Sunday 02 June – Quantocks Leader: Nick Hawkridge

What a gorgeous day! All we missed was Jeff Holmes, who could not lead and lend us his huge expertise because of illness. He told me when I visited him later that on the previous day cloud had covered the top of the hills – how lucky we were. Nick Hawkridge stepped into the breach as leader with a small amount of persuasion! Twelve people attended, though unfortunately the long walk got the better of some, who had to return to the car park and miss the wonderful views at the top. As we set off up Hodders Combe the woodland was very quiet to start with, damp underfoot, with just Robin and Wren singing. Very soon, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Chiffchaff were heard above the sound of the stream, rippling along beside us. Coal, Great and Blue Tits were seen, then at last came the trill of Wood Warbler – many were heard and we later had some fleeting good views. Calls of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and Cuckoo were added to the list, and Gary found the first Pied Flycatcher, sitting at the end of a twig for all to see. Redstart, also in full view, was then spotted (a large patch of orange-coloured fungus on a tree trunk helped point the way to finding it) and the ‘whee whee whee’ calls were a frequent backdrop while we were in the woodland. Then Spotted Flycatchers were added, which we hadn’t expected. As we came out of the trees, Willow Warblers were heard and we started to see Stonechat families, which gave brilliant views, as did a couple of singing Garden Warblers, perched unusually on top of small birch trees. One Red Deer was seen on the skyline. As soon as we had a patch of grass and a glimpse of the sea beyond the combes, Nick proposed lunch – it just happened to be one o’clock! A pair of Cuckoos (found by Gary) appeared, one calling from the trunk of a distant row of pines and the other flying close past us. A shiny brown soldier beetle entertained us but its speedy activity would not allow photography, and Small Heath butterflies were amongst the heather. As we walked westwards along the top of Quantock past Halsway Post to Bicknoller Post, the views were stupendous and we heard the whistle of the steam trains below. Meadow Pipit, Kestrel and Buzzard were seen, Skylarks heard, and a distant Herring Gull led us to Swifts flying high. As we tarted descending from Bicknoller Post we heard Yellowhammers – these were soon seen perched on top of bushes – and our return trip down Lady’s Edge was accompanied by the songs of Redstarts, Garden and Wood Warblers and Blackcaps. Our final bird was a female Grey Wagtail, at last spotted by the stream. Thank you Nick for leading. Judy Copeland