Sunday 15 April – St Catherine’s Valley Leader: – Mike Jackson

In this location to the south of Marshfield, the ground soil in the valley lived up to that boggy name with ankle deep mud being the norm after, seemingly, months of rain. With a light mist but none of the forecast precipitation we set off to see what the late coming spring had to offer. As a warm-up we identified some standard stuff including several splendid Yellowhammers, then at quarter distance we were thrilled to hear the bubbling call of a Curlew. Though not seen we estimated it to be not that far away, but probably flying by, a field or two beyond. As the mood returned to bird-searching our gaze was directed at a singing Skylark, but it was interrupted by a dashing wading bird slightly more distant than the lark; Golden Plover was the shout, and a very welcome addition to our growing list. As we descended Ayford Lane the valley became a bowl of acoustics where the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker, and the ‘yaffling’ of Green Woodpecker, accompanied by ‘cronking’ Raven and broadcasting Mistle Thrush resonated around us. There was some energetic sparring between Buzzard and Raven of which we did not identify a victor, it was just good sport. Other than Chiffchaff and Blackcap, a lone Swallow and a couple of singing Willow Warblers were the extent of our summer visitors. Near the reservoir five Canada Geese and a Cormorant were, perhaps, expected, but the constant fly-past of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were more about passage movements than the presence of the water body.
When a falcon appeared all eyes went skyward to label it a Peregrine but as the bird quickly disappeared over the ridge it was replaced by an incoming lighter weight Kestrel, thus opening debate on the Peregrine identity. Yellowhammer had been prolific in the early stages but Nuthatch remained vocal throughout the walk, thus providing us with welcome opportunity to enjoy these fantastically attractive species. The nine of us ended up with a total of 41 species (Peregrine included), having walked around seven km in three and a half hours. Thanks to all attendees who made the morning so productive, and ultimately very enjoyable, despite the big muddy clean up that was so necessary at the end. (Many thanks to Mike for leading this rather muddy walk). Mike Jackson