Starting in fog and ending in rain, sunny during the walk – excellent. The crowd of 21 (welcome to new walker Simon) gathered at the trees in Moor Lane to listen to the song of a male Blackcap (totally hidden), the rapid ‘cherteach, cherteach’ of a Coal Tit and the call of a distant Willow Warbler. A perching Buzzard resolved into a female Pheasant and the quack of Mallard revealed their position under the hedge. A true Buzzard posed for us as we climbed the slope, showing a strong dark necklace and many Greenfinch wheezed and sang us up the hill. Another Buzzard then flew past and we were delighted to see ‘Blondie’ (nearly all white underwing) one of the regulars in the valley (Not Blondie – one of a pair centred on Norton’s Village, both very pale – RJP). A collection of four Bullfinches showed well, with the males’ chest colour even discernible in the poor light. Linnet, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all found after the turn along Clevedon Lane, but alas the feeders in the garden opposite didn’t give us any Siskin as they had in previous years. We heard and finally saw our first Chaffinch of the day, near the turn across the Walton Moor and close to a group of five Pied Wagtails. The path was good and we found the first of five Reed Buntings; the splendidly marked male, singing strongly and the female answering with her own quiet whistle. Two distant Lapwing were seen, and a Skylark in song flight. Plenty of Buzzard action was visible across Walton Down including one very aggressive individual seeking to keep the park to itself. Within the trees on the Down we heard Nuthatch calling and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, then more Goldcrest and Coal Tit. A Treecreeper came to join the foraging throng – clearly old oak is rich with food at present. Back down towards the village and wondering if we’d see any Swallows or House Martins (alas not) we extended our list to 41 with the addition of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of popinjay Grey Wagtail. All was not finished however, for as we were getting out of boots and into shoes, a Cetti’s Warbler called from the edge of the stream. Well done to Geoff for leading and arranging the weather so conveniently for us.
As we set off in the car it started to rain, turning to hail before it eased off. Quite a surprise, then, to find that 23 people had decided to defy the dire weather forecast and risk a soaking, but there they were, admiring a couple of newly-arrived Wheatears at the edge of the golf course. We moved round to the beach to discover that the neap tide wasn’t coming far enough up the sand to force the waders to roost, so we counted 72 Oystercatchers feeding along the tideline, checked out a couple of dozen Wigeon and Teal, then followed the muddy path round to the salt-marsh. As we topped the dyke a Short-eared Owl flew off in front of us, but to our delight it settled on a fence post and sat there for some time, watching us as we watched it back. Great start! We spent a while on the dyke, scanning the marsh, and unexpectedly picked up a Sandwich Tern above the moored yachts – in fact it was fishing over the little boating lake. A good sighting – Avon doesn’t get a lot of these. We worked round back to the coast path, registering Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat on the way, to watch the tern plunge-diving into the boating lake and coursing up and down over our heads. Off to the hilltop overlook to scan Bleadon Levels, where we counted 69 Mute Swans, 42 Shelducks and 106 Redshanks, but not much else on the marsh other than a scattering of Teal. Some nice raptors though – Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Best of all was the Merlin that one lucky observer photographed on the hilltop, but sadly the rest of us missed it. We returned along the hedgerows (various singing finches but no warblers) to the cliff where a female Black Redstart blended completely into the dark grey boulders until she moved. A Green Woodpecker called and flew off. There was still no rain, despite heavy skies and threatening clouds all around us. In fact it was a really enjoyable morning with some great birds – 42 species on my list. (Thanks to Jane for leading). Jane Cumming
The weatherman promised us clouds and gales, as seventeen birders went over to Wales. You could write a poem about it, but I’m not going to. It was an all-day trip; lagoons, reed beds and foreshore in the morning, lunch near the RSPB centre, then along to the ponds and hides at Goldcliff in the afternoon. A goodly total of 57 species of birds was recorded, mostly what you’d expect to see, so I’ll just mention a few of the highlights. At Goldcliff we counted more than 30 Avocet. A member of the stilt family, and although a proper ‘wader’, they have webbed feet and swim readily, often ‘up-ending’ to feed. In the early 20th century they ceased breeding on the east coast, due mainly to land reclamation. But during WW2, access to the beaches was restricted and the birds returned. There are now over 1500 breeding pairs and are considered to be one of the most successful conservation and protection projects. A Peregrine was seen sitting on a post near one of the hides. When they attack a flying bird, typically a pigeon, they ‘stoop’ at an estimated 180mph and break the prey’s neck or back. In a successful attack, the prey knows nothing about it. On the incoming tide we saw a Cormorant, Latin name Phalacrocorax carbo. Its common name is also derived from Latin, short for Corvus marinus, the sea crow. A most apt name don’t you think? But did you know they are members of the pelican family? A Ringed Plover was spotted at Goldcliff, and another bird attracted a lot of attention and discussion until it was finally decided it was a Little Ringed Plover. They were seldom seen in the UK before WW2, but the advent of sand and gravel pits has provided good nesting environments. When given the Latin name Charadrius dubius, it was thought by French naturalist Pierre Sonneret, in 1776, to be simply a variant of the common Ringed Plover. Hence the ‘dubius’. Two passage migrants, a Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank, were a delight to see. Cetti’s Warblers were seen and heard and Chiffchaffs were calling everywhere. We were all a little dismayed to see so much woodland had been chopped down at the east end of the lagoons – the underlying ash deposits have been cited as the reason. Not a cold day, but windy and overcast, and I think enjoyed by everyone. (Thanks to Ray and Margaret for leading).
Ray and Margaret Bulmer
It’s quite unusual for the first bird spotted on a Tuesday walk to be a Peregrine – apart from, maybe, one that starts at the Peregrine viewing spot on the Downs! However, being on the leader’s patch has many advantages and so, while boots were still being donned and latecomers arriving, a Peregrine on Stapleton Church had many pairs of binoculars trained on it and, for any members lacking the required faith, a splendid close up photograph was taken by Vera. And the next spot was a Sparrowhawk! A somewhat unexpected sun shone upon 32 members for much of this walk around the park, past the lakes and then along part of the Frome Walkway. There was plenty of birdsong from, among others, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Greenfinch but Wrens seemed to be outsinging them all – double figures of this species singing were noted. Magpies were in profusion and 45 Carrion Crows counted. More Sparrowhawks and three Buzzards were spotted to add to our raptor count. Some but not all caught sight of a Kingfisher and most a Grey Wagtail. Goldcrest were heard in a Yew tree – by those with excellent hearing – and there was much pondering about sightings in this tree as Firecrest have been observed in the park. However, after more research after the walk, it was decided that two Goldcrest had been seen. 38 species was the total, and the return of the Chiffchaff, several seen and heard, was a real reminder of spring. Many thanks to Richard for leading us. Nancy Barrett
These lakes are a two hour drive from the Bristol area but the birding was, and usually is, well worth the journey. Ten participants began at the Tern Hide on Ibsley Water where we picked out Egyptian Goose, Scaup, Goldeneye and Goosander amongst the commoner freshwater ducks all of which were represented here. An Oystercatcher, a couple of Redshanks and plenty of Lapwings indulging in a bit of spring display flighting were the only waders. We were delighted to locate a Water Pipit and compare it with a couple of nearby Meadow Pipits. We moved on to the Woodland Hide where dozens of finches were on the feeders, including Greenfinch, a few Siskins joined by a single Redpoll and three very attractive Bramblings, the males coming into spring plumage. On to the Ivy South Hide for deeper water and more diving ducks, and our first Teal. A Green Woodpecker called and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming. We finished the morning with a visit to the Ivy North Hide overlooking a small reed bed, which held Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Buntings, then lunched at picnic tables behind the visitors’ centre. In the afternoon we worked the edge of the stream up towards Mockbeggar Lake, finding Goldcrests, a rather elusive Firecrest and two Treecreepers. A Kingfisher was seen several times by some and not at all by others in the party! We walked the 600 metre path up to the Lapwing Hide for a different view of Ibsley Water and greater numbers of ducks, counting 13 Goosanders and enjoying the mild spring air and the sunshine. Having covered all of the Blashford Lakes, we finished the day a couple of miles upriver on the Hampshire Avon where we picked out a White-fronted Goose in a flock of Greylags and an impressive 24 Egyptian Geese (mainly in pairs) feeding in riverside fields. Many thanks to Robert for leading an excellent day and finding a total of 65 species.
reconnoitre had shown that the Hawfinch would be away from Parkend by 8:30. So, not wishing to waste time looking, or get everyone up at the crack of dawn, we met as usual at New Fancy View at 10:30. A fair crowd (31) managed to pack the viewing platform around some helpful other birders, and we waited and waited – – -. Some nice aerial gymnastics from two groups of Ravens, an ear-bursting song from a Dunnock, distant Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush song, and at last a distant view of Goshawk. We had a slight change of plan and for the second leg of our trip we went up Crabtree Hill in search of Great Grey Shrike. There it was, fairly high up in a distant spruce, (well done to Jan for spotting it). As we got to the top of the hill it gave much better views, perching on low branches and nicely contrasted against the dark background. We walked to the end of the track in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but without success. We were compensated when Margaret found a fine male Crossbill, oh, what beautiful colours. We learned later that those who were at the front during the climb up the hill had seen another Goshawk. Back ‘on plan’, we took our lunch at Cannop Ponds where trotter prints in the mud around the picnic tables and the absence of grass, indicated a wild boar attack of the most distressing kind. We picked up a few more species and counted the Mandarin Ducks (39) as we wandered around the bottom lake. Two or three Treecreeper gave lots of trouble, moving so quickly in the gloom of the trees as to be missed by some of the party. We paused at the end of the lake to search and listen for any sign of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. No realistic chance as, again, it’s an early morning bird. We arrived back at the cars with our tally on 42 and a good day’s birding behind us. Some of us stopped at Parkend on the return trip for the Hawfinch – alas without success. However, at the nearby church we found six Redpolls, hanging comically, and feeding on the catkins at the ends of the slimmest of silver birch branches. (Thanks to Nick for leading). Nick Hawkridge
We welcomed four new walkers to the group, Di and Pete, Chris, and Vera, making our team up to 17. Today was a raw, windy but bright day, but, alas, in the last 30 minutes – heavy, soaking rain. The playing fields by the car park contained no less than five Mistle Thrushes and a couple of gulls. From there, we all piled down to peer under the bridges in the village to try and locate the resident Dipper- a no show. The river was in brown watered spate, handling the Mallard with ease and keeping the Moorhen (red billed with yellow tip) firmly on the banks. As we went up through the village, many House Sparrow called from the roof tops and ivy clad walls. A couple of Starlings posed as sentries on chimney stacks, whistling their love songs into the wind. Nesting material was seen being carried by Jackdaw and we finally located the Greenfinch who’d been wheezing from the scrub. We crossed a very damp Publow Leigh, where a Grey Heron flew ahead of us and a Cormorant was heading west for his elevenses at CVL. We had our first sighting of winter thrush in the fold of the valley, flying up to a magnificent Oak tree, this was just as we entered Lord’s Wood – and once inside the wood, a Green Woodpecker was heard, and a Mistle Thrush started to sing – brilliant. Several Goldcrest showed themselves in the ivy cover of four tall fir trees, with a couple of Long-tailed Tits that were spotted dashing about with a Coal Tit. More Winter Thrushes, in slightly bigger flights were seen, with a Jay for company and Woodpigeons asleep close by. We crossed Compton Common and all had excellent views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, first posing in one tree and then another. As we approached the River Chew again, a Buzzard was cleverly spotted sitting on a post. No doubt he was keeping an eye on the Fox lounging in the meadow, who in turn was eying up the flock (80 plus) of mainly Common Gulls – fat chance. A pair of Ravens were on the tall trees behind Grassington and eight Rooks probed the grass beneath, but alas no Dipper or Kingfisher on the river. It was a delightful walk for whose splendid leadership we were most grateful to Geoff. Nick Hawkridge
Weather-wise, a misty damp day but surprisingly the birding was quite good. There was Goosander and Goldeneye on Chew Valley Lake as well as Tufted Duck, Pochard and Mallard. Canada Goose and Cormorant were also close enough to see. As we walked up towards Breach Hill we saw flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings with a Song Thrush singing as well. A party of Long-tailed Tits flew in front of us and vanished into the roadside hedge. There were plenty of signs of spring – Primroses and Periwinkle in eye bright flower, Robins (ten) and Chaffinches in full throated song and away to the west, Rooks active in their rookery. Wren, Blue and Great Tit were also singing well, along with several Goldcrests, a Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker chip chipping. Some of the group (total 18) were lucky enough to see Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Kestrel and a couple of Treecreepers. Our views of Blagdon Lake were rather misty but altogether it was a pleasant walk finishing with a female Stonechat on the top of a hedge as we neared the turn along the Chew Lake road having seen 44 species. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading). Sue and John Prince
Six members joined Sean for a walk round the three reservoirs named imaginatively Tanks 1, 2 and 3. The weather was mild, overcast with mist in the hills, brightening later. The tanks attract fewer birds than past years possibly due to milder winters as there can be an influx if the weather turns cold. Ringed Plover have a bespoke nesting area next to Tank 2 that the birds have never taken to. The Sand Martin nest holes have been more successful. The tank’s perimeters are exposed so it is difficult to sneak up for closer views but there are spots with cover you could settle down and wait if you had the time. The Long-tailed Duck was very visible in Tank 3 although being a diving duck it was frequently under water. The dives lasted up to a minute and occasionally it would stick up only its beak for a breath before the next dive.
Birds on the water – Three Wigeon, two Gadwall, 19 Teal, 23 Mallard, 16 Shoveler, 13 Pochard, 69 Tufted Duck, one Long-tailed Duck (1st winter male, not a female as identified earlier), one female Goldeneye, 19 Cormorant, two Grey Heron, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Great Crested Grebe, 63 Coot, nine Lapwing, two Common Sandpiper, five Snipe, 200 plus Common Gull, two Great Black-backed Gull, 200c Black-headed Gull and a few Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Birds around the water – One Buzzard, one Kestrel, one Green Woodpecker, two Grey Wagtail, four Stock Dove, several Meadow Pipits, Great Tit, Blue Tit, two Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Raven. Many thanks to Sean Davies for leading. Alastair Fraser
Ten members met at Greylake on a damp/drizzly morning. In the car park we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. As we started along the reserve some Carrion Crows flew over and a flock of Lapwings were an impressive sight. Throughout the morning we saw about 400 Lapwing which is encouraging as habitat restoration appears to be working well since the reserve was ‘reclaimed’ from arable fields in 2003. We moved on around the reed beds to the furthest viewpoint seeing Goldfinch, Mute Swans and a Stonechat amongst others on the way. At the end of the path we had good, if distant, views of two Marsh Harriers along with Coot, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall. After a bit of debate a very pale Buzzard was confirmed on a faraway fence post. We then went to the hides and had good views of five ‘close by’ Snipe, Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Golden Plover. On the return to the car park we added half a dozen Redwing, a couple of Fieldfare, Cetti’s Warbler (heard) Common Gull. Greenfinch and Canada Geese to the list along with a Rook. Five members picnicked in the car park and then went off in search of the Cranes. As we arrived at Stathe a Kestrel rounded the corner of a roadside house. The drizzle was increasing considerably and no Cranes were visible from the bank of the Parrett despite a careful search so we decided to call it a day in view of the weather. We totalled 47 species for the visit. (Thanks to Mark for leading). Mark Watson