Having met up at the car park at Aylesbeare we had a walk around this unique pebble bed heathland reserve managed by the RSPB for its special wildlife. We made our way around the various footpaths on the heath in search for Dartford Warbler, which had proved elusive for me throughout the summer, Stonechats could be seen on many parts of the heath, looking as if they have had a good breeding season, Siskin were seen and heard as were singing Chiffchaff, Long- Tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Green Woodpeckers, Meadow Pipits, Kestrel and Buzzards. On our way back to the cars we found a Dartford Warbler in the gorse, but although it kept very low and elusive at times most of the group did pick up on the bird. I had noticed through the summer the large number of Stonechat around the heath and I wonder if the Dartford Warbler here is finding it difficult to compete, time will tell. We then moved down to the Axe Estuary and visited Black Hole Marsh, one of the local reserves managed by the East Devon Council. We made our way down to the Tower Hide overlooking the river Axe and looking back towards the reserve pool, and here we picked out waders such as Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Common and Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. On the river we could see and hear Curlew, various wintering duck and gulls that had just arrived, including Wigeon and Teal. A Kingfisher flew in and sat by the hide giving everyone a view of this colourful bird and Water Rail was heard calling in the nearby reeds. We then moved on to the island hide situated near to the middle of the pool, which gives you chance to get close to the birds. Here we saw more Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and even a Wheatear that was sitting on one of the islands, presumably taking a break from its travels. We could not, however, find the reported Little Stint that had been present earlier even though we spent a lot of time looking. We then walked to Colyford Common and visited the hides there but this was quiet, although we had good views of a juvenile Peregrine hunting and sitting in the nearby field and a Cetti’s Warbler singing nearby. We did manage to get a total of 55 species and my thanks to those of you who joined me on the day. (Thank you to Gordon for leading.) Gordon Youdale
20 people walked through Tickenham levels, along the Land Yeo and up woods and meadows on a warm humid day, where birds often seemed thin on the ground except for the ubiquitous Robins singing and ticking – but still we ended up with 33 species. In the woods one group of trees had Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits together, a feeder attracted Nuthatches, and Chiffchaffs called. On Cadbury Camp (guarded by a bull and cows) were Wheatear and a Meadow Pipit in a tree, a Raven doing aerobatics, a lurking Jay, and a large group of Mute Swans visible on distant lowland. On the levels Buzzards perched on hay bales and Grey Herons were silhouetted, with Swans, Little Egret, Green Woodpeckers, Kestrel and Rooks busy on and above the meadows. Starlings perched on a power line with two Mistle Thrush, and a Hobby flew through. We also saw Common Darter and Emperor Dragonflies, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies, and Bellflowers edging the Cadbury Camp embankments. (Many thanks to Jan Pridie and Lois Pryce for leading.) Lois Pryce
Five members attended this meeting on an initially dry and pleasant day, however heavy rain was forecast for later in the morning. In the car park we had flyovers of both Greylag and Canada Geese, many Swallows and a group of Sand Martins. We set off for the summer walkway but saw little other than a single Wheatear, a few Cormorants and fair numbers of Swallows and House Martins. We retreated to the Holden tower as the rain approached and had good views of a variety of birds including Barnacle Geese, Avocets, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwits. We proceeded to the Zeiss hide to obtain closer views of the waders. At the Kingfisher hide despite the downpour we had excellent view of a number of Whitethroats and Blackcap. We were lucky enough to see a Kingfisher which streaked in front of the hide and then obligingly perched on a log. We then went on to the South Lake hide where we saw four Cranes, Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebe amongst others. We finished at the Rushy Hide with lovely views of a Snipe. Throughout the morning we heard Cetti’s Warblers, although none were seen. Overall the weather although wet it did not significantly spoil the meeting with over 50 species listed. (thanks to Sue for leading)
A group of 19 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful summer’s morning. As we left the car park we started our list with Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Collared Dove. We also spotted groups of House Martins and Swallows. As expected for this time of the year the count for these two species was high with 50 plus House Martins and 45 Swallows (mostly on wires) for the whole walk. We passed the Stanton Drew stone circle. Those of us at the back of the group were treated to the sight of a Sparrowhawk circling overhead among a number of House Martins. It was thought that this was a male as a few minutes later a second Sparrowhawk was seen by everyone. This appeared to be a larger bird so it is likely that they were a pair, with this one being a female. It was also circling and being harried by a Carrion Crow. The light was excellent and we had a good view of the bird’s beautiful plumage. This was the highlight of the walk. Two Buzzards were then seen. We added twelve Goldfinches as well as four Rooks, 40 Starlings, 30 plus House Sparrows and two Chiffchaffs. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly and a Linnet was also spotted. A party of Long-tailed Tits was first heard and then about six seen. One member of the group saw a Wheatear and when we arrived at a small clump of conifers we looked for Coal Tits and Goldcrests but saw neither. However, those who are able to detect the higher frequencies heard three Goldcrests. We had a total of 25 species with many thanks to Mark Watson for keeping an excellent record of species seen. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and we were very grateful to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk.
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.