The glorious sunny weather may have had something to do with the excellent turn-out of more than 20 members for this woodland and heathland walk. We set off through idyllic sunlit glades following a stream in Hodder’s Combe, picking out warbler song and watching Grey Wagtails on the water’s edge. Having separated Blackcap and Garden Warbler, we started hearing Wood Warblers as well as the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Goldcrest, Redstart and both flycatchers soon followed, and we could hear a Cuckoo for most of the morning. A large herd of Red Deer were following a skyline trail along the top of the combe. We emerged from the trees right beside song-flighting Tree Pipits, and watched Stonechats on the open gorse moorland as we tucked into our picnic lunches. Sadly, it seems that Whinchats no longer breed in the Quantocks, and Jeff had heard no recent news of Dartford Warbler or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there either. Many thanks as always to Jeff Holmes for kindly leading the walk and for sharing with us his extensive knowledge of the birds of these hills.
Ten members gathered at the RSPB Ham Wall car park on an overcast morning that threatened rain. We ventured on to Shapwick first to see the new hide – an unusual design which gives good views over reed beds and lagoon. On the way along the old railway we saw and heard numerous birds in the trees and scrub including Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Cetti’s warbler and Blackcap. Two Bittern were heard booming and one seen over the reed beds. From the hide we saw two Marsh Harriers carrying nesting material, a Kingfisher, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting. Greylag and Canada Geese were on the lagoon along with Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Coot and Little Grebe. We moved on to Noah’s Hide where 37 Common Terns were over the far left of the lagoon. On the way back to the car park both Little and Great White Egret were seen over Meare Heath. After a picnic lunch eight of us set off on Ham Wall only to be greeted by increasingly heavy rain. We sheltered in the hides to the right of the track where we saw Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe with chicks and a variety of duck though no new species to add to our list of 58. The rain showed no sign of stopping so the decision was made to return to the cars to go home and dry out. Thanks to Peter Holbrook for leading us on a productive visit.
Seven members met at the Village Hall on a sunny morning. We left the hall to walk along the back lanes of Wick and within minutes had Blackcap singing followed by Blue Tit and Great Tit. Further along, a Buzzard was sitting on a fence post looking for a meal. Moving on we could hear distant Song Thrush singing. Upon entering the reserve we had more Blackcaps and an obliging Nuthatch. A pair of Mistle Thrushes were seen harassing a Coal Tit which was amusing to observe. Along the river we had good views of a pair of Grey Wagtails and one person had a brief glimpse of a Dipper. A Treecreeper also made a short appearance. Leaving the river heading for Ravens Rock,a Peregrine was seen. At the quarry a Cuckoo could be heard calling, along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Three Buzzards also gave a display, coming quite low at times. Leaving the quarry we decided to skirt round to take the bridle path branching off Quarry road and this produced Swallows, Whitethroat and Ravens. On the footpath towards the reserve entrance more Swallows and House Martins were seen. A pleasant walk with 36 species in total. (Thanks for leading, Chris) Chris Perry
Being in the right place at the right time is the essence of seeing rare birds, and it wasn’t enough to be somewhere in the locality when a Red-rumped Swallow flew over Portland or when Great and Pomarine Skuas put in brief appearances along Chesil Bank. The Portland sightings report looked great that day, but the nine of us who turned up for this mid-week walk weren’t lucky enough to catch up with any of the above. Nonetheless, it was good to see the Chesil Beach colony of breeding Little Terns in full swing and my first Swift of the year coming in off the sea. There seemed to be very few migrants on the land, probably because the unsuitably blue sky and gentle south-east wind gave them no reason to pause on their migration. At sea there was a steady passage of Gannets, a few Manx Shearwaters, one flock of nine Common Scoters, and much to-ing and fro-ing from the local Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. A bonus was the Little Owl that lives in the quarry but doesn’t always show, on view today and blinking in the sunshine. Finally, a couple of lucky people had views of the Bearded Tits that we were searching for at Radipole, where Cetti’s Warblers were shouting their heads off and showing unusually well – pressure of numbers causing the birds to pop out of the bushes more often. Worth the visit, shame we missed the rarities. (thanks for leading Jane)
At last, a dry, sunny and warmer day than of late forecast for our picnic walk – and a correct one too. Eleven members gathered in the National Trust carpark among many cowslips and accompanied by singing Skylarks,Song Thrushes and Blackbirds with hang gliders soaring nearby over the Cotswold edge. Making our way down into the valley between vast banks of wild garlic, we were soon treated to more singing and calling of Bullfinch and Mistle Thrush and very good views of Blackcaps and a pair of Marsh Tits – these latter uncharacteristically silent. Following the “Playtrail” with its tempting (for some) climbing logs, swings and zipwire, we saw some of our first butterflies of the day, Brimstone, Orange Tip and a pair of Red Admirals. The fresh green of the beech leaves and dark blue of patches of bluebells were looking great in the sunshine. As yours truly is a member, we were able to have a coffee break just outside the park boundary on the gliding club caravan park where a very vocal Green Woodpecker was added to our list, plus Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Greenfinches, all on feeders, and an obligingly close Tree Creeper, repeatedly posing for all to see.(Well spotted, Alastair) Descending again to the valley floor, we made our way east past some of the lakes where Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck were seen. Among many others, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler were also observed and/or heard and there were more House Martins and Swallows.
With the sun still shining, we picnicked at the Kennels. Grey Wagtails were nesting there as on our last visit. The National Trust Ranger, Max Dancer, joined us and gave us a very informative chat on the history of the Park and Mansion, plus what the Trust has already done there in twenty years and its future plans. We had been hearing and seeing Ravens all day, sometimes in conflict with the local Buzzards and our return route, past Woodchester Mansion, took us past the cedar where they are nesting. 41 species in all were noted. (Many thanks for leading, Nancy.) Nancy Barrett
Cheered by the singing of Skylarks, we huddled together at the golf course café trying to keep out of the bitter wind while waiting for all 25 walkers to arrive. We then set off at a brisk pace for Leigh Woods and some shelter. Robin, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Blackbird and Blackcap sang as we walked among the Bluebells, and Jay, Great, Coal and Blue Tits put in an appearance. There were plenty of corvids about as we made our way to the coffee stop – there’s obviously a rookery nearby. A Greenfinch called, two Ravens flew over, and a pair of Buzzards turned up. On to Abbot’s Pool, passing a well-stocked birdfeeder busy with tits and Nuthatch. At the Pool everyone saw the Moorhen and Mallard but, sadly, only the very keen-eyed spotted a Pied Flycatcher fly over the water. Back to Ashton Court and a short walk back to the warmth of the cars through grassland dotted with Green-veined Orchids. A delightful ending to a walk filled with blossom, Bluebells and birdsong – Skylarks still filling the air with their song – and a total of 30 species. (Many thanks to Brenda for leading this walk.)
Nineteen of us set off on a bright yet mainly overcast morning, leaving the car park meeting point to the sound of both Blackbird and Song Thrush. The road down towards the village gave us good views of Long-tailed Tits, a male Blackcap and an obliging Nuthatch that was feeding along the top of a horizontal bough. A House Martin passed overhead. On the steep climb through the woods we heard Nuthatch, a sound that continued to accompany us throughout the morning. We emerged in Upper Castle Combe where two rookeries (or one split rookery) hosted some 16 active nests. We then walked through quiet lanes where we saw three Buzzards soaring, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, both male and female Blackcaps (three in one tree) and the first Swallow of the morning. In the middle of an adjacent field five roe deer relaxed, eyeing us warily. Some of the group diverted to a newly created pond, which held a Little Grebe as well as Mallard, Canada Geese and a Moorhen. Skylarks were heard and subsequently spotted. After the coffee break we made the long descent towards the village though the valley with its varying landscape. On this stretch we added Mistle Thrush, both Green and Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer and Kestrel; a Cuckoo and Raven were heard. Back in Castle Combe village a Goldcrest showed well as did a calling Coal Tit. There was lots of vibrant Bluebells along the way but not enough sun to encourage the butterflies. Back in the car park a Song Thrush foraged on the grass verge, exactly where it had been when we left three hours earlier. In total some 45 species were recorded. Thanks to Dave for leading this very pleasant and always rewarding walk. John Lees
In the car park a Goldfinch was “wall-creeping” under a window ledge, picking off the spider webs for nest making, with Greenfinch and Robin about. The walk started on the south side and wound round the park clockwise. We began by walking down to the junction of the motorway and river. In the playing fields 40-odd corvids rummaged with three Starlings, a Stock Dove flew over and the first of ten Great Tits was heard and seen. Up above circled 33 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Herring Gulls. An unseen Green Woodpecker teased us with its ‘yaffling’ somewhere on the woody hillside, with Blackbird, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, singing spring Wrens, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit. In the tall trees at the bottom, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen by all. The allotments across the river gave Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Song Thrush. Near the lake a Goldcrest’s song caught our attention swiftly followed by two Stock Doves hiding in the branches – a treat to see them so close. On the lake a Grey Heron fished among the urban waterfowl, with a couple of Muscovy Ducks. Two Collared Doves cooed and a Kingfisher flashed by, too fast for many. At this point a group photo was taken, now posted on the BOC’s Facebook. In the dried rushes was a Comma butterfly, with Peacock, Brimstone and Orange Tip all about. The return walk brought two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Jay and a couple of House Sparrows. It was a glorious sunny day, and very enjoyable. Thanks to Richard Scantlebury for leading, and Nick Hawkridge for the count. Robert Hargreaves
Nine members met on a sunny but gusty morning for a walk around the high downland in a quest for Ring Ouzel. In the absence of a designated leader, Annie, the only person who had visited the area previously, led the walk. We were slow setting off from the car park with golfers teeing off over the car park entrance and in the direction of our path. Almost immediately we were lucky enough to see a Red Kite being mobbed by a crow. As we walked down an enclosed path bordered by hedge and small trees we saw a variety of birds including Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and two Swallows. As we proceeded we had splendid views of Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook and a Raven. Once we reached the Washpool Valley we scanned carefully for possible Ring Ouzel or indeed any other spring migrants – but without success. However we did see Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard. We also heard a Willow Warbler and Goldcrest. As it was such a lovely day the whole area was busy with families walking and lots of dog walkers and this probably didn’t help our search. It was a very windy walk over the higher downland back to the car park. Thank you to Annie for stepping up to lead the group. Sue Kempson
On a beautiful sunny, warm morning 26 members set off for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Recent changes to the scheme have seen the sowing of more wildflower meadows to enhance the insect populations for birds and also to provide seed later in the year. As we set off we saw Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a Pied Wagtail around the farm buildings. As walked across the fields we saw two Buzzards in the distance, a Kestrel, a solitary House Martin passed by and a Green Woodpecker was heard. The farm always has a good crop of Yellowhammers and this year was no exception and we had excellent views of 19 taking advantage of feed on a farm track accompanied by 25 Linnets and a single Brambling. As we skirted woodland a Nuthatch sang in the distance along with competing Blackcap. As we started back to the farm on the quiet lane a Jay was spotted and we had fine views of three Willow Warblers in the hedgerow. The walk ended with a Barn Swallow swerving between houses in the village as we approached the farmyard. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, 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 to Burnett. In all we saw 38 species on an enjoyable walk. Mark Watson