Hints of autumn may have been noticed during the last few days but the forecast for this walk was definitely a summer one and some of us were glad of the unexpected breeze as we set out with the promise of a flat walk with no stiles from our leader. Initially it did seem to be rush hour on a narrow Cotswold lane with cars, vans and a very large lorry all pushing us to the verges but there were Swallows and House Martins in the air and soon a large group of gulls at rest in a nearby field was the centre of attention – about 375 Common Gulls. A Raven was heard and then seen and, at the other end of the size scale, a Wren. The treat of the day came next with first a dozen and then more and more Ravens perched on bales and lifting out of trees and eventually all 29 were in the air – a wonderful sight with the sun on the golden fields and maize rustling at our backs. More large, and more distant, flocks of gulls were seen behind a tractor – other notables were Yellowhammers, Stock Dove, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, four Buzzards and a Kestrel. Near the end of the walk our party of 24 split and some saw a few Speckled Wood butterflies and a Brimstone on the way back. Total bird species tally was 30 – many thanks to Peter Holbrook for leading.
With the weather maps showing bands of rain sweeping across the New Forest on Thursday, I postponed this “Margaret Walk” until the next day which, unfortunately, meant that only three people could attend. The open heath held families of Mistle Thrush and Stonechat as we walked out to the raptor watch-point, and Redstarts seemed to be popping up everywhere. The squally skies and fresh wind didn’t bode well for soaring raptors and the watch only produced Buzzard and Hobby. However, the deep summer woods were full of families of young birds. It was hard work finding them with nothing singing and all that foliage but a slow, quiet wander produced a flock of yellow Willow Warbler juveniles; two newly-fledged and genuinely spotted Spotted Flycatchers side by side on a branch, waiting for mum to bring home lunch; a pine tree full of Coal Tits; young brown Robins; and best of all, a family of Firecrests with at least one pale grey youngster begging from its parents. We watched several Marsh Tits foraging, and had glimpses of Song Thrush, Nuthatch and Blackcap. Deer slipped quietly away into cover without giving us the chance to check which species they were. Only a couple of Wrens managed a snatch or two of song. Finally, a Siskin flew over the car park. It was a very pleasant walk that produced 27 species – not so bad for late July. (thnks to Jane for leading) Jane Cumming
On a warm sunny morning 16 walkers met in Hinton Blewett to walk along country lanes to the two reservoirs at Litton and back across the fields with cattle, harvested crops and pasture. We saw, or heard 40 species of birds, which included seven Common Buzzards, a Little Egret, a Grey Heron, eight Cormorants, Little Grebes and an adult Great Crested Grebe with two chicks. There were 36 Swallows, 21 House Martins and several families of Grey and Pied Wagtails. There was plenty to listen out for as Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tits were active. A Whitethroat hid from us but it did a short rattle several times. At least eight Robins sang or scolded and a Pheasant and Green Woodpecker were heard. Some of the party were fortunate to see a Kingfisher and a Treecreeper. Goldfinches were feeding on thistle seeds as four Lapwings flew over and a Raven croaked in the distance. A few butterflies were seen: Gatekeepers, Whites and Speckled Woods along with a Hawker Dragonfly. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading a very pleasant and varied walk)
Five members met for this morning only walk around the various sites. At Herriotts Pool we observed two Yellow-legged Gulls along with two Black-tailed Godwits, numerous Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal and a single Little Egret. Sharp-eyed Rod located two Goldeneye which ended the time there. We moved to Stratford Hide and numerous Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Little Grebe along with a Grey Heron were observed. The ducks included Pochard, Tufted Duck and Teal. We then walked from Stratford to Moreton Hide. Along the way we saw Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and heard a Green Woodpecker. In a flooded field by a cattle drinking trough we observed six Green Sandpiper. In the Moreton Hide we had a quick view of a Reed Warbler and just before leaving observed a Hobby fly over the trees but we failed to re-locate it after leaving the hide. The small group then moved onto Herons Green where the morning only meeting ended. A total of 24 species were recorded. (Our thanks to Charles for leading this enjoyable walk
A group of 23 set out from the Queen Victoria on a very pleasant summer’s morning. There were a number of birds seen around the village including House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Approximately 50 Swallows were seen moving through and four active House Martins’ nests were noted. The walk along the old track involved carefully negotiating rather a lot of water and mud but we did hear Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Bullfinch as well as seeing a few more common species including Blue Tit, Great Tit and Dunnock. Some of the group spotted a Kestrel in the distance and three more were seen later on. A total of three Buzzards were spotted and a mixed group of corvids in the fields contained an estimated 30 Jackdaws and 20 Rooks. After we had descended from the highest point of the walk, a couple of young coots were seen with an adult on the pond. As usual there were a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies and we also saw Gatekeeper, Marbled Whites, a Small Copper and a Large Skipper. We saw three Wheatears that appeared to be a family party, and a Reed Warbler was heard. It was a very enjoyable morning’s walk and we managed a total of 27 species. Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of species seen and thank you to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading.
Ten people gathered on a drizzly morning for a walk around the University’s grounds. Swallow were flying around and as we walked down the wooded path towards the University Robins, Wood Pigeons, various corvids and tits were seen and heard. Near the lower end of the lakes a Grey Wagtail ran across the path behind us and on the lower lake we saw our first Mallards, both female. Passing though the small woodland on the way to the second lake Goldcrests were seen and heard along with a couple more Grey Wagtails. A Mute Swan and seven goslings were beside the lake with a large number of young Mallards. The other adult Mute Swan was having a quiet moment at the far end. A Grey Heron sat in the trees on the far side and two Moorhens cruised along the shore. The weather was drying a little as we moved through woodland where Robins and Wrens were noisily announcing their presence, and on to the playing fields where a dozen or so Pied Wagtails were on the mown grass, 50 plus Swallows swooped around with occasional rests on the goal cross bars and a flock of Goldfinches moved along the scrub. Returning to Newton St Loe through the university we saw Swifts, our usual Tuesday Buzzard and a flock of five Mistle Thrushes flying from tree to tree near the old mansion. On a drier walk than might have been expected we saw 35 species. Thanks to Robert Hargreaves for leading and finding a good tally of birds.
The weather was warm and cloudy as 24 members met at the WWT car park at Steart Marshes. From the car park we saw a female Marsh Harrier and had a fleeting glimpse of our first Little Egret of the day. On the way there and back we heard a Reed Warbler and saw Reed Buntings, a Yellow Wagtail flying past and Goldfinch in the scrub. A couple of Barn Swallows and House Martins caught our eye with their acrobatics, and a Kestrel was also spotted. The tide was not yet up to the pool so after a short stay we moved on to the Steart village car park and walked to the breach in the Parrett bank. On the way we saw Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting. When the breach and pools came into view we were rewarded with 22 Avocet (including two largish chicks) most of which obliging flew to give excellent views of this iconic bird. About 35 Black-tailed Godwit, ten Redshank, 50 plus Dunlin and a lone Curlew Sandpiper were clearly in view. A couple of Grey Heron were in the distance, and nearer were four Knot, ten Redshank and a few Shelduck. A lone Great White Egret flew by. We ate our picnic in the grassy Natural England car park and then went out to the Tower and poolside hides towards Steart Point. The sun was more in evidence now and Gatekeepers, Commas and Common Blues fluttered past us. At the Tower Hide we saw hundreds of Shelduck on the mudflats of the Parrett and equally large numbers of Black-headed Gulls on the Bristol Channel mudflats and more of the waders seen earlier. On our return to the cars a Whitethroat was heard and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls passed overhead. Rain threatened as we returned but happily did not fall before we arrived back at the cars after a fruitful visit with a total of 43 species.
As the skies darkened on our arrival it began to rain but not incessantly so the birding wasn’t spoilt completely. No feed had been put out at the RSPB shop so few species seen there, although a nice Little Grebe bobbed up occasionally on the pond. Finches were on the refilled feeders by the play equipment, with ample evidence of breeding success in the area. Not a squeak from the reed beds as we headed towards the estuary edge of the River Severn. A few ducks on the lagoons included a distant Gadwall dozing on the water. Whimbrel and Curlew were spotted moving up and then down the river. We scrutinised the Black-headed Gulls for strangers, without luck, although it was nice to see the striking markings on the juveniles. It won’t be long before their calls will become ‘strident calls’. A Peregrine came through at low level as we made our way towards the Uskmouth end, kept company by a group of Swallows and (we think) Linnets. The top of the tide had pushed an Oystercatcher onto the inlet before the turn to the bird hide but nothing onto the pool in front. Not a Tufted Duck in sight, just Old Nog, a couple of Teal and many Mallard – all these in heavy moult. That was about it for the Wetlands except for a singing Cetti’s Warbler on the track back.
At Goldcliff the weather was a little kinder, and the pools so much richer in waders. Two Greenshank flew in at the first hide to accompany the Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, and the first Dunlin. A small flight of Canada Geese came in to join the party on the shore-side meadow. Further round at the next hide there were much better views of the Dunlin and a couple of Shoveler were found. Further round again – in fact all the way round, more Dunlin and the first juvenile Little Ringed Plover were seen. Through a gap in the reeds a tantalising view of ‘something else’ with the Black-tailed Godwit, still sporting summer plumage and more black-bellied Dunlin. The flocks went up a couple of times and we worked hard at finding the scattered birds but, alas, no Little Stint. On the walk back the ‘cronk’ of a Raven was heard but we couldn’t find it – until it appeared in the distance having been below the bank of the now nearly empty river. To get a better view of the ‘something else’ we stopped at one of the ‘blinds’ and found Yellow Wagtail (juvenile), Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, a Ruff, and two red-chested Curlew Sandpipers – a splendid finish (16:30) to a good days birding for the eleven members present. Special thanks to Jane for her consummate identification skills. Nick Hawkridge
It was a fine hot day with a nice breeze and welcome shade. 19 birders had a lovely walk with plenty to see; fast-flying butterflies, large dragonflies and some brilliant birds. Although the first 20 minutes was nearly devoid of the latter – with a Raven, 50 Jackdaw (in one party) and a family of Bullfinches – Skippers, Ringlets, and Marbled Whites were everywhere. Further on, the call of a Spotted Flycatcher was heard and the bird found at the back of some hawthorn. The Redstart we have come to expect in this location finally made an appearance. A fine male in bright colours was seen in full view, obviously keeping an eye on us as we passed through his territory. His mate and family were much harder to spot, only a quick flash of red tail. A family party of six Mistle Thrush flew across the path and the hawthorns were bisected by a swirl of Swallows and a few House Martin. After a shady coffee stop we passed into Long Wood where the calls of Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard, with some even being seen. A family party of Spotted Flycatcher was heard and then seen flitting among the branches. Along this path we also encountered some Silver Washed Fritillaries, skilfully identified by our visitor from the Bath RSPB, Lucy Delve. She also spotted a juvenile Hobby scooting over the hedges at the top of the fields, and kept us entertained with identifications of just about everything, including many Dragonflies – Emperor and Broad-bodied Chaser included. Thanks go to Geoff for leading us round and Lucy for her support. Nick Hawkridge
On a warm, calm summer evening 16 members and one German guest met at New Fancy view in the Forest of Dean. We climbed to the viewpoint where the view is beginning to disappear behind the rapidly growing surrounding trees. All was very quiet on the bird front. There were no raptors and only the occasional small bird flying past. We then moved on to Cannop ponds for a more productive walk along the bank. A family of Grey Wagtails was seen near the waterfall. On the lake were Mallards, Tufted and Mandarin ducks. There were a large number of young Mandarins. Swallows were feeding over the water and occasionally dipping in. A party of Swifts were seen overhead. Good views were had of a Kingfisher and a lucky few saw it catch a fish and spend some time trying to swallow it. A Marsh Tit was heard but not seen. Leaving the ponds we moved on to near Speech House and walked from there in the fading light up Crabtree Hill. A very distant Siskin was seen. On reaching the clearing there was a lot of commotion from a gathering of Blackbirds but no evidence of what was alarming them was seen. We didn’t have to wait very long before churring of the Nightjars was heard and two flew very close overhead. We then had a wonderful display of three, four or even five birds hunting. They were also spotted on perches as the light was quite good. We returned to the cars in the dark after a very rewarding evening. The number of species seen was 33. Thank you to Mike for leading again. Margaret Gorely