The first shirtsleeve walk of the year, hurrah – well I had my arms out to collect some rays, but of the other 26, all
muffled up with scarves, coat, etc, at least most had dispensed with gloves. As we gathered, the Buzzard started
to be seen; first up the valley, then down the valley, some above Walton Down and others over Tickenham Hill, so,
if your geography is up to scratch, all around us. There were Mallard and Pheasant close to the margins of Moor
Lane Wood and Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit sang from its branches. A glimpse of Jay and Long-tailed Tit were
seen as we rounded the top corner of Harley Lane but alas no specials (we have seen Siskin in the past) on the
feeders. As we wandered along Clevedon Lane, Robins sang, Woodpigeon co-cooed, Greenfinch wheezed,
Chaffinch trilled and Goldfinch tinkled – a real ‘start of spring’ soundscape. The Skylark took to the heavens as
we crossed Weston Moor, an obliging Kestrel circled above and the first of seven Reed Bunting were seen just
before our coffee stop. Up then, through Common Hill Woods where we added Goldcrest to the list, with the third
and then the fourth Nuthatch of the walk, chiming in with his ‘Toyy, toyy’ call and longer ‘chi-chi-chi-chi-chi’ song.
On the feeders at Home Farm, an assortment of House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Blackcap, and all the tit species
were logged. After a Mistle Thrush, the last bird noted was a Greenfinch singing from the trees at Walton Cross.
A total bird count of 32 and warm thanks to Geoff for leading us on this splendid walk. Nick Hawkridge
Report next month.
After a pre-walk review of the Forest of Dean and a hasty rearrangement of venue, 28 members met at the car
park in Snuff Mills for a pleasant walk with no rain and some sunshine. After crossing the roaring River Frome we
walked up the valley, seeing many Treecreeper and Goldcrest. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers went tearing
round the treetops with shrieking cries, and Treecreeper followed suit around the bole of a couple of trees. The
Long-tailed Tits contented themselves with feeding, with the appearance of already being paired off. Another pair
showed well – Stock Dove, the iridescent neck patches catching the weak sun, and when a lone Raven crossed
the vale they departed with a clatter. A Nuthatch was seen before we left the wood and once on the flat we saw
several Black-headed Gulls – some sporting summer hoods. Carrion Crows probed the sward, getting a meal
from the mole hill infested grass. At our coffee stop in the park we found half a dozen Redwings scouring the last
of the holly berries and more Great Spotted Woodpeckers called and drummed. The Song Thrush, on the far side
of the valley, swelled the spring song soundscape and a little further on the first Blackbird added his melody.
Before we descended to the river a group of five Jays came chasing over, squawking and shrieking in hot pursuit
of each other – it’s that time of year. Despite careful study of the river bank twigs and bushes, we didn’t find the
Kingfisher until we were almost back to the mill, with a final tally of 34 and bright sun on our faces. (Thanks to
Nick for leading, and for sorting out an alternative walk.) Nick Hawkridge
No “Beast from the East” can deter Tuesday walkers it seems! 22 members turned up and a 23rd joined us along the way. Our first stop near the Prince Street Swing Bridge was to look at the Cormorants and discuss different types and note the evident breeding patches. Walking along past M-shed, we saw the first of many Herring Gulls plus Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed and a Common Gull. The buddleia, brambles and back gardens of Cumberland Road yielded House Sparrow, Great Tit and Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail accompanied us, finding food among the rail tracks. Although the Chocolate Path was closed, we ventured onto the footbridge over the river in a bit of a snowstorm and were rewarded with good views of a Common Sandpiper. Continuing along beside the Floating Harbour, we went through the Underfall Yard and then crossed the road onto a path new to most of us followed by a bit of the Metrobus route. After a welcome coffee stop in the Create Centre we had a look up river to the Suspension Bridge and saw Redshank and distant Buzzard. After returning on the north side of the harbour to the bottom of Jacobs Wells Road, some of the party continued up onto Brandon Hill where Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush and Starling were added to the list. We also watched a nearby group of Redwings in good light turning over leaves. 32 species seen and a satisfying morning. Many thanks to Nancy for leading
16 members turned out on a cold but sunny morning. The water level of the lake was very high and this had affected the birds, no egrets today for example. However, we got off to a good start at Woodford where the woodland behind the car park revealed two Bullfinches and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and calls from a Green Woodpecker and two Jays. 50 Redwings were on the move, together with five Fieldfares. Despite the cold, Spring was in the air with song from Dunnock, Chaffinch, and Wren. There were three Goldeneyes on the lake. We then drove in turn to the hides on the west side of the lake. At Villice there were three Scaup (one male) together with more than 20 Tufted Ducks, a Pochard, and a large number of Coots. At Herons Green there were five Teals and two Pochards at the pond, and two Snipes flew in. Two Buzzards were watching from a nearby tree. On the lake side was a large mixed flock of the four usual gull species (we had a Great Black-backed Gull later, at Herriotts). Continuing to Moreton we had Goldfinch, Siskin, Goldcrest, and Long-tailed Tit in the wood. Opening the hide we felt the full blast of the Siberian wind and we didn’t stay long, having taken in the ubiquitous Tufted Duck and Coot. The water was up to the level of the boardwalk at Stratford hide and a Cetti’s Warbler was singing nearby. We had close views of a male Goldeneye, and more distant views of 18 Shoveler, and a female Scaup. At Herriotts Bridge two Reed Buntings flew in as we arrived. The day’s largest concentration of birds included Shelduck, Pintail, and Grey and Pied Wagtail. On the lake side a pair of Great Crested Grebes began displaying with weed, providing a memorable finish. Thanks to Robert for leading this enjoyable meeting, yielding 51 species Gareth Roberts
Birds never do what you want them to, do they? Every trip leader will recognise that “it was here yesterday” feeling. On the previous day’s Wetland Bird Survey, as the tide receded hundreds of waders had flown across from their rocky roosts to the beach and trooped along the tideline in an orderly manner for easy counting. Today they just sat miles away on the rocks watching that vast expanse of beach opening up as the tide dropped, not one flying across to take advantage of the newly available feeding opportunity. 25 people counted ducks as we waited in vain for the waders –81 Shelducks, 130 Wigeons, 45 Teal, twelve Mallards–and estimated the Lapwing flock at around 170 when they flew. The Oystercatcher flock had dropped to 50 birds and there were about 60 Curlews. Redshanks were scattered along the muddy banks of the Axe in half-hidden groups so we only found around a hundred of yesterday’s 300 birds For the rest, we left Rob on the beach to make an accurate count of 447 Dunlinsas he waited in vain for yesterday’s 25 Ringed Plovers to appear. An advance party quickly gave up on the chilly beach-watch and walked out down the Axe to the Bleadon Levels, picking up Little Egret, Grey Heron,Coot, and Reed Bunting for the list. The rest waited out the waders for a while, then set off along Uphill’s high cliff face to Walmsley Hill, noting three Little Grebe on the freshwater pool and checking the bushes for passerines. Stonechat and Meadow Pipit were noted and some saw a distant Peregrine putting up the wader flocks on the Brean Down side of the river. We couldn’t find the reported female Black Redstart but the last stragglers on the return journey eventually picked it up, and some returned to see it after a good lunch at the marina cafe. It was an enjoyable morning despite the uncooperative waders, with 40 species on the list. Many thanks to Jane for leading (Editor). Jane Cumming
An intrepid group of 13 walkers met at Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, whilst the rain was pelting down. The walk should have gone over Breach Hill to the Ubley hatchery but it was decided to go to Woodford Lodge for coffee to see if the rain would abate. The rain eased so we decided to walk the Grebe and Bittern trails instead as the weather improved. As we passed the first reedbeds a pair of Stonechats and a pair of Reed Buntings gave us good views. The wooded areas were quite wet but the birds were showing well with two Treecreepers, three Goldcrests and several Cetti’s warblers were heard and one seen. A Water Rail was heard. We had good views of a Grey Wagtail. A flock of at least 50 Fieldfares flew over and a Sparrowhawk was mobbed by Carrion Crows. We noticed that Chaffinches are starting to sing. Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed but we could not find it. Two Common Buzzards and two Grey Herons were seen. The lake was very choppy so only Mallard, Coot and Tufted Duck were noted with a pair of Goldeneye close into the shore. It was a good walk. Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading (Editor). Sue Prince
After a cold, frosty night 26 of us, well wrapped up, set off for Stoke Park. In the sun the song of familiar small birds and sight of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers dashing about in a nearby tree cheered us. A Green Woodpecker yaffled. We paused at Duchess Pond to admire the red fox standing out on the grassy slope; a Grey Heron poised then flew, disturbed by a dog walker. After a circuit of the pond we checked the small reed bed for Snipe but they were in hiding. We made our way to Eastville Park via Stapleton Church, enjoying the sound of a Coal Tit calling loudly across the street, but the Peregrine didn’t grace a pinnacle or us with its presence. By the river in Eastville Park we found a Grey Wagtail and, at the weir, our first Kingfisher. Suddenly a Treecreeper was spotted, then another and another. The three Treecreepers were flitting about from tree to tree – another sign that spring is on its way? A look across to the playing fields and allotments yielded two Mistle Thrush, a Stock Dove and a large number of Moorhens (bringing our total for the walk to 14). At the pond we enjoyed the three Cormorants decorating the tree top, another Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming away loudly and some exciting Crow/Sparrowhawk interaction. The pond had the usual water birds along with the glossy red-faced Muscovy Duck, which always causes comment. On our way back around the pond we were fascinated by the perfect stillness of a Grey Heron perched on the edge of “the square” staring intently into the water, holding its neck at an impossible angle. Our return journey gave us another Goldcrest and excellent views of the Kingfisher; we saw it was a female (lipstick!). During our walk we had several small groups of Long- tailed Tits in twos and threes rather than the large flocks of winter but only a single Redwing. We had a very enjoyable walk in spite of our chilly start, with several signs that spring is coming and 37 species altogether. Thanks to our leader Richard Scantlebury.
Despite the reports of some rare gulls just five of us travelled to Ringwood for a walk around the Blashford Lakes reserve on a cold but dry day. On arrival we had a quick scan of Ibsley Water for any of the rarities but only saw Goldeneye and Goosander with the more common ducks. We then gathered at the Education Centre where the feeders held Siskin and Nuthatch before making our way to the Woodland Hide for excellent views of Brambling and Long-tailed Tit. The next two lake hides gave Little and Great Egrets but we missed the Kingfisher directly in front of the hide by five minutes. The reported Firecrest proved elusive (as it did last year) although a family of Roe Deer and a melanistic Fallow Deer were seen. After lunch the party split and two went to look for geese on nearby fields, successfully finding a good flock of White-fronted Geese. The other three returned to Ibsley Water to concentrate on the gathering gull roost. Oystercatcher and Green Sandpiper were added to the list but the main hide was full to the brim and the gull viewing mound also filled up meaning that only one was tall enough to see the Ring-billed Gull. None of the other rare gulls were found before we left to drive home. A good (if cold) time was had by all with 69 species seen. Thanks to Keith for leading (Editor). Keith Williams
As soon as the first walker leaned over the parapet, a Dipper feeding below the bridge at Pensford shot away and we feared that would be our only sighting of the morning. Fortunately, this unusually intrepid Dipper dropped down about 40 yards upstream and spent the next ten minutes ducking and diving in the water allowing all 26 of us to get excellent views of it. What a great start to the morning! On a fine, sunny if chilly day, we climbed up over the hillside towards Publow recording a selection of the usual species including Mistle Thrush, Skylark, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail. A few Cormorants flew over showing the white thigh patch of their breeding plumage, but we saw only one Grey Heron and one Buzzard. A Raven sat in a treetop calling repeatedly with an atypical bell-like note which we thought was connected with display or courtship. In a grove of tall deciduous trees we watched a group of three Treecreepers interacting for a while, then we found two more further along the stream. We spent some time at Publow church where the stream-side alders held half a dozen Siskins alongside a flock of Goldfinches. Nick recorded a total of 44 species from a most enjoyable walk; thanks to Geoff for his leadership. Jane Cumming