On a warm, dry spring day, 32 of us met at the Chequers Inn, Hanham, for a new walk through deciduous woodland, along field edges and by the river Avon. Trees were almost in leaf, and we admired the billowing Blackthorn and Wild Cherry blossom and the profusion of spring flowers; carpets of Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Cowslips and Lady’s Smock. The bird list numbered 37 in all, either seen or heard. The highlights were the Grey Herons and chicks in the heronry, Buzzard on a nest, Goldfinch building nest, Peregrine, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreepers (three) but surprisingly only one Chaffinch. (Thank you to our leaders for introducing us to this new walk)
Eight members made the trip on a sunny spring day following a misty start. We visited three locations: Lytchett Fields, an RSPB managed wetland area on the edge of Lytchett Bay; Upton Park, an area of mixed woodland on the edge of Holes Bay; and Morden Bog, which is part of Wareham forest.
Lytchett Fields attracts a range of wildfowl, waders and their predators. A Green-winged Teal and Lesser Yellowlegs had entertained birders for some months and I had seen the Teal on a recce a few days before when the tide was high. However, neither bird could be located on the field trip itself when the tide was low. Many Teal were roosting or hidden in creeks or behind clumps of reed. Something (probably the fox seen on the far shore) put all the Teal up in the air and they landed largely out of sight. No sign at all of the Lesser Yellowlegs, which has been very elusive over the last few weeks. However, we saw about 20 species including Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenfinch. We also saw Orange-tip, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies.
At Upton Park we added two stunning Jays, Common Gull, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Wigeon, Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, several very noisy Nuthatches and Raven. The cold water of the incoming tide meeting the sun-warmed mud created a low level rolling mist that was very atmospheric but not ideal for watching distant birds. A couple of weeks ago there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen at the park. While we were eating our sandwiches Sue saw a small, black and white bird with a ‘bouncy’ flight. It whizzed across the walled garden, over the wall into the trees beyond. Lesser? The jury is still out, unfortunately, as the view was too fleeting for her to be sure and no one else saw it. On to Morden Bog where Great Grey Shrike and Woodlark are recent sightings. We walked though some mixed oak and conifer woodland (Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker) and onto the heathland. The heath seemed very quiet initially until Suk saw our first (of many) Stonechats followed by Linnet 13 (Suk again) a stunning Yellowhammer (Suk) and then, unexpectedly, the Great Grey Shrike (Anne this time) posing at the top of a conifer. On the walk back two Dartford Warblers (yes, Suk again) flew up and perched in a Birch tree. Although it was a bit of a journey and we missed four of our target species we all had an enjoyable day out in three lovely locations with 35 species of bird. (Many thanks to Alastair for organising and leading.)
Sand Point can be a brilliant migration watchpoint on a good day but unfortunately this wasn’t one – cool, dry and overcast with a light wind but very little moving. Eight people joined Paul in the car park and climbed the steps up to the grassy summit serenaded by singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We scanned the shore counting 20 plus Shelducks, 100 plus Curlews, a couple of Little Egrets and a handful of Mallard and Teal. Three waders flew by resolving into a Grey Plover with two Dunlins. We walked along the top ticking off the common passerines and remembering other visits where the fields were dripping with Wheatears – none today, nor any hirundines either. Never mind, the views were wonderful! The River Banwell held a good roost of 120 Redshanks and three Mute Swans. A Raven flew over croaking, a couple of Stonechats attracted our attention, and a couple of Cormorants passed overhead. Thanks to Paul for leading and for finding some 32 species on a very quiet day. Jane Cumming.
PS It was rather galling to watch reports of loads of great birds turning up at Sand Point over the following week or two, but that’s birding, isn’t it!
Starting in fog and ending in rain, sunny during the walk – excellent. The crowd of 21 (welcome to new walker Simon) gathered at the trees in Moor Lane to listen to the song of a male Blackcap (totally hidden), the rapid ‘cherteach, cherteach’ of a Coal Tit and the call of a distant Willow Warbler. A perching Buzzard resolved into a female Pheasant and the quack of Mallard revealed their position under the hedge. A true Buzzard posed for us as we climbed the slope, showing a strong dark necklace and many Greenfinch wheezed and sang us up the hill. Another Buzzard then flew past and we were delighted to see ‘Blondie’ (nearly all white underwing) one of the regulars in the valley (Not Blondie – one of a pair centred on Norton’s Village, both very pale – RJP). A collection of four Bullfinches showed well, with the males’ chest colour even discernible in the poor light. Linnet, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all found after the turn along Clevedon Lane, but alas the feeders in the garden opposite didn’t give us any Siskin as they had in previous years. We heard and finally saw our first Chaffinch of the day, near the turn across the Walton Moor and close to a group of five Pied Wagtails. The path was good and we found the first of five Reed Buntings; the splendidly marked male, singing strongly and the female answering with her own quiet whistle. Two distant Lapwing were seen, and a Skylark in song flight. Plenty of Buzzard action was visible across Walton Down including one very aggressive individual seeking to keep the park to itself. Within the trees on the Down we heard Nuthatch calling and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, then more Goldcrest and Coal Tit. A Treecreeper came to join the foraging throng – clearly old oak is rich with food at present. Back down towards the village and wondering if we’d see any Swallows or House Martins (alas not) we extended our list to 41 with the addition of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of popinjay Grey Wagtail. All was not finished however, for as we were getting out of boots and into shoes, a Cetti’s Warbler called from the edge of the stream. Well done to Geoff for leading and arranging the weather so conveniently for us.
As we set off in the car it started to rain, turning to hail before it eased off. Quite a surprise, then, to find that 23 people had decided to defy the dire weather forecast and risk a soaking, but there they were, admiring a couple of newly-arrived Wheatears at the edge of the golf course. We moved round to the beach to discover that the neap tide wasn’t coming far enough up the sand to force the waders to roost, so we counted 72 Oystercatchers feeding along the tideline, checked out a couple of dozen Wigeon and Teal, then followed the muddy path round to the salt-marsh. As we topped the dyke a Short-eared Owl flew off in front of us, but to our delight it settled on a fence post and sat there for some time, watching us as we watched it back. Great start! We spent a while on the dyke, scanning the marsh, and unexpectedly picked up a Sandwich Tern above the moored yachts – in fact it was fishing over the little boating lake. A good sighting – Avon doesn’t get a lot of these. We worked round back to the coast path, registering Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat on the way, to watch the tern plunge-diving into the boating lake and coursing up and down over our heads. Off to the hilltop overlook to scan Bleadon Levels, where we counted 69 Mute Swans, 42 Shelducks and 106 Redshanks, but not much else on the marsh other than a scattering of Teal. Some nice raptors though – Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Best of all was the Merlin that one lucky observer photographed on the hilltop, but sadly the rest of us missed it. We returned along the hedgerows (various singing finches but no warblers) to the cliff where a female Black Redstart blended completely into the dark grey boulders until she moved. A Green Woodpecker called and flew off. There was still no rain, despite heavy skies and threatening clouds all around us. In fact it was a really enjoyable morning with some great birds – 42 species on my list. (Thanks to Jane for leading). Jane Cumming