanks to Jane for leading a great walk with 43 species in all. Mark Watson
A misty morning greeted 24 members at Snuff Mills car park for a walk in Stoke Park and along the Frome. A Grey Heron was at the edge of Duchess Lake along with Moorhen, and a female Stonechat showed briefly. A lone Black-headed Gull sat on a fence post. Several Magpies and Jackdaws were around as well as a flock of 40 or so Wood Pigeon. As we walked around the edge of the Lake over 40 Redwing passed overhead as well as moving around in the trees on the hillside. Three Skylarks rose upwards and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was glimpsed. A couple of flocks of 20 and 30 Goldfinches flew over and when we returned along the edge of the Lake the Stonechat obligingly sat for some time on the top of some briars. We moved out of Stoke Park and along to Stapleton Church, where we had excellent views of a female Peregrine Falcon perched towards the top of the spire. As we descended to the River Frome, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were heard and seen as well as a couple of Goldcrests. On the river there were two Grey Wagtails and some saw two Jays and two Stock Doves before we returned to the car park. Bristol is lucky to have such wonderful open spaces near the centre of the city and thanks go to Rich Scantlebury, who knows the area like the back of his hand, for leading an interesting walk. Mark Watson
No food at the Inn – what a disappointment for the lunchers – the normally reliable Princes Motto was in the throes of changing landlords. However 11 set off for a misty perambulate around the lanes and fields of Barrow. Up the path and birds started falling to my pencil – Redwing, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Carrion Crow. After counting flocks of Black-headed Gulls, a stream of Wood Pigeons, and listening to the chucking of Magpie, we came upon our first Yellowhammer and what a brilliant coloured bird he was among 7 others. We negotiated the A38, where a line of Starlings obligingly sat and was duly counted, and then went on towards Tank 1 which had some floating Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebe, and a Cormorant sitting on each buoy. Here we departed from our usual route, attracted by a bright new gate, and had unrestricted access to the fields above Tank 2 which contained more Tufted Ducks, many Coots and some Mallards. The new gates – replacing some of the area’s worst stiles – continued all the way to the usual coffee stop (the barns), where Raven was heard and Grey Wagtail seen. Up the lane and the first flock of Goldfinches was found, alas none magically turned into Siskin: the expected Bullfinch put in an appearance and as we climbed the track towards the A38 a flight of Stock Doves passed swiftly west. Our first Buzzard of the day called from a tree top but as we approached it took flight. Now close to the A38 by the kennels, an overstocked bird feeder gave us all the usual tit species, and also a vole feasting on the discarded seeds. Another dash across the busy main road and just a flock of five Yellowhammers, 34 migrating Skylarks and three Kestrels added to our total of 38 species. Thanks to Geoff for leading us on this splendid and varied walk. Nick Hawkridge