In view of the damp and unpromising weather, and thinking of dripping trees and slippery slopes, we agreed to move the start of the walk from Wain’s Hill to St Andrew’s Church, nearer to the pill, and concentrate on water birds. In the event, the weather improved considerably and 22 members had a lovely walk down the coast to the Dowlais farm track, left on Strode Road and back along the Blind Yeo. The harbour area usually holds Stonechats and Rock Pipits, which eventually gave themselves up, and as the high tide turned, the offshore mud banks began to reappear, attracting 45 Shelducks and twelve Oystercatchers back to join the amazing count of 55 plus Carrion Crows that were hanging around the shore and fields. Nick spotted a single Dunlin amongst 21 Turnstones – then we looked a half-mile down the beach to see a distant flight of about 300 Dunlin. Curlews were easier, 22 of them with 70 Lapwings feeding in the Dowlais fields.
The Blind Yeo produced a Little Grebe and a magnificent 18 Goosanders (six drakes) from the Strode Road Bridge. Along the river we added a Coot, a total of six Moorhens, and for the luckier walkers, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. As the tide fell, a few Redshanks returned to the emerging mud-banks and we picked out the larger gull species amongst at least 200 Black-headed Gulls around the harbour. A Buzzard in the churchyard was the last bird of the morning. Nick’s list totalled 47 species for a very pleasant walk. (Thanks to Jane for leading)
On a rather cold and cloudy morning 18 members (including three new members) met for a walk around Marshfield. As soon as we had crossed the A420 we flushed a Stonechat (one of many Stonechat sightings through the morning) that obligingly perched on a fencepost. As we reached the fields we could both see and hear many Skylarks that were present in large numbers throughout the walk. We made rather slow progress as we had many excellent views of Yellowhammers in both small and large groups. Also we were alerted to the presence of Corn Buntings by their characteristic ‘jangle of keys’ call. There were plenty of Fieldfares, accompanied by a few Redwings in the fields. A flock of about 110 Lapwings sat on a ploughed field interspersed with about 30 Golden Plovers (later on we saw a larger flock of Golden Plovers in flight). Unusually, a single Reed Bunting was seen. Circling back through Rushmead Lane we had views of a large flock of approximately 70 Fieldfares in flight and saw a group of seven Red-legged Partridges. The only raptors seen were Buzzards with, unfortunately, no views of Little Owl. Overall, as the cloud disappeared and the sun came out, we had a very pleasant walk with continuous Skylark and Corn Bunting song and good sightings of 29 species. Sue Kempson
Thirty-nine members met at the Perrings on a frosty morning to walk round Backwell Lake and along the lanes to the west of Nailsea. Despite the strong sunshine the lake was half-frozen. Two Mute Swans displayed and a Grey Heron flew into the willow tree on the island. There were plenty of gulls, mostly Black-headed, with Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed present. There were about 16 Shovelers plus Mallard, Pochard and Tufted Ducks with the usual Coots and Moorhens. A lucky few saw a Water Rail emerge from the reeds onto the ice. Another was seen later in a ditch along the lane. A Song Thrush sang lustily and a couple of Bullfinches and many Robins were seen in the trees. Leaving the lake area a Green Woodpecker provided a bit of excitement. We saw our first Redwings and Fieldfares and more were seen throughout the walk. As we headed along Youngwood Lane we saw three Stonechats as well as Mistle Thrushes, Goldcrests, Great and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. Several Pied Wagtails flew over. Three Sparrowhawks flew past pursued by corvids including a Raven. At Bizley Farm a Little Owl was seen on the roof of the farmhouse. Chaffinch and Greenfinch were added to the list. Coming back along Netherton Wood Lane we found two Common Buzzards in the field opposite Engine Lane. Returning to the cars a Nuthatch was heard calling so the total came to 43 species.
(Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince
The car park at RSPB Greylake is a great place to start a day’s birding. Whilst waiting for the group to assemble we had seen 16 species even before we set off into the reserve. Apart from tits and Reed Buntings on the feeders, the adjacent fields contained good numbers of foraging Fieldfares and Redwings. Once in the main hide we were soon treated to an aerial maelstrom of wildfowl as a Peregrine made repeated stoops into the whirling mass of duck. It soon gave up, having failed to make a kill, and the duck soon settled back down to feeding.Amongst the many hundreds of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler there were a good number of Pintails, the smartly marked drakes showing up particularly well. Greylake is usually a good place for close views of Snipe and once the first one was picked out we realised that there were about a dozen sitting quietly close in front of the hide. Other notables were Lapwings and distant Golden Plovers disturbed by one of the quartering Marsh Harriers.
We then moved north to Catcott Lows, where a wintering Chiffchaff was working the hedge in the car park. The main hide here provided a similar selection of species to Greylake, so we decided to walk to the wooded area of the reserve. Searching through the abundant alders, we found a large and restless flock of Goldfinches on the cones, but some thorough checking soon started to reveal Redpolls, with everyone finally getting good views.
A splendid morning’s birding had fallen just short of 50 species and it says something about the rapid changes to the rich diversity of the avifauna of the Levels that having Great White Egret on the list is now hardly worth a mention. (Many thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading) Giles Morris
The weather was not cold, just overcast, and miserable; this however did not deter 26 walkers from meeting at the Kendleshire Golf Club. Magpie were seen almost at once with Blue and Great Tit, but the first bit of magic was an overflight of a single female Peregrine. A few minutes later a Buzzard flapped from cover and circled over a single spot – suggesting a prey item, but we got too close and it departed. A Blackbird was flushed from the brambles and as our attention turned towards it, there sitting perched atop a bush – a russet-coloured Kestrel. Just past the greenkeeper’s fire we found a Song Thrush and a handsome Mistle Thrush, who came close enough for all its finer points to be seen. At the water hazards of the 12th green we discovered 31 Canada Geese busily cropping the grass with three Coots, several Mallards and some Black-headed Gulls. Redwings and Goldcrest were next on the list and a further raptor at the top of the lane, in the form of a Sparrowhawk. More Redwings were seen as we headed towards the railway line, but were eclipsed by a brilliantly coloured Bullfinch. At our coffee stop we added Collared Dove and House Sparrow. Out into the countryside parallel to the railway, we added Greenfinch, Wren, Jay and saw many more Goldfinches and Redwings. A single Coal Tit was heard, three Long-tailed Tits seen, several Rooks and then another magic moment, a mixed flock of Yellowhammers/Chaffinches numbering 50 plus falling from the hedges onto the ground with multiple flashes of bright yellow. Up into the air rose another flock, this time Redwings mixed with calling Skylarks, and the last addition – six Moorhens and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Thanks go to Duncan and Pat who, at the last moment, stepped in to lead.