28 members set off for the walk around Elm Farm on a beautiful sunny, warm spring morning. The farm is managed to enhance wildlife and records are kept on bats, insects (moths, butterflies, hoverflies, dragonflies), flowers and, of course, birds in order to monitor progress on improving biodiversity. Parts of the farm are sown with a variety of plants specifically for insects, birds and mammals resulting in good habitat and the production of winter feed. As we set off we saw Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Martin and Swallow around the farm buildings. We saw a number of common species including Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Grey Heron across the fields. We heard Dunnock, Blackcap and Song Thrush. We heard, and then saw, Skylarks and added Chiffchaff and Pheasant to our list. The farm had 150 Yellowhammers during the winter and although most of these dispersed to breed, we had good views of four feeding on the seed put out on the ground. A Sparrowhawk was hunting in the distance. We then saw a Buzzard, Jay and a Bullfinch, with a good view of the tell-tale white rump as it flew away from us. We had heard a Green Woodpecker earlier and then had good views of another one as it flew in front of us during our coffee stop. Towards the end of the walk we had good views of a Willow Warbler and added Raven, Whitethroat, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest and Collared Dove. Our walk was enhanced by hares and foxes as well as various butterflies and flowers.
Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading and to Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and for arranging a lift for those who wanted to avoid the walk up the hill back to Burnett. Thanks also to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. In all we saw 36 species on an enjoyable walk. Mike Landen
A group of twelve stalwarts gathered together in Beek’s Lane for an invigorating walk in the Valley. Expert birders they were too! I just had to point them in the right direction, mainly down in the first half and back up in the second half. But before that we chalked up quite a few species as we put on our boots. These included Skylark, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush. We walked on to a chorus of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and just a single Willow Warbler, Goldcrest (seen not heard) and a Whitethroat, which gave us enticing views in the top of the hedge. We then found the Yellowhammers in a taller hedgerow adjacent to an arable field (recently seeded). A few Linnets appeared there as well. A Sparrowhawk sailed low over the woodland and soon after a Buzzard appeared – the first of several. As we walked the valley bottom Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Raven and Swallow were added to the list. Monkswood Reservoir held many Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus a few Herring Gulls but a Grey Wagtail was on the roof of the adjacent buildings, unfortunately only seen by a couple of us. On the slow climb back to the cars we added Whinchat (which also flew off before all could see it), Magpie, Green Woodpecker and Jay to the list. The total seen was 44 species. It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk in fine weather. (Thank you for a splendid walk Robin) Robin Prytherch
Twenty-three members set off from a car park packed with dog-walkers and entered the glorious spring woodland, carpeted with Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Wild Garlic and orchids. Our wildflower experts were much in demand the whole trip. Bird song filled our ears on a beautiful spring morning – Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Wren and Blackcap especially singing their hearts out. Out on Wavering Down we saw several Song Thrush anvils – empty snail shells surrounded the large stones that had been used to crack them open. Linnets and Stonechats showed well, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Whitethroat gave song flights and a Green Woodpecker perched on a drystone wall watching us watching him. Our coffee stop had stunning views over the Somerset Levels, across the estuary to the West Somerset Coast and over to Wales (and we were out of the wind on that side!) We heard, but never saw, a probable Garden Warbler; Stock Dove and Raven were seen by some and it was good to see Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin all flying together near the quarry. Back in the woodland we surprised a perched Buzzard and the final bird count was 36 species. Thank you Clive for a lovely morning! Julie Ottley
Thirteen of us travelled to the New Forest for a walk from the Ashley Walk car park. The number was far from unlucky as we had sunny weather (albeit a bit cool at times) and great views of a pair of Woodlarks in Pitts Wood Enclosure. These were lifers for some members and a long-searched for UK-first for a few others. From the beginning of the walk we started to find the New Forest specialities we had come for such as Linnets, Stonechats and both Meadow and Tree Pipits. On closer examination, all of these refused to turn into a Dartford Warbler which remained elusive throughout the trip. Another highlight was a beautiful male Redstart perched at the top of a tree. Two Lapwings were spotted on a flypast and twice we heard a Cuckoo but it refused to show itself. Three raptors were seen – Buzzard, Kestrel with a single Red Kite as an added bonus; this species is really spreading out from the various reintroduction sites. The lone Hawthorn bush in front of the lunch stop had a Stonechat and Common Whitethroat competing for the highest branch to search for their lunch.
On St George’s Day, I wonder if we all realised the significance of the area to the defence of the realm. Who noticed the large white mound, which was not ash from a fire, but a pile of chalk used to mark the targets on the wartime bombing range? Lunch was taken on top of a replica German submarine bunker now covered in earth at the top of Hampton Ridge! The return route produced nice views of Green Woodpecker for the backmarkers and finally a Wheatear, which is unusual for this site, and did someone mention a Willow Warbler (or 20!)? A good time was had by all, with 34 species seen. Thanks to Jane for leading. Keith Williams
Today’s 21 walkers had been warned about quantities of mud during the pre-walk, but by this point in a parched spring the earth was cracked and dry everywhere which at least made for easy walking. We checked Northend for the traditional village species such as House Sparrow and Starling, Collared Dove, Swift and House Martin (the last two not back yet), then walked up the long slope to Solsbury Hill, watching Swallows, Linnets and Skylarks en route. We sat down for a coffee break on the ramparts of the hill fort to admire the views over Bath, while a Whitethroat sang in a nearby bush and Skylarks hovered over the summit serenading us. Swallows were coming in to perch on twigs around the large barn down the hill, perhaps checking out a potential nest site. We 14 walked round the summit and away down the northern slope through fields of sheep and greening woodlands. Turning down Chilcombe Bottom, we stopped to read signs about the disused reservoirs and their new life as part of a nature reserve, but the only waterbirds to be found were a couple of Moorhens. On through a pretty green valley full of sheep, with plenty of Buzzards around and a Raven calling, across a small stream and up to a market garden – this walk has a wonderful variety of habitat. Although some migrants hadn’t returned to their breeding locations yet, we managed a total of 37 species on a sunny spring morning. (Thank you Jane for leading one of your favourite walks.) Jane Cumming
Being at the top of the combe, the car park offered up many vocal corvids flying over, including; Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook. The first of 27 Chiffchaff was heard as we entered the lane and one even showed itself a bit further down. Some Blackbirds were singing fit to burst and filling the combe with noise, quite masking the soft ‘coocoocoo’ of a spooning pair of Stock Doves. Our climb up the opposite bank had Nuthatch calling and at the top, towards the houses, a Song Thrush and then some Greenfinches also lit up the soundscape and even afforded us a nice clear sighting. Many Blackcaps and Robins sang for us but were not often seen, but the squeaky toy call of the Coal Tit was rewarded with a sighting. The rookery at Upper Castle Combe had nine active nests, more spread out than last year with the old site containing many abandoned homes. Along Summer Track the first Buzzards were seen, a small flock of Linnets twittered their way across out path and we had a fleeting glimpse of a Bullfinch couple. We went for a short way on the B4039, then down to Kent Bottom where the pond had a nice selection of birds; a pair of Tufted Ducks, two House Martins, five Mallards (all male), 16 Canada Geese and singles of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Coot and Little Grebe. The racing circuit being in use made identifying a possible Garden Warbler very difficult. As the lure of identifying the Garden Warbler took so long, we were behind the rest of the group. Along Kent’s Bottom Plantation we had a splendid Peregrine flypast and two Marsh Tits ‘pitchoue-ing’ in the bushes with lengthy sightings of aggressive ‘battle stance’. At the mill in Long Dean a pair of Swallows were caught napping on the roof. Along the path above the river a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen, more Nuthatch and the lovely song of a Mistle Thrush echoed along the valley. Back in the village, one lucky person saw the Dipper fly round a corner of By Brook and we all heard Greenfinches calling. At the car park a few of the advance party were happily munching their lunch and told us of the finding of Lesser Whitethroat and Grey Wagtail, which brought the tally up to 49. A splendid walk was had by the 30 of us and our thanks go to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge
Fifteen members met on a perfect spring morning for a walk around Dundry, Dave’s local patch. Dave is a fount of information about Dundry – its history and birds, and today he expressed concern about the slow arrival of spring migrants. However, the corvids were very busy (the rookery contained 18 nests in 2016) and Dave involved the group in looking more closely at their identification features including when in flight and their calls. In the quarry area we saw Pied Wagtails and heard a Chiffchaff. As we enjoyed the views from Dundry Down we could see Stock Doves in the fields below. Two Swallows and three Buzzards raised our spirits, and passing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls provided another opportunity for Dave to give us some further identification tips. Although distant, a scan of the Barrow Gurney tanks gave us views of Mute Swan, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Cormorant, with a Little Egret in the surrounding fields. Making our way round to the south side of Dundry, a Raven flew overhead and a Green Woodpecker called; a Blackcap was seen and a Willow Warbler heard but still no Wheatears. A Yellowhammer eluded the group for some time before being located and giving good views to all. We also enjoyed hearing and seeing Skylark and Nuthatch. This was a delightful morning’s birding with Dave and at least 37 species were recorded. The group enjoyed and benefitted from his local knowledge and invaluable ID tips and would wish me to thank him very much indeed Ken Carruthers
PS A few days later, Dave reported 32 Wheatears, a male Redstart and a male Yellow Wagtail from Dundry.
On a warm, dry spring day, 32 of us met at the Chequers Inn, Hanham, for a new walk through deciduous woodland, along field edges and by the river Avon. Trees were almost in leaf, and we admired the billowing Blackthorn and Wild Cherry blossom and the profusion of spring flowers; carpets of Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Cowslips and Lady’s Smock. The bird list numbered 37 in all, either seen or heard. The highlights were the Grey Herons and chicks in the heronry, Buzzard on a nest, Goldfinch building nest, Peregrine, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreepers (three) but surprisingly only one Chaffinch. (Thank you to our leaders for introducing us to this new walk)
Eight members made the trip on a sunny spring day following a misty start. We visited three locations: Lytchett Fields, an RSPB managed wetland area on the edge of Lytchett Bay; Upton Park, an area of mixed woodland on the edge of Holes Bay; and Morden Bog, which is part of Wareham forest.
Lytchett Fields attracts a range of wildfowl, waders and their predators. A Green-winged Teal and Lesser Yellowlegs had entertained birders for some months and I had seen the Teal on a recce a few days before when the tide was high. However, neither bird could be located on the field trip itself when the tide was low. Many Teal were roosting or hidden in creeks or behind clumps of reed. Something (probably the fox seen on the far shore) put all the Teal up in the air and they landed largely out of sight. No sign at all of the Lesser Yellowlegs, which has been very elusive over the last few weeks. However, we saw about 20 species including Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenfinch. We also saw Orange-tip, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies.
At Upton Park we added two stunning Jays, Common Gull, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Wigeon, Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, several very noisy Nuthatches and Raven. The cold water of the incoming tide meeting the sun-warmed mud created a low level rolling mist that was very atmospheric but not ideal for watching distant birds. A couple of weeks ago there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen at the park. While we were eating our sandwiches Sue saw a small, black and white bird with a ‘bouncy’ flight. It whizzed across the walled garden, over the wall into the trees beyond. Lesser? The jury is still out, unfortunately, as the view was too fleeting for her to be sure and no one else saw it. On to Morden Bog where Great Grey Shrike and Woodlark are recent sightings. We walked though some mixed oak and conifer woodland (Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker) and onto the heathland. The heath seemed very quiet initially until Suk saw our first (of many) Stonechats followed by Linnet 13 (Suk again) a stunning Yellowhammer (Suk) and then, unexpectedly, the Great Grey Shrike (Anne this time) posing at the top of a conifer. On the walk back two Dartford Warblers (yes, Suk again) flew up and perched in a Birch tree. Although it was a bit of a journey and we missed four of our target species we all had an enjoyable day out in three lovely locations with 35 species of bird. (Many thanks to Alastair for organising and leading.)
Sand Point can be a brilliant migration watchpoint on a good day but unfortunately this wasn’t one – cool, dry and overcast with a light wind but very little moving. Eight people joined Paul in the car park and climbed the steps up to the grassy summit serenaded by singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We scanned the shore counting 20 plus Shelducks, 100 plus Curlews, a couple of Little Egrets and a handful of Mallard and Teal. Three waders flew by resolving into a Grey Plover with two Dunlins. We walked along the top ticking off the common passerines and remembering other visits where the fields were dripping with Wheatears – none today, nor any hirundines either. Never mind, the views were wonderful! The River Banwell held a good roost of 120 Redshanks and three Mute Swans. A Raven flew over croaking, a couple of Stonechats attracted our attention, and a couple of Cormorants passed overhead. Thanks to Paul for leading and for finding some 32 species on a very quiet day. Jane Cumming.
PS It was rather galling to watch reports of loads of great birds turning up at Sand Point over the following week or two, but that’s birding, isn’t it!