After the coldest night of the year, 22 well-wrapped members met for the pre-Christmas Lunch walk on a crisp, sunny morning. The Rose and Crown car park proved productive with eleven species sighted before we set off (but after ten o’clock!). These first sightings included flocks of both Redwings and Fieldfares. After crossing the road and climbing the first stile we saw two foxes. We then went along a lane adding to our list with Wren and Blackbird and Collared Dove, Starlings, whose plumage was showing well in the bright sunlight, and then Redwing close enough for everyone to see in detail. Redwing were spotted on various occasions during the walk, 15 plus the largest flock noted. Coffee was taken near the garden centre where distracted by a horse and two ponies meant that most missed a flock of Golden Plovers and another of Lapwings. However, good views of about 40 Golden Plovers were seen in the next field as they wheeled around and eventually landed. Yet another flock, seen by some, were Linnets, again about 40, on the electric wire at the end of the walk. The morning’s total was 29 species. We were back at the pub by midday to join other Xmas lunchers, who hadn’t walked, and we all enjoyed an excellent meal with lots of laughs. Many thanks to Peter Holbrook for arranging it, and then re-arranging it after the original choice of pub closed, and to Duncan Gill for leading the walk and Mark Watson for organising all our Tuesday walks. Nancy Barrett
On a cold but initially clear day – eight intrepid members attended this walk around the Steart Marshes. Whilst in the reserve car park we could see multiple groups of Starlings on the move, as well as a large flock of Dunlin which must have been in the thousands. On our way to the Mendip Hide we checked the bushes and trees and were rewarded with good views of many Stonechats as well as a variety of other birds. At the hide were large numbers of Shelduck, some Wigeon, Redshank and Curlew. A male Marsh Harrier spent some time hovering over the reeds giving good views, then a Sparrowhawk came through putting many birds up. On our way to the river we saw Reed Bunting, Linnets and a very large flock of Chaffinches, and on the water were large numbers of Dunlins, a flock of about 180 Avocets and a smaller number of Grey Plovers. At the Quantock View Hide Teal, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Heron, Little Egret and Merlin were seen. On our way to the Polden Hide we had a Kestrel and our first Redwings of the day. As we left the hide an unexpected Black Redstart obligingly perched on a post for us.
After a brief lunch break back at the car park we went on to the Natural England car park and walked out to The Breach. Here we had a closer view of wading Avocet and further views of Marsh Harrier. A Buzzard and possible distant Peregrine completed a good raptor day. Overall 48 species seen.
Thanks to Richard Belson for leading the walk. Sue Kempson
A pleasing turnout of 24 members set out from the main car park at Chew Valley Lake on a rather overcast December day. At the dam wall we had a good start to the walk seeing a number of species that included Coot, Moorhen, Goldeneye (five), Teal (six), Great Crested Grebe (twelve), Wigeon (eight), Gadwall (eight), Pochard (six) and a large number of Tufted Ducks. We also noted Black-headed Gull (100 plus), Common Gull (six) and Herring Gull (five) as well twelve Lapwings. 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, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Redwing (a total of 27 by the end of the walk). After we had crossed a very muddy short section or used the rather perilous diversion, some of the group spotted Grey Wagtail, Treecreeper and Buzzard. After our coffee break we walked along Dumpers Lane and a short section of Denny Lane adding Mistle Thrush,Dunnock, Collared Dove and House Sparrow. As we followed the footpath towards Knowle Hill we enjoyed the best of the morning’s weather and added Jackdaw, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Fieldfare (a total of 57 by the end of the walk). There were a number of very well-maintained hedges alongside the path and on the edges of the nearby fields we saw Yellowhammer (eight), Linnet (15), Skylark (eight) and a flock of Starlings (80). As we walked back along the lake between the two car parks we added Little Egret, a single Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Shelduck, and Goosander, as well as hearing both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Water Rail. It was a good walk with a respectable total of 57 species. (Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen and to Mike for leading.) Mike Landen
Eleven people gathered at Ham Wall car park in anticipation of a good morning’s birding and as usual the Avalon Marshes did not disappoint. We started by searching the car park area for the Firecrests that had been reported and, while they failed to show, we quickly started to find a good number of species, including a big flock of Goldfinches and Siskins on the alder cones. This was the first of several finch flocks we saw during the day, but despite some careful searching through these tree top gatherings, there were no Redpolls amongst any of them.
The new Noah’s hide on Shapwick provided a comfortable stop from which to admire the many hundreds of duck on the lake. The majority were Wigeon (1500 by a recent count), but a search through the melee added Tufted, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and a few smart Pintail. Two Marsh Harriers added to the excitement, causing flurries of panic in the duck ranks. The walk there and back added Raven, Jay, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Stonechat and a couple of Kingfisher fly-pasts and as we returned to the car parks a mixed tit flock included a Chiffchaff and several Goldcrests. Hints of a Firecrest moving with them were confirmed by some of the group as we lunched in the carpark. Switching to the Ham Wall side in the afternoon added several species we had missed in the morning, including the resident Glossy Ibis, our first (surprisingly!) Great White Egret and Snipe feeding on one of the islands.
All in all a very enjoyable few hours birding with a very good mix of species, giving a final list of 53 for the day. (Many thanks for leading Giles.) Giles Morris
A fine sunny morning with a chilly wind greeted 23 members for a walk around about two-thirds of Cheddar Reservoir perimeter and the remainder on to the levels south of the water to the river Axe and back via Axbridge. From the top of the bank we could see Tufted Duck, Coot in large numbers across the water and a Moorhen near to the bank. As we walked around the reservoir we had a clear view of the several hundred Coot along with a few Great Crested Grebe and Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. We descended the bank to walk along a squelchy drove to the Axe. On the way to the river Axe, a Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron Goldfinch, Dunnock, and Robin were seen though only in small numbers. Somewhat surprisingly no Fieldfare or Redwing appeared and there were no Little Egrets on the Axe and adjacent rhynes, although some members spotted a Buzzard, and over 20 Meadow Pipits were counted. Along the path to Axbridge a Stonechat sat in good view and a Kingfisher flashed by. Blue, Great and Coal Tits fed in the hedgerows and on feeders, a Chiffchaff was heard and two Redwings were the only thrushes we saw all morning. Back on the reservoir path Mandarin Duck and Mallard along with quite a few mixed varieties were on the water, and on the way back to the car park the adjacent woods and scrub produced Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits giving a total of 45 species. (Many thanks to Mark for leading this walk). Mark Watson
As November enters its final few days, the prospect of any ‘nice’ days grows dim. Today at East Harptree must be counted one of the dimmest so far, but, it didn’t rain. From the car park we could hear Raven calling and what came after? Well, it had to be, Goldcrest, as it is the next, after RN, in the current taxonomic order. A fair few were working hard in the bare fronds of a Spruce, all so very busy, picking off the tiniest of insects, and never still. A Wren called from the deep cover of some old brown leafed brambles and Goldfinch hung (and for a heart stopping moment we thought of Siskin) on the many catkins of the Birch trees. As ever, the pond by the Smitham Chimney was without bird life – it was coloured brown and the paw marks at the edge spoke of many dogs playing. The first flock of Starling came over and we observed many Fieldfare, Redwing and Chaffinch feeding on leaf litter before retreating to the trees and then back down to feed. More Fieldfares were above us and in the distance a vast flock of mixed corvids appeared above the skyline showing three distinct sizes, so probably Rook, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow. The first Jay screeched out its presence and flew rapidly away into the trees, under which we took our customary coffee stop. Geoff declared the path down to the combe to be a no-go area – far too wet, so we dropped down into the village from the top fields, finding a couple of Pied Wagtail there. We didn’t, for certain, latch onto the Grey Wagtail that is often to be found by the stream, only a silhouette of a departing bird, undulating its way into the gloom. Across the fields and to the house whose owners have given notice of wanting to stop up a footpath – shame. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the woods above the village, two more Jay called and flew, and our final flock of Fieldfare came over. Ten walkers found 28 species and gave Geoff a big ‘thank you’ for leading. Nick Hawkridge
Twenty-six members met at Snuff Mills car park for a walk round part of Eastville Park. The weather was overcast and damp but the rain held off until after we finished. Eastville Park is well used by dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, walkers and a new development; people camping out. Many birds make the woodland their home, in spite of the disturbance. Just inside the entrance to the park we had Jay, Blue and Long-tailed Tit and heard a Redwing and a singing Blackbird, although the song seemed different to normal. It was either a winter sub-song or possibly a European migrant. An obliging Grey Wagtail sat near the weir and we had a good view of its back and tail before it turned round to show off its yellow frontage. We scoured the brush and shrubbery for Firecrest without success but we saw Goldcrest later on. Then we met a lady who had just seen an Otter in the lake. So we hurried down for a look. There was clear evidence of something in the water and a number of the group were lucky to see a head poke up momentarily. It’s amazing how long they can hold their breath. We had our first view of a Kingfisher on the lake and further round we saw two more, adult and first-winter males. They circled one of the islands in dispute over ownership of the territory. A Sparrowhawk flashed overhead on our return journey, the only raptor of the day. A total of 27 species were seen or heard. Thanks to Richard for leading. Alastair Fraser
Three unusual birds can’t be bad!!? Eight members met the leader at the Seaton Wetlands, an extensive mosaic of habitats created specifically for wildlife watching. We walked along to Colyford Common hide (tidal saltmarsh and reed) and then back to Stafford Marsh (ponds, reeds and Stafford Brook). Ducks included Shelduck, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon. There were also Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Waders included Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Little Egret were also noted. We visited the Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh which is a saline lagoon with islands and added Little Grebe, Coot and Grey Heron to the list. The Tower Hide also at Black Marsh but with views also of the Axe Estuary produced several Common Gulls, Cormorant, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan and a very obliging Kingfisher on the rail outside. We then drove to Budleigh Salterton where we walked along the River Otter- there we added Glossy Ibis. On to Mud Bank Hide at Exmouth which overlooks the River Exe where, despite the very choppy waters, there were many Wigeon and Pintail and even a Bahama Pintail. Turnstones were present on the beach and across on the mudbank could be seen many Dark-bellied Brent Geese at a distance. Some of us went onto Bowling Green Marsh hide where we added Shoveler and Greylag Geese. Two members went on with the leader to the viewing platform adding Black Swan, Red-breasted Merganser, 100+ Avocets, Golden Plover, Knot, Stock Doves, Fieldfare and Redwing. Unfortunately, the Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Cattle Egrets seen earlier in the week failed to show. Altogether, about 55 species were seen, on a good day, with sunny spells and a couple of light showers and a northerly wind. Thanks to Gordon for leading and sharing his local knowledge.
Fourteen eager birders, including two guests, met at the car park near the sailing club in spite of a poor weather forecast. We set off for a walk around the lake stopping at the club launch area for a good look across the water. A Little Egret danced past us and several Moorhens pottered about. Great Crested Grebes were quite close. The sole intrepid ‘scope bearer, Rob Hargreaves, enabled examination of the raft of Coots and the large number of Tufted Duck for anything special, and a Yellow-legged Gull was spotted among the other gulls (yes, for once it had truly yellow legs!). Showery rain didn’t stop us walking on, hearing and seeing the usual small birds in the trees and bushes. Looking across the open fields a large flock of winter thrushes was spotted in the distance. A newly turned field produced a large number of Pied Wagtails, with quite a few Chaffinch hopping around the base of the pylon. The tree-lined path at the bottom of the lake gave us groups of Long-tailed Tits, a Bullfinch calling, Coal Tits and a Treecreeper. We were all quite damp by now and happy to shelter under trees for our coffee stop, where we were pleased to see two Jays (probably caching food) and a Song Thrush perched on the fence, among other birds. At this point our leader decided to forego the pleasures of the extremely muddy path through the woods in favour of returning between lakes. Trees and bushes here gave us Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinch, a flock of Goldfinches, good sightings of Redwing, a fly-past Mistle Thrush and our only raptor of the day, a Kestrel. The small private fishing lake gave us a very clean, bright Mute Swan – a shame it turned out to be a dummy! Court Lake was more productive with Gadwall, Pochard and Mallard to add to our duck list, Little Grebe and a flighty Green Sandpiper. Further along Rob’s ‘scope helped us obtain a good view of the single Whooper Swan, an exciting find. At noon, exactly as forecast, heavy rain came in; our walk was curtailed and we beat a hasty retreat to our cars, or in our brave leader’s case, motorbike, but it had been a good walk with around 40 species seen. Thanks to Alistair for leading the walk. Anne Crowe
Arrived at Herriotts Bridge to find a new member, Pete, had found two Goosanders. Before I could get to see them a rumbling noise could be heard approaching from the Mendips – quite intimidating. As it got louder we saw this dark line bearing down on us. A flock of 150 Canada Geese came in close over our heads, half turning to the lake, and the rest landing on the pool – a very memorable sight. As we all gathered we noted a Kingfisher in the channel, 13 Pintails on the pool, two Dunlins by the lake, and Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard. Herons Green first, as there were large numbers of Great White Egrets reported but to my surprise there were only seven present: a Green Sandpiper in the corner was hard to see and only two Black-tailed Godwits. Later we started finding Common Gulls, then eleven Goosanders, a Kestrel, and lastly an immature Yellow-legged Gull. Paying for a permit was not popular so we headed round to Hollowbrook: another Chiffchaff in the woods, two Buzzards flew over and, at the half-finished new Bernard King hide, we found eight Goldeneye and 226 Cormorant in a line, off Denny Island. At lunch at the Dam another three Goldeneye were diving, but no Egyptian Geese. Finally to the Bristol Water hide at Stratford which was pretty full – a good sign. Parades of Wigeon and a Dunlin, two drake Red-crested Pochards in a group of three out in the middle, with more Pintails and gulls. Next was a search for a Jack Snipe in the reeds below – difficult but a Snipe was found. And then, as we got our eyes in, a Snipe deep in the reeds was bobbing up and down. The stripes on its head and short bill confirmed a Jack Snipe. To finish off the day a Water Rail paraded along the front of the reeds and a Bearded Tit called. Thirteen participants enjoyed the day. (Very many thanks, again, to Robert for leading this field meeting)