A Goldfinch in the car park gave a good start to a varied walk, enjoyed by 24 of us. It was again hot and sunny as we passed under shady trees by the side of a barley field and climbed to Upton Cheney, from where there was a wonderful view. Leaving the village some mature trees gave welcome shade and Goldcrest were identified. There was a lively flock of ten Mistle Thrushes, some of which followed us as we dropped downhill, looking towards Fry’s Factory in the valley. There was a pair of noisy Ravens in a treetop in the fields and two Buzzards soaring, whilst various butterflies, particularly Meadow Browns, fluttered on the brambles and nettles alongside our path. A couple of “late-to-leave ” Swifts were seen. Our coffee break was at Bitton church-yard after which Duncan had a glimpse of a Grey Wagtail by the stream. There were beautiful blue/black damselflies against pink Himalayan Balsam and a Green Woodpecker was heard. A Kestrel flew away along the hedge-line and Martins and Swallows swooped as we crossed a field. A few of us almost had to duck as a young Grey Heron flew low above our heads. We reached the busy Bristol/Bath cycle path, alongside the railway and were lucky to have the “Earl David “steam train chuff along with lots of children waving from the carriages. Moving along the field edge by the river we heard a Moorhen, before a narrow boat and a motor boat passed by. On the bank there were numerous Small Tortoiseshell and Small White butterflies and more damselflies. By the end of the morning we had noted 32 species – not bad for a hot July day! (Thanks to Pat and Duncan Gill for leading.) Sue Watson
Titchfield Haven is a wetland reserve on the Solent not far from Fareham. The reserve has several good hides and a range of habitats; salt/brackish water, fresh water, reed beds, wet pasture and woodland. The weather was warm and sunny with some cloud cover and light winds.. Tern breeding platforms held a few Common terns, a Little Egret, Black -headed Gull, Oystercatcher and a group of Turnstones pushed up by the rising tide. Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler were visible in the reeds around the edge of the pool. Just inside the reserve itself is a raised platform looking over the reed beds where we saw more Reed/Sedge Warblers and two Bearded Tits in quick succession flying across the bed, the second making the characteristic pinging call. Linnet were on the blackthorn bushes. From the first hide there were Common Sandpiper, Godwit, Gadwall, a Fulvous Whistling- Duck (a tropical duck most likely an escapee, so we are not counting that), Avocet, Shoveler and Dunlin. Walking further round the reserve we could hear Water Rail in the reeds and finally spotted one skulking at the edge of the reed bed, a first for Jane’s year list. A walk through the woodland part of the reserve produced Blue Tit, Tree Creeper, a family of juvenile Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker (and a Green Woodpecker calling from behind us), a family of Coal Tits, Chiffchaff, Robins, Wren and Blackbird. A hide overlooking a wet pasture produced Canada Geese, the only Swallow of the day and a soaring Buzzard. On to Farlington, another coastal wetland just across the water from the NE corner of Portsea Island (Portsmouth). One entrance to the reserve is closed until September because of repair works so we had to use our imagination to get in. An open pool a short way into the reserve held a good number of Godwit, large flocks of Oystercatcher and Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Egret, Avocet, Shelduck with Reed and Sedge Warbler round the edge. At some unseen signal a large, mixed group of waders took off, passed over our heads and flew to the emerging mud flats off shore. We (i.e. Jane) were convinced the godwits were both Black and Bar- tailed. A glimpse of them in flight confirmed both kinds. A group of six juvenile Bearded Tits appeared in the reeds on the far side of the pool and a Kingfisher flashed by (twice).We saw two Red Kites around Newbury on the way down and three more Buzzards on the way back, but no other raptors. Around 60 species in total.
Never have I led a walk in such hot sunny conditions – ten people survived the course, seven went back before “the extra bit”. We started off with Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon and a family of eight Long-tailed Tits. These were in a tree at Glebe Pond, where we stopped to look for dragonflies, seeing either a Four-spotted or a Broad-bodied Chaser and some Azure Damselflies. (As here, each bit of shade was crowded into by the group to get away from the sun.) We had our first Buzzard as we walked up the fields, and later on our return saw a white blob on a distant telegraph pole, which I identified as Blondy, another of “Robin’s Buzzard’s”- a very pale individual. To our delight she flew right over us giving a superb view of her pale face and wings in the sunshine. Just after coffee break, Elaine spotted not one but two Peregrines soaring high and some of the group witnessed a food pass between them. Brilliant! We saw 14 Crows adorning another telegraph pole, a Pied Wagtail feeding on the grass near some cows, and a lone Linnet on a bare twig. Swallow and House Martin were noted, but Swifts seemed to have left the previous day. Otherwise, many of the species were just heard, including Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Nuthatch and Blackbird. The butterflies made up the numbers, at least nine species being noted. Nick’s total species count was 33, though most of us saw less than that! Judy Copeland
The day started windless, cloudless and humidly warm and 22 birders sat enthralled on the first ‘old fort’ high point, with its magnificent 180 degrees of crisp and clear view across the Severn Vale. This became our first rest and refreshment break and birds noted up to then were about 18 and included House Sparrow, Crow, Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Chiffchaff, Mallard, Blackcap, Dunnock, Raven, Swift and Lesser Black-backed Gull. There was also a good showing of butterflies from Ringlets and Blues to Peacocks. There were further extensive views of the Severn Vale as we walked towards the second, and larger, ‘old fort’ as well as views of the rolling hills in Wiltshire Following the welcome shade, as we descended a tree-lined path, several morning-only birders broke away to leave about 14 of us to enjoy our packed lunches as we sat on conveniently placed tree logs in a field with good views over Chipping Sodbury. Refreshed, we walked on and looked in at Old Sodbury Church before the long walk back to our start point, having added Chaffinch, Wren, House Martin, Coot, Mistle Thrush, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Kestrel to our total of 34 birds on the list, kindly recorded by Nick Hawkridge. David Tombs
14 members met on a warm and sunny evening at New Fancy View. We first climbed up to the viewing platform. It was relatively quiet although Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, Nuthatch and Swift were either seen or heard or both. We then drove to Cannop Ponds and had a delightful walk round the eastern shore of the southern Pond and then back along the cycle path to the stone works. We had a really good view of eleven juvenile Mandarins. Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins swooped down over the pond feeding on the abundant insects. We then walked through part of Russell’s Inclosure, where Nightjars had been seen the previous year. Although the ground of the plantation had become somewhat densely covered with bracken there was a particular part opposite which looked promising. After a 45 minute wait and the light fast fading we were rewarded with a Nightjar flying over our heads and landing in a tree a few feet away. It was then really good to hear it “churring” at such a close distance. About 30 species were encountered. However we decided it was very much the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of birds that made the evening memorable. Mike Johnson