Ten members met on, what would be for Steart, an unusually beautiful sunny, windless morning and set off to follow the coast path to Steart Point. The tide was falling by the time the group reached the hides on the Point and the exposed mud was covered with roosting and feeding waders. A mixed flock of many thousands of small waders, mostly Dunlins and Knot performed fantastic aerial displays – better any day than a mass of old Starlings. On the Point there were many Curlews and small numbers of Turnstones, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers and Snipe. A single Spotted Redshank showed well in a lagoon below the tower hide, and on the Fenning and around the Parrett Estuary were huge collections of Lapwings. An immature Merlin was present on the Point and was seen by some members chasing waders over the tide, but the high spot of the morning was a Short-eared Owl. This stunning bird was seen at close-range hunting over the fields giving prolonged and detailed views – the earth moved for many, especially the leader! This brought to an end an enjoyable two-owl walk (a Little Owl was 10 roosting close to the car park) and a final Goldfinch brought the morning’s tally to just fewer than 50 species.
Even the most optimistic forecast didn’t promise dry conditions for this walk and that proved to be correct, as did the Bird News warning about mud! However, ten hardy souls assembled in the drizzle. Before we left the cars a Cormorant was spotted. We set off across a large field, one third of which had been planted with bird friendly plants – though quite a few of them were continuing to flower rather than setting seed owing to the mild winter! It was perhaps harder to identify some smaller birds in the poor light but passing through varied habitat we were soon notching up numbers including Redwing and Fieldfare and had good views of a perched Mistle Thrush. The drizzle stopped, the temperature rose and as well as the promised banks of snowdrops, we spotted primroses in bloom and lesser celandine. Both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were seen by some and a Treecreeper. Coffee break was on the bridge in Woollard, which had replaced the one swept away by the 1968 flood. We looked in vain for a Dipper at another bridge and also failed to see a Brambling, often mentioned on our wish list for the morning. There was one slippage in the mud and the victim being rubbed down by various hand maidens was captured on more than one camera! Altogether we saw 29 species and many thanks are due to Roger for leading and sharing with us his extensive local knowledge.
With stunning heathland to explore, we started at Wareham forest (Sherford Bridge), a potential spot for some of the rarer species, many of which sadly remained elusive! We were treated to a scold or two from the Dartford Warbler however and had excellent views of pair-bonding Ravens on a pylon. There was potential sighting of Crossbill (which had been teasing some members with their call) high up in the evergreens further on, but they were too quick to get a scope on, as were some possible Redpoll seen by some of the group at the beginning of the walk. Definite sightings of a Treecreeper and Nuthatch didn’t disappoint however with their arboreal gymnastics as well as winter Thrushes, Coal Tit & Goldcrest amongst others. After a lunch-stop it was on to Middlebere Farm hide to gain one of the closest views of a female Marsh Harrier that many had had, which attempted a pass at a Teal before putting up a field’s worth of Lapwing. The last call of the day was Arne RSPB reserve. Pushed for time we passed the busy bird feeders (woodland birds galore) to walk to the Viewpoint overlooking Poole Harbour which afforded distant views of Avocet, a couple of flying Mergansers, waders and geese before John, to everyone’s surprise, spotted a male Hen Harrier disturbing some of the water birds! Day two was sea & estuary watching on either side of the Studland peninsula. Highlights included a Grebe master-class with Jane spotting a Red-necked Grebe amongst the Black-necked as well as a Great Northern Diver, more flying Mergansers, Brent Geese & waders. A Razorbill was also spotted making frequent dives. Knoll beach produced some Great Crested Grebes and a good comparison between Black-headed & Mediterranean gull. There were more Mediterranean gulls at the Littlesea hide. With a few more ducks & water birds added to the list we moved on to Brand’s Bay hide. With the tide going out the exposed mud encouraged the waders to come closer and views of Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover (just spotted amongst the Dunlin), Oystercatcher, Curlew, Pintail, Redshank & Wigeon were worth the breeze. A lunch stop at Middle Beach was rewarded with a Sandwich Tern (somewhat appropriately!), before we headed inland to Waddock Cross Watercress Beds. A quick scan unearthed a Green Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail & several Pipits, with Sue finding a wintering Chiffchaff. 80 species (+ two possibles) later and ten happy wind-swept BOC members headed for home. Many thanks for another excellent winter weekend, and thanks to Jane for leading.
It was a still chilly morning as 31 Birders gathered to begin their walk around Frampton Pools. The first lake still had ice on it and there were only a handful of Coots skating gingerly around. As we started down the wooded 9 track there was a flock of Long- tailed Tits in the overhead trees flitting from branch to branch. At the main Blue Pool, we admired Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and on the overhanging willow trees eight Herons. Mute Swans were fluffing up their plumage on the frozen water. One pair of Swans were creating their own waterway through the ice. Suddenly the peace was shattered by a convoy of 4×4’s and a trailer with about eight gunmen on board. They waited as we finished admiring the beautiful group of wildfowl, before telling us they were here to shoot geese! A few shots later and the birds were flying away high overhead – I hope they got away! There were only a few small birds venturing out in the cold, a Robin valiantly singing and a wonderful sight of a Blackcap eating mistletoe berries high in a tree. There were some lovely flocks of Fieldfares flying over the fields as well as chattering in the trees. A Mistle Thrush was resting high in one of the mistletoe trees. A flock of Lapwings winged their way across the fields behind the Beech wood. On the homeward stretch of the Blue Lake we spotted two Great Crested Grebes diving in the water. We recorded 35 species and had a super walk around the beautiful lakes. Thank you Peter for leading a lovely walk and keeping us safe from the shooters!
It was a very cold, frosty but sunny start to this morning meeting. As we walked along the road to the entrance to the valley several members picked up on Redwing, Bullfinch and Blackcaps feeding in bushes on the opposite bank of the river. After entering the reserve we all had good views of Goldcrest and Treecreepers, a real bonus. A little further on was a party of Long-tailed Tits. As we moved further up the path into open fields towards Raven’s Rock we had good views of another Bullfinch plus a Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker. At the main quarry there was no sign of the Peregrines but as we walked through to the rear quarry two were seen in flight. In the water filled quarry was a pair of Little Grebes. In the open fields by the farm several members saw a Hare. We had been hoping for a Nuthatch and were not disappointed as near the end of our walk one was heard and then seen. The final tally was 34 species. Thanks to all for making it such an enjoyable meeting.