A group of 23 set off from The Compton Inn at Compton Dando on a beautiful summer’s morning. This was a new walk, although parts of it are shared with other walks that we do in this area. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, House Martins and Swallows with a Blackcap heard. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we were rewarded with a good view of a Dipper feeding in the fast flowing water giving ideal conditions for this rather special bird. It was a very nice start to the walk. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where a Buzzard was seen. The next part of the walk took us away from the river up a quite steep path through the woods where we added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, and Nuthatch. We crossed a beautiful meadow where we saw a large number of Meadow Brown butterflies and a quite a lot of Marbled Whites. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. We had good views of an adult and juvenile Grey Wagtail and a pair of Bullfinches flew over, heading for a cherry tree. We followed the river upstream and saw a Mistle Thrush, a Grey Heron and an adult Moorhen with three juveniles. We had time to walk towards the church at Publow and at the third bridge over the Chew some saw a second Dipper and we all had good views of four or five Grey Wagtails. We turned round to head back, this time on the south side of the river and some had views of a Kestrel. Those at the front of the group had fleeting views of a Kingfisher and those at the rear also saw a Kingfisher. Those of us in the middle saw neither! Our final species of the day was a Redstart. Thanks to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list and we finished with a total of 41 species. (Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Landen
This was a joint meeting with Bristol Naturalists’ Society and eight of us met in the new RSPB carpark at Ham Wall on a bright warm morning. The air was full of the song of Blackcap, Blackbird, Wren, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush. We walked down to the first viewing platform and viewing screens and amongst the usual variety of ducks saw a Pochard with a young brood, not a common sight in this area. Cetti’s Warblers were very vocal with their explosive song and some were lucky to see a Kingfisher flash by. On to the new Tor Hide where we were treated to a prolonged view of a Bittern in flight. Somerset is now the leading County for breeding Bitterns which is quite a success story for the various conservation organisations, their staff and particularly all their volunteers who have worked so hard in creating and managing suitable habitat for this species and many others requiring large mosaics of wetland. To prove the point we had wonderful views of both male and female Marsh Harriers drifting low over the reeds and a number of Hobby feeding on the plentiful supply of dragonflies. Both Great White and Little Egrets flapped over Walton’s reedbeds giving a continental flavour to the morning. We recorded 54 species during the morning including Common Tern which is another fairly new breeding species for the Avalon Marshes. (thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson
This walk was almost our nearest to midsummer, though with a chilly north easterly wind, it didn’t quite feel like flaming June. However, with the bright sunshine and sparkling visibility, the countryside couldn’t have looked better as 18 of us set off from the lovely village of South Stoke. The first stretch of road walking with superb views to the south gave us whirling House Martins and Swallows and there was much colour from garden plants and shrubs and the ubiquitous Valerian, both pink and red, popping out of every crevice. We turned off the road and onto a footpath in a wonderful meadow, though the low temperature didn’t seem to be tempting any butterflies or indeed many insects. We started the downhill bit of the walk soon adding many common species to our list. Up to four Buzzards were circling and calling and one of them was carrying a large item of prey, probably a rat. Following a steep narrow path further down into the valley Swift and Jackdaw were seen and in the field at the bottom, a Green Woodpecker. Our route then took us into woods with Magpie, Chiffchaff, Great and Blue Tits and Dunnock seen or heard. Still descending we arrived at Tucking Mill, where a Grey Wagtail obligingly perched for all to see. The walk was mainly uphill from then on! We climbed up to the top of the viaduct and joined the former railway track and en-route to our coffee stop at old Midford Station saw a Roe Deer and a Pheasant. Back across the road again we started to follow the old coal canal route and a pair of Marsh Tits were seen and heard. On this stretch we added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch and Greenfinch and a Raven. The final species tally was 33. Many thanks to Dave Body for leading this popular and rewarding walk. Nancy Barrett
Thirteen members travelled to Finland for an Owl Prowl extraordinaire. The main targets were owls and woodpeckers and the first evening saw us viewing Ural Owl chicks and an adult, closely followed by a Pygmy Owl perched near its nest box. The following day we added two adult and two young Great Grey Owls and a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers feeding young. A particular highlight was half an hour spent watching a Three-toed Woodpecker trying to feed a massive Goat Moth grub to its young at least ten times before giving up and trying to eat the grub itself. Even the adult struggled to cut it up to eat it.
The first hotel backed onto the Gulf of Bothnia and since it never really got dark certain members stayed out until 11.30pm and started before 6.00am to find Marsh Harrier, many Sedge Warblers, a selection of ducks, terns and gulls (lovely Little Gulls) and Woodcock. The wader list was building with Little Ringed Plover and Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage together with display flights by Common Snipe, or you could watch the Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroats and Fieldfare just outside your bedroom windows. The local Redwings were also singing rather than calling – a new sound to most. The Saturday early shift came up trumps for “One Lucky Member” – a Terek Sandpiper on the very small mud bar visible at the edge of the Gulf. Various sites in Oulu provided Common Rosefinch, Yellow Wagtails (thunbergi) and a nesting pair of Slavonian Grebes, Thrush Nightingale singing loudly and showing fleetingly and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler. Liminka Bay nature reserve produced distant ducks including Smew, Goldeneye and Goosander, together with close up views of Little Gull, Marsh Harrier and just as we were leaving the viewing platform a bonus bird – a Gull-billed Tern just 2,500km north of its expected range. The Gulf coast gave at least 30 Whooper Swans and Arctic and Common Terns having a duel and the forest produced Harriers (Pallid and Hen) and two Ortolan Buntings. Once in Kusamo we headed straight off to see two Siberian Tit adults feeding young, and finally a Tengmalm’s Owl sitting in its nest box before the rain started. In the rain on Sunday we drove for miles on forest tracks (no wonder the Finns are so good at rally driving!) and various stops were made for two Black Grouse and two Capercaillies on the track. Some of the many lakes visited gave White-tailed Eagle eating its prey on the far bank and Red-necked Grebes, a distant Pochard (unusual for Finland), at least ten Velvet Scoters and three Smew quite close to us. A Dipper was feeding its youngsters and diving into a torrent of water while we tried to shelter from torrential rain –poetic justice? Our perseverance finally paid off when we had views of two Siberian Jays as they flitted through the trees by the track, a Black Woodpecker feeding its three young and at last a Hawk Owl. We all piled out and had excellent views of the owl perched on a tree before someone noticed a flat tyre on the second van. Luckily the rain had more or less stopped while the spare wheel was fitted. On the route back to the hotel we spotted a Black Grouse lek with two males performing and two other males just watching. Dinner was a traditional Finnish dish of Reindeer which was too much for some members after seeing so many in the forests.
Our final day dawned with blue sky and a cool wind. After more searching, our Finnature guide eventually found a Hazel Grouse walking around in the undergrowth by the track. Over the next 15 minutes it even crossed the road a couple of times so everyone had good views. Abiding memories of the trip – forests and lakes; Owls and Woodpeckers; birding until the sun set at 11.30pm and out again before 6am; Pied and Spotted Flycatchers outside the bedroom window; Hazel Grouse; good food (those breakfasts!); great company from all the participants and the rally driving along the forest tracks. Overall the group saw 134 species in the four days we spent in Finland and everyone had some life birds.
Thanks to Jane for her excellent organisation, our two drivers Andy and Gary and to Pirita, our Finnature guide, without whom we would never have found all the owls, woodpeckers and grouse.
Not for the faint-hearted! Lashing rain driven by howling winds, and all togged-up to survive, we eight made the trig point without mishap, collecting Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. One of the circling Herring Gulls appeared overhead before being whipped away to the north east. Wales and Flat Holm had been stolen by the sheeting rain so our going out to the point didn’t seem like a good idea! Down in the relative lee of the land we found more Whitethroats and the first Greenfinch; a Rock Pipit scolded us from the waterside rocks and three Feral Pigeons – two of which looked like the true Rock Dove, defied the wind to tryst among the Sea Pinks. A flight of Linnet (three) came twittering over just as we arrived at our coffee stop, where we also saw a further Rock Pipit foraging and carrying food to some secret crevice in the rocks beyond our sight. The rain did let up for half an hour as we reached our turning point (no picnic lunch today as the wind was forecast to strengthen). Skylark appeared and the special tune of the Song Thrush came to us on the wind. Our tally of 24 was a reflection of the conditions but still the urge to breed kept the Blackcap singing as we descended to – disappointment – no ice cream van! (Many thanks to Nick for leading these hardy walkers.) Nick Hawkridge