19 walkers assembled in the Blaise car park on a warm morning after overnight rain. The conditions had encouraged the ant colonies to multiply and Swifts and gulls were massed taking advantage of the flying meal. 90 Lesser Black- backed Gull, 40 Herring Gull and 35 Swift were counted – but the aerial acrobatics made it hard to be sure of the numbers. Carrion Crow and Chaffinches were seen on the way to the churchyard and eleven Jackdaws were counted around the church tower where several of them had nests. Down at the Hazel Brook a rat was swimming in the water, then up in the meadow we were treated to a reprise of the gulls and Swifts spectacle, joined this time by a Common Gull. In the woods were Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Wren, Dunnock, Robin and on the meadows Magpie and Rook. Two Ravens were spotted and three Buzzards at different times, twice so close that their different markings could be clearly seen. We had our coffee break at the castle where two weeks previously a Red Kite paid a visit – unfortunately, this was not repeated – but we went on to hear Stock Dove, and see Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Chiffchaff and a solitary Long-tailed Tit. Seven Goldfinches congregated in trees near the old water mill. Altogether 27 species were recorded, not a huge count, but for a site in the city with many dogs and families enjoying themselves, it was a rewarding morning. (Thanks for leading, Ruth and Glyn.) Ruth Stanton
Twenty seven members gathered at the Natural England car park in Steart village on a good day for a picnic walk. Reports of Avocet chicks and a solitary Spoonbill raised our hopes for a successful day. Swallows flew overhead, a Pied Wagtail was on a nearby roof and a Greenfinch was calling as we set off towards Bridgwater Bay. Many Linnet were seen along the coast and several hundred Shelduck bobbed on the estuary with more on the mud. Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Sedge Warbler were spotted or heard on the reeds and in the adjacent meadows. We arrived at the Tower Hide and as we were a large group spilt up to visit this hide and the three hides beyond. The pools yielded Little Egret, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, a single Curlew Sandpiper, a Kestrel and a few gulls. On the way back to the car park for lunch Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Goldfinch were added to the list amongst others. After lunch we walked out to the breach in the River Parrett sea wall which was constructed by The Environment Agency as a managed retreat to help protect upstream areas from flooding and also to improve flood protection for Steart and other nearby villages. The breach feeds the newly created (2014) Steart Marshes wetland managed for the Environment Agency by WWT. It transpired that the Spoonbill had left for Slimbridge and the Avocets were not around but we did see 86 Black-tailed Godwits feeding. The walk ended back at the car park, though a few of us went to have a look at the area opposite the new WWT car park but the water had drained by then so nothing new turned up. Overall tally of 48 species made for a good days’ birding. (Our thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson
Ten people turned up at Capel, having negotiated the long narrow road on a morning with some dark clouds, but after a few spots of rain we had glorious sunshine most of the time. Early arrivals spotted one Red Kite in addition to the first of many Buzzards. House Martins were whizzing round and a Nuthatch was calling as we set off up the road towards the pony trekking centre. We soon found Redstarts flitting across between the trees and a big bright orange fritillary butterfly, probably Silver-washed. Beyond the woods we heard several Blackcaps tinkling and Swallows were flying low over the fields, then a ‘wheet’ call in a tree above us was identified by sight as a Willow Warbler. The scenery up the valley was spectacular throughout the walk, while we had fantastic views of three Ravens interacting, then three Buzzards and many Crows wheeling in the air above the mountain. Stonechats were quite numerous (six plus) and gave super views perching on bush and bracken with food in their beaks, and we saw several Wheatears, including one juvenile on a fence, followed by good views of single birds then two on a rock on the escarpment later. Someone then spotted a very smart Whinchat, who performed well with close views. Meadow Pipits were everywhere, alerting us with their ‘clink’ call and showing their white outer tail feathers (one member was checking her id details). We also found a good number of Small Heath butterflies, very small but noticeably bright flying among the bracken. The stream Nant Bwch was below us all the way and there was a small waterfall at one point, but there were no Dippers and only one Grey Wagtail.
During lunch on a grassy patch beside the track a raptor flew up the valley and back, causing some panic as bins were not at the ready, and was finally pronounced to be a Hobby. We continued to the top of the escarpment near Lord Hereford’s Knob, where the 180 degree view looking north towards Hay on Wye is wonderful at any time and particularly on such a clear day. The group then split up, with most returning the same four kilometres down the valley, some directly to the cars and others of us meandering along enjoying more butterflies – Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Ringlet – and moths and plants including one patch of butterwort – no doubt Jean could supply a list of the others! Final bird list was 30 species, including 15 Linnets, and a Green and two Great spotted Woodpeckers and a Jay, which called from the trees. Many thanks to Richard Brown for leading us.
Only six braves turned out on what was a very dull morning with rain forecast for later in the day. The rain, or rather fine drizzle, came on a little after we had passed Old Sodbury Church and spoiled what is normally a splendid view towards Chipping Sodbury and beyond. Despite the poor visibility up till then we had counted 13 bird species, including a mass of Lesser Black-blacked Gulls and Herring Gulls riding a thermal at the foot of the hill. Swallows and House Martins were abundant, a Kestrel, a Raven and a Green Woodpecker also ‘played’ the fine drizzle. However, after we had had a refreshment break under the cover of the trees on the climb up to Old Sodbury Fort, things improved; the drizzle stopped and there was brightness all about. We decided not to do the full walk, with picnic on the high view-point above Horton, because of the likelihood of further rain but, while on the short cut, we were rewarded with sightings of Red Kite, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Swift, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, and Blackcap. At the ‘pond’ we saw Moorhens, Little Grebes, and Mallards then, as we returned to the footpath, a Grey Herron rose up above the trees, bitterly complaining at something. Our total species count was 38. Thanks to the ‘brave six’ for coming, for despite the weather, we had a good walk (Thanks David for leading). David Tombs.
The Tuesday walkers who joined our annual visit to the Avon Gorge to see the Peregrines were well rewarded. Two juveniles were sitting on a bare tree stump when we arrived. When the brief shower of rain passed they took off, joined their sibling and the three of them presented us with a beautiful aerial display. They practised their passing techniques, before one of them broke away to chase a Carrion Crow, which appeared most surprised to be the pursued rather than the attacker. After watching the Peregrines, we walked past the wildflower meadow, with its Common Spotted Orchids, and on to Sea Walls. A family of Kestrels entertained us here, flying on to a ledge in the cliff face and into a garden, where one of them sat in the bird bath for quite a while before deciding he had better make the most of the opportunity to have a wash. Since we had spent so long enjoying the raptors, we decided not to go on to the Nature Reserve but instead visited the Gully where six feral Kashmiri goats from the Great Orme have been introduced to manage the scrub, allowing us to enjoy the rare limestone-loving plants. As we left the Gully, a Buzzard put in an appearance, bringing the total number of birds seen and heard to sixteen – Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Lesser Black- backed Gull, Magpie, Nuthatch, Wood Pigeon and Wren. Brenda Page