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
Fourteen members met in the National Trust car park on a rather windy and cloudy start to the day. Early arrivals were rewarded with views of Raven, Kestrel, Swallows and the first of many sightings of Chiffchaff. Skylarks were singing in the adjacent fields. As we started our walk to Middle Hope we sighted a group of 14 Wheatears. On the rather exposed ground we saw a variety of birds including Meadow Pipit, many Blackbirds (sadly no Ring Ouzels amongst them), Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit, Stonechat and Chaffinch. As we continued our walk overlooking the sloping coastal edge we had excellent views of a pair of Blackcaps and many sightings of both Sand Martin and Swallow. Once we descended to the more sheltered coastal paths we spent some time observing a number of very active Chiffchaffs and Jane was able to identify a Willow Warbler. By now the sun was appearing and the light was vastly improved. We saw Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, more Blackcaps, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and a Cormorant. One keen-eyed member spotted a House Martin amongst more Swallows and Sand Martins. Half the group went on to walk out to Sand Point and saw a pair of Oystercatchers, a Curlew, Mallard, a male Bullfinch, Rock Pipit, Buzzard and a male Redstart. The earlier returnees had to content themselves with a Jay. Overall, a lovely walk with excellent scenic views in pleasant company and with good birding, 36 species in all. Many thanks to Jane for leading.
Ten members gathered at the Uphill Boatyard, on what turned out to be a bright sunny morning – despite the earlier rain and the forecast of more wet. We set off along a new tarmac path towards and past the lake where we saw a couple of Mallard. Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls were overhead along with some noisy Jackdaws. A Sparrowhawk was seen flying overhead by some and Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch flitted about in the scrub that has been somewhat reduced in extent by the resurfaced path. A Greenfinch was heard but not seen whilst a Little Egret flew across the marsh. From the hill overlooking the marsh numerous Mute Swans and Shelducks were on the fields across the Axe, along with Teal and Gadwall. It was around high water when a flock of Redshank moved along the edge of the river and a solitary Oystercatcher foraged along the river edge. We were treated to an excellent view of a Stonechat perched on a fence post and the sound and sight of Skylarks high above and an obliging individual that lingered on a tussock. On the Bleadon Marsh we had clear views of two smart male Reed Buntings, one close by on the reeds. A Kestrel flew overhead in the distance and a Buzzard was mobbed by two Carrion Crows. As we returned to the car park a flock of about 50 Linnet flew by. The rain held off and the sun shone for most of the walk and we had a total of 33 species. Thanks to Jane for leading and organising the weather!
Thirty Three people gathered by Lansdown Racecourse above Bath on a still chilly day, to walk the high flat top and wooded escarpment sides of this Cotswold upland, with leader Jane Cumming hoping for late Golden Plovers and early Wheatears. As we set off, Skylarks and a Kestrel flew above the racecourse turf and a Mistle Thrush sat quietly on a roadside post. A large ploughed field hid a flock of 60 or more Chaffinches (mostly female) quietly feeding with a few Linnets. Adjacent woods held 20 plus Fieldfare, three or four Nuthatches (heard tapping), Goldcrest, Jay, Song Thrush and at the very far corner a Treecreeper. We entered Pipley Wood, a muddy tangled woodland on the hill slope with fallen trees left untouched. We saw three Siskins in low trees, more Nuthatches, and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The wood opened to a magnificent view northwest across Bristol to the Severn. Buzzards patrolled the valley below, and hearing a Raven we saw two black birds on the flat top of majestic cedar that we thought might be Ravens nesting. We climbed out of the wood to meadows running south along the escarpment edge with views down to the Avon and Keynsham, Buzzards and Green Woodpeckers calling and flocks of wheeling Jackdaws. Back on top, with Kelston Tump and Beckford’s Tower in view, the large ploughed fields still didn’t reveal Golden Plover nor did their drystone boundary walls show any Wheatear. But Skylarks and their song surrounded us as we walked back across the racecourse, with the cawing of Rooks, all busy excavating the fields and reminding us it is spring. A total of 35 species, and thanks to Jane for leading.
16 people met at New Fancy View on a beautiful sunny spring-like day. However, our arrival followed that of a large birding group from Gloucestershire. We amicably decided that the viewpoint was not big enough for both groups and so we left them to it and proceeded to Speech House. Walking to Crabtree Hill we were serenaded by Siskin, Dunnock, Nuthatch and a variety of tits, Coal being the most common. We had good views of all – as well as a Buzzard perched low in the trees. Arriving at Crabtree Hill we had excellent views of the Great Grey Shrike perched right on top of a tree and good views of a group of Stonechats. We continued on, in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but without success, sighting a single Great Spotted Woodpecker. On our return walk we had further views of the shrike and Ravens. We did meet the Gloucestershire bird group who gleefully described their wonderful views of Goshawk display when they arrived at the viewpoint. Lunch at Cannop Pond added Mandarin Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, and Grey Wagtail to our list. Marsh Tits were seen on the feeders. We proceeded to the stone quarry in a further attempt to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but with no joy, but had lots of woodland bird activity. At 1500 hrs we were back at New Fancy where we had more lizard than bird activity and no sign of Goshawk – apparently all the activity had been mid-morning. Some members finished the day at Parkend and had perfect views of a Hawfinch. Despite the absence of Goshawk and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, this was a very enjoyable day. Thanks to Jane for leading.
On a dry and sunny but cool, breezy morning, twelve people made the journey to Wareham Forest and met our leader for the walk – Ian Alexander of Natural England who knows the forest area well. Once assembled we saw Siskin, Stonechat and Mistle Thrush in the trees near Sherford Bridge and as we moved on towards a more open area of heath we passed Redwing, Goldfinch and Green Woodpecker among the trees. As we emerged onto the heath above Morden Bog, Moorhen and Mallard were on The Old Decoy Pond and we heard and saw four Curlews. As we walked slowly on, Dartford Warblers were heard and eventually we got good views of four or five birds on the gorse. Ian told us that earlier in the week he’d seen Woodlarks here but alas we did not hear or see them – the wind was cold and quite strong which probably kept them silent and down. We moved on into a delightful area of mature deciduous trees where a house once stood. Here we heard and saw more Goldcrest, numerous Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a Peregrine overhead and a passing Great Spotted Woodpecker. As we moved on, a Crossbill sat for some time on the top of a conifer giving good views; it eventually moved and, though we could hear it, we did not see it again. We continued our quest across open heath for more Dartford Warblers which we heard but the hoped for Woodlark was absent. On our return to the cars we saw Buzzard, several Greenfinch, Meadow Pipits, both Mistle and Song Thrush and heard a Raven. We decided to move on to Oakhill for lunch and then to see if the Great Grey Shrike reported there was about. Once again we were out of luck but did find a Grey Heron and a Treecreeper. After our return to the cars, Ian left with our thanks for an interesting morning enhanced by his local knowledge. Some of the party then moved onto Middlebere Farm and were rewarded with some excellent views of a Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel and a large flock of Brent Geese (800 plus) grazing a field on the way to the hide. Four Spoonbills were feeding along with Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, a solitary Dunlin, and a likewise lonely Grey Plover. On the walk back to the car a Stonechat appeared along with more Dartford Warblers. An enjoyable day out, with 52 species noted. Mark Watson
The arrangement to start at Parkend at 1000 hrs was all rather last minute; however, it was rewarded with sightings of a couple of Hawfinch, which was brilliant. Finally getting to New Fancy View, a little after our time, we made the party up to a dozen. As we walked onto the viewing platform, the sun emerged, which prompted the Goshawk to fly; this was very gratifying, it being so early in their courting season. Ravens appeared, a couple of Buzzards circled, Song and Mistle Thrush sang, some Coal Tits called and a Great Spotted Woodpecker gave a couple of ‘chip chips’. We drove to Speech House, parked, and wandered down to the Beechenhurst picnic site where we had some nice views of Nuthatch on the way and most had views of Treecreeper. We flushed some Redwing, and as we walked back, a couple of Jays cackled. A pleasant lunch in the sun at Cannop Pond allowed us to study Marsh Tit and one Mandarin Duck. It was a pleasure to walk round all the ponds, with possibly an extra 20 odd Mandarin of both sexes, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, and some gorgeously coloured Little Grebe. At the end of the ponds the feeders were well stocked and had a couple of Siskin a-dangle, along with many of the usual tit species. At the run-off sluice, a pair of Grey Wagtails was in their usual place (must be a nest site), and at the finish more sightings of the Marsh Tit. We did try again for better views of the Hawfinch at Parkend at the end of day, but nothing doing. A total count of 39 was a good tally for the day. (Very many thanks Nick).
Despite the bitter weather 12 of us met up at Herriott’s end. Still, two Cetti’s Warblers were singing and a Greylag and Barnacle Goose appeared to be courting. Over the back were Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck. The lake was very full, bad for dabbling duck, so no Gadwall. We walked up to the ringing station where we were kindly invited in to see three birds being ringed: a Wren, a Chiffchaff and a Great Tit. A fallen feather from the Chiffchaff was sent to the BTO for DNA testing to see which race it belonged to –Siberian Chiffchaffs and other oddities can turn up in winter. We then toured the lake from Wick Green to Heron’s Green in 3 cars. At Wick Green a few Goldeneye, male and female, were seen, and Cormorant, Goldfinch and Redwing. Back round to Stratford hide for more Goldeneye and a Common Gull. A Peregrine flew fast over the hide, quickly to be followed by a Sparrowhawk challenging the wind to cross the lake. On leaving, a Grey Wagtail flew over the cars. The gate at Moreton had Long-tailed Tits but our visit to the hide was very short owing to the high water there. The reported Green Sandpiper was hiding from the cold. At Heron’s Green a few more Common Gull. By this time the north wind was chilling our bones and we called it a day. We had 43 species despite the weather. Our thanks to Chris Stone for leading the meeting at short notice, and to Jane Cumming for arranging access to the ringing station. Robert Hargreaves
A party of 30 birders met in The Perrings, Nailsea for this four mile walk around Backwell Lake and out along Youngwood Lane to Chelvey, returning via Morgan’s Hill. The sunny morning, with little wind, meant that the smaller birds were singing and active. The thrush family was especially pleasing with two Song Thrush, Redwing, a Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush and plenty of Blackbirds. The lake held the usual suspects, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Coot, Mallards with two pairs of Pochard, Tufted Duck, and two Teal. The willows on the island held a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. Jane found an immature Common Gull with the Black-headed Gulls. Three of them had black heads ready for breeding. A Sparrowhawk was harassed by a corvid. Two Cormorants flew over, one of which was the European race. We walked up the little lane by Netcott meadows where a lucky few saw a Siskin. A male sat in a tree giving good views. Other highlights of our walk included a family of Grey Wagtails in the field with the horses and another two later on. There were several Jays, an active rookery and Ravens, along with a Green Woodpecker and Kingfisher. The species total was 42 for the group. (Thank you to Sue and John Prince for leading.) Sue Prince.
On a cold, but gloriously sunny morning 25 members gathered in Millennium Square. With so much disturbance on our pathdue to the construction of the Metrobus route and work on two of the bridges I thought that the birds might be absent. Happily I was proved wrong. The Cormorants were still using their favourite perch by Prince Street bridge and though a lot of vegetationhas been cleared beside the railway tracks there was still enough left to please numerous Goldfinches and some House Sparrows. About 20 Mute Swans were close to the Marina. There is no longer a resident breeding pair of swans in the Harbour so they don’t get driven away. A lone Canada Goose had joined them for the day. A Sparrowhawk was spotted over Brandon Hill. We then moved across to the New Cut and followed the chocolate path. Several Grey Wagtails and a Redshank were on the mud which was almost covered by the tide. A Pheasant appeared on the opposite bank -very unusual for this location. Someone spotted footprints in the mud. Photographs were sent to “Otter Gill” who confirmed that they were otter prints. We were very lucky. (I went to look again two days later and there was no sign.) There was also a dead gull with two rings. The number was rather indistinct and unfortunately the BTO was unable to give any information on it. A Common Sandpiper flew up by the Ashton Swingbridge and a Buzzard was seencircling over Ashton Court. One or two people spotted a Peregrine flying over. Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls were added to the list. The group divided and Nick led the energetic ones up and over Brandon Hill where they added a few passerines and some Redwings. The rest of us took the waterside route and found Moorhens by the ferry walkway, making a total of 30 species. (Thank you for leading Margaret) Margaret Gorely