44 members and guests set off just after 0800 hrs for Worth Matravers. At Yeovil, Alastair Fraser gave a humorous geological introduction to Purbeck, remembered from his school journals: Jurassic, Cretaceous, Ammonites. Arriving under a baking sky to meadows of Yellow Rattle, we headed for the Jurassic coast. By the time we reached Seacombe Bottom, we had heard or seen Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Linnet, Wren, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Windhover (Kestrel), Buzzard, Roe Deer and the first of 20 Stonechat. Below pink Thrift-covered cliffs near Dancing Ledge flew Guillemot. Two dots on the sea became Puffins Cormorant, Shag and Commic Tern wandered past. We lunched among the Bee Orchids, Early Gentian and Milkwort, thriving in the short limestone turf. A family of Black Redstart popped up along the fence, to our delight. Under the now burning sun we trudged on through the bright blue spikes of Vipers Bugloss and the maroon-flowered Hound’s Tongue. Although devoid of birds, a few Adonis and Small Heath butterflies and the dead wings of a Cream-spot Tiger were seen and underfoot the hairy caterpillars of the Brown-tail moth. A heavy sea mist descended and a Peregrine flashed by. In the gloom Lesser Whitethroat was heard again. As we searched for it, a Dartford Warbler perched in full view. As the mist lifting we saw Razorbill swimming amongst some Guillemot (including Bridled) below Durlston’s cliffs. A Fulmar swung out in the sun, with another Sandwich Tern, and a pair of Kestrels were seen feeding chicks below the rocks. A day of great twists and turns. Thank you Alastair for your research and an entertaining first lead. Robert Hargreaves
A breezy, sunny morning saw 13 of us head out across fields where Swallows swooped and Magpies upset the hedge occupants and a Song Thrush quickly hid from us. Along the lane a female Bullfinch dived into the hedge beside a field with neat green lines of maize appearing and numerous Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls brightly reflected the sun off their white backs. We passed the donkeys and loud Robins on Sandford Hill, and enjoyed butterflies before the trees where we encountered more Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits with a special treat of a family of Marsh Tits,( a parent and four fledglings) and a Treecreeper. Above the canopy a young raptor, possibly a Peregrine, begged for food and a Roe Deer kept stock still amongst the nearby saplings. It was camouflaged by the strong dappled sun giving its back a striped appearance. Emerging from the trees we had wide views of the Mendip Hills ahead of us and beyond Crook Peak, down to Bridgwater Bay and the distant Quantocks. We heard a faraway Cuckoo and as we descended the grassy slope, disturbed four Mistle Thrush and spied a Raven and Buzzard before crossing the yellow seas of buttercup meadows. We also came across a Green Woodpecker and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and then back near the car park found the Pied Wagtails (resident there), making a tally of 35. (Thank you for leading,Sue.) Sue Watson
A beautiful sunny day attracted 36 walkers and we hoped it would produce plenty of birds. From the car park, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were in full song. The pond had Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen. As yet, no Sand Martins are making use of the artificial nest site. The walk across the reed beds gave us Reed Bunting. The Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were remarkably quiet but did start up later. The hoped for Bearded Tits were only spotted by a lucky few, as the rest were chasing the Cuckoo and were rewarded by seeing two birds perched together. Summer visitors included Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Blackcaps, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and a very obliging Cetti’s Warbler who sat sunning itself in full view. After our picnic lunch we went to Goldcliff where we added both Avocets and Redshanks with chicks. The Marsh Harrier put in an appearance as did a Raven. Both were seen off by the adult birds. Ringed Plover and Greenshank were also in the pools and one keen spotter added a Little Ringed Plover. The few ducks around were Tufted, Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler. In all we had 58 species between the two sites and a lovely warm Spring day as a bonus. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading the walk) Margaret and Ray Bulmer
15 members met at the new RSPB car park at Ham Wall on a rather changeable day, when it was difficult to judge what to wear. It was warm in the sun, but cool when the sun went behind the clouds. For those of you who did not attend – you missed a treat! Before we left the car park we had already listed a good ten species including a Cuckoo (heard) and Hobby. Once on the main track there was a chorus of birdsong allowing plenty of practice in identifying calls and songs – Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Wren, Reed Warbler, Goldcrest amongst others. We saw a variety of ducks as we progressed to the first viewing platform, where we immediately had excellent views of two Bitterns, one chasing the other. It was assumed a male chasing a female and we were able to watch them for over ten minutes as they circled above , the ?female giving a croaking call. We then crossed to the hide and had excellent views of a male Reed Bunting singing, Hobby and Lapwing (only one or two). Overhead were many Swifts (very few House Martins & Swallows) and we had multiple sightings of Great White Egrets. We then proceeded to the new Avalon Hide seeing Great Spotted Woodpecker, Glossy Ibis and Bittern on the way. In the hide we watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker entering and emerging from the reed bed, unusual behaviour. A distant Marsh Harrier was seen. Returning to the track we saw a Cuckoo, a single Garganey, another Bittern, Marsh Harrier and a rather shivery looking Whimbrel. We stopped at the second viewing point and then proceeded back along the main track to the car park with further views of Hobby. Five members continued onto Shapwick Heath where we admired the new hide which gave good views over the scrape with nine Black- tailed Godwits and another Garganey.
Total species count was 57. Bird of the day had to be the Bittern with 13 sightings during the day, certainly a record for me! Many thanks to Mike Johnson for leading this very enjoyable walk. Sue Kempson
NB There are now onsite toilets available (open 10 am to 4pm) in the new Ham Wall car park
We set off from Snuff Mills Car Park under a broken sky which gradually became more cloudy as the morning progressed. Initially there was little to get excited about, Blackcap and Goldcrest could be heard, the River Frome hosted a solitary Heron and Mallard and a squirrel breakfasted on a bird table in an adjacent garden, oblivious to his audience. After passing through Stapleton Village and over the M32 a steep climb brought us to Purdown where we were treated to a hovering Kestrel, Swallows and a significant number of darting Swifts, not to mention stunning views over the city. After the coffee break we crossed fields containing lots of Corvids and dog walkers and on into a wood which proved to be the most productive area of the walk. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker flew across as we approached the trees. In the wood a Song Thrush sang, Coal Tit called, Greenfinches and a family of Long-tailed Tits shared the same tree and we all had a great view of a pair of Nuthatches repeated delivering food into a nesting hole (Nick pointed out that mud was clearly visible around the entrance, introduced to narrow the size). On leaving the wood a Chiffchaff showed well for some of the group. Our return to the car park took us past Duchess Pond where we added Whitethroat, Moorhen, Coot and Canada Geese. Nineteen of us were on parade and 36 species were recorded. Thanks to Rich Scantlebury for leading and for imparting his local knowledge. John Lees
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