A group of 30 set out from the Failand Inn on an overcast, chilly, but dry day. A Mistle Thrush was prominent in a tree top at Failand Hill Farm and although water birds were not expected, a Cormorant was spotted in transit overhead. Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Linnets and Starlings appeared in flocks at various points and a group of 16 Blackbirds were feeding in close proximity. Nuthatches were heard in the woods above Portbury Lane, making chattering calls rather than the more usual whistles. There were also Bullfinch, Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest amongst the trees. A very large flock of Chaffinch were feeding on the ground near Limekiln Cottages and other large flocks were seen in flight. During our coffee stop, we saw a flock of Redwing with the occasional Fieldfare and then, a single Buzzard, not very high, probably due to a lack of thermals on that day. Three Ravens croaked loudly and flew around the treetops along Charlton Drive. Crossing the Clevedon Road to the Tyntesfield Estate, a dung heap yielded several Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail and a flock of Meadow Pipits was evident in the adjacent field. Jays could be heard in the woods towards the end of the estate walk. Lesser Black-Backed and Herring Gulls were identified overhead on several occasions. My thanks to Nick Hawkridge for giving me access to his very comprehensive bird list, which totalled 30, (one for each person!) and to Roger Hawley who helped to jog my memory on some sightings. Thanks also to Maureen who was really the leader, having led other groups on this walk on several occasions. Bill Dobie
As seven of us set off from Ashcott car park on an overcast afternoon with rain threatening we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Starling and Redwing. On Ham Wall Reserve, as we went to the first view point, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, a Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron and Chiffchaff were spotted. The pools yielded Moorhen, Coot, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Cormorant and Mute Swan. Next we went to the new RSPB Tor hide in the hope of seeing Water Rail and were rewarded with excellent views of two feeding along the water’s edge. On our way to and from the second viewpoint we added Great White Egret, Teal, Wigeon, Marsh Harrier and Mallard. On our return to Shapwick Heath to see the Starling roost we had views of two male Bullfinches, Goldcrest, Goldfinch and a large flock of Long-tailed Tits. The overcast conditions meant that the Starlings arrived a little earlier than on the last few days. We had good views of several large murmurations which roosted some distance away from the track in a number of different areas rather than one. All in all an excellent visit with a total of 42 species and the rain held off until we left. Thanks to Mike Johnson for leading his second BOC group here in three days (with a third visit looking at plants planned for the following day). Mark Watson
Eighteen members met at the new RSPB car park at Ashcott Corner on a bright crisp afternoon. Bristol Naturalists’ were also meeting there that afternoon under the leadership of club member Giles Morris so we decided to combine and have a joint field meeting. We walked down the path being the former Somerset and Dorset Railway track from Burnham-on-Sea to Evercreech that divides the two sides of Ham Wall. The RSPB have created a number of new features at this reserve lately one being the new Tor Hide and boardwalk approach which takes you right into the heart of the reed bed. At the hide we had wonderfully close views of a Water Rail stealthily weaving between the vegetation seeking insect prey. A Kingfisher sped past in a turquoise-blue flash and a Cetti’s Warbler announced its presence with an explosive outburst of notes. From the viewing platforms we observed a good selection of water birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Grey Heron and Little Grebe. Waders were represented by Lapwing and Snipe. Incredibly, these days, you seem more likely to see a Great White Egret rather than its smaller cousin at this reserve and such was the case today. Some had brilliant views of a Goldcrest feeding in an alder with the sun lighting up its orange and yellow crown stripe. A Marsh Harrier drifted low over the reeds. We then walked through part of the Natural England Meare Heath reserve where we had heard that the Starlings had roosted the previous evening. We were not disappointed as just before dusk tens of thousands of the birds poured into the reed beds, swirling and twisting in their huge flocks. A captivating sight as usual(Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson
Thirteen members set off from Herons Green for a walk along quiet lanes between the Lakes. We got off to a good start with a Kestrel hovering over nearby fields and water birds on Chew Lake including Canada Goose, Coot, Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and Goosander amongst others. The weather held for a while as we climbed with Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin and Dunnock flitting about the hedgerows. Excellent views were had of Great Spotted Woodpecker on a feeder along with Goldfinch. As the walk progressed spots of rain began to fall and then eased again as we had views of Jay, Redwing, Bullfinch, Song and Mistle Thrush, Blackcap and Wren. Just before the heavy rain started, which accompanied us nearly to the end, we saw Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, our customary Buzzard and an obliging Nuthatch feeding on peanuts. We arrived damp at our cars after an excellent walk with a tally of 49 species. Sadly the Bittern at Heron’s Green did not show. Thanks to Nick Hawkridge who kept us on the right route and Sue and John Prince for planning the walk. It was good to see them at lunch and learn that Sue is recovering well from her operation. Mark Watson
There was some cause for concern en-route as the weather was less than promising, but, thankfully, it improved upon arrival. Nine members paraded, though initially going to the ‘wrong’ car park, one car load saw a Long- tailed Duck, which had disappeared by the time we all looked later. The feeder outside the visitor centre was busy with, amongst other species, Tits, Siskins, Chaffinches, and at least two Nuthatches. We walked to the Woodland Hide where the feeder was really busy, again mainly with four species of Tit (including a Long-tailed with a ring on its leg) and four species of Finches, though there was no sign of the hoped for Brambling or Redpolls. We moved on to South Hide at Ivy Lake where we saw a number of the more common water birds, including Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe, but our attention was then drawn to a fly-by Great White Egret. Our next stop was the north hide at the same lake, where a Chiffchaff was flitting around, and Teal was added to the list. The Great White Egret re-appeared and gave good views as it circled quite near to the hide, and landed just out of sight. After leaving the hide we walked up and down a path that had recently held a Firecrest, but had noluck with that and had to settle for a couple of Goldcrests. As we had been making our way around the hides and paths, a flock of about twenty five flighty and vocal Siskins flew into the trees over our heads a number of times, but despite close examination, we couldn’t pick out any Redpolls amongst them. We crossed the road to Ibsley Water, where a Ring-billed Gull had been reported, and a couple of gulls were picked out from the quite distant mass as being possibles. Discussion took place, but, none were definitely nailed as RBG. However, well worth seeing were singletons of Bewick’s Swan, Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, and a few each of Pintail and Goosander.
Next, we drove the short distance to Milkham Inclosure where we hoped to find the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen recently. No sign of it, but, with the help of a local birder, there was compensation in the form of a Ring Tail Hen Harrier, which flew along a ridge in the middle distance. Also of note here were two Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, Redwing, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker and a Treecreeper, which was one of at least five seen during the day. Our last stop was at Blackwater Arboretum, where there is a small, but well established, Hawfinch roost site. Local birders also arrived to see them, but on this occasion it may be that the birds had got there first and were sitting tight in the fading light. Not all was lost here though, as we had seen a male Crossbill in the car park. Also present were two male Bullfinches. On the walk back to the car, we heard a Tawny Owl calling very clearly. A total of 59 species were noted.
Thanks to the nine attendees for making it an enjoyable day, and especially to Louise for leading. Trevor Ford