Sunday 17 May – Exmoor

Exmoor National Park holds important species of breeding birds that have declined nationally in the UK. Recent Moorland surveys have found good numbers of Whinchat – 300+ males, Stonechat – 450+ males, Grasshopper Warbler – 300+ males, Skylark – 2500+ males, and Cuckoo – 60-100 males. So, on an overcast, dry morning twelve members walked off from Webber’s Post down into the oak woodland of East Water hoping to see some of these species. Good numbers of warblers were in song – Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Willow, Wood and Garden Warblers. As we walked down the road three Cuckoos flew around together chasing and calling. Lesser Redpolls and Siskin were seen and heard flying over but no close views unfortunately. A distant Buzzard was hovering near a group of Red Deer on the hillside. As we dropped down into the woodland a Wood Warbler was in full song and we eventually all had good views of it along with a female Redstart and an obliging pair of Pied Flycatchers that were active around a natural hole. Other species seen included a pair of Treecreepers, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush, with a Mistle Thrush singing in the distance. Down on the stream in East Water a juvenile Dipper was seen well by some of the group. We then walked up out of the woodland onto some moorland edge. A pair of Stonechats was perched on the gorse and several Meadow Pipits flew around, but unfortunately no Tree Pipits were seen. On the opposite hillside two Cuckoos were calling and one was ‘scoped’ perched on a tree with a small bird mobbing it. On the walk back to East Water we saw more woodland species that had already been spotted along with a Green Woodpecker calling. It was pleasing to find such good numbers of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers.         Jeff Holmes – am report                      After lunch it was a short drive to Ember Coombe and a not very promising walk down to Chetsford Water, exposed to the cold wind. After a false start, where I unsuccessfully tried to turn Sue’s Reed Bunting into a Whinchat (my excuse is based on the total absence of reeds), we soon had excellent views of a breeding pair of Whinchats, a singing Whitethroat, Meadow Pipits and a Blue Tit. We then drove round to another part of Chetsford Water. I called a Kestrel (it was a Cuckoo), a Wheatear (which was a Redstart) and was left wondering where on earth the Little Grebe was (the Cuckoo was a female and had started calling). However, everyone else seemed to be having a successful afternoon’s birding and I enjoyed the cream tea, so many thanks to Jane for leading. Nigel Kempson – pm report