Sunday 19 May – Quantocks Leader: Nick Hawkridge

Our party of eight had travelled to Holford in promising sunshine, which persisted all day with a steady north-east breeze. Before entering Hodder’s Combe proper, a pair of Swallows were a delight to see over the houses. Up to the first ford we encountered a pair of Stock Doves “coo-wuping” together on the west fringe of the woods, a Grey Wagtail in the open ground and then our first sound of Redstart, picked up by its song from within the trees. The Pied Flycatchers started to sing as we pushed on to Short Combe, with both females and males being seen around their various nest boxes and a Cuckoo singing from the top of the East flanking woods. Having heard Wood Warbler singing above us, just inside Slaughterhouse Combe, we spent a fair while trying (in vain) to locate him, although the sounds of another Redstart and Pied Flycatchers were a distraction. Breaking into the open top, a pair of Redpolls flew over us and yet another species, Willow Warbler, evaded our sight. A little further up the path a pair of Stonechats showed well. As we feasted our eyes on these two, a dark, long tailed bird flashed through our bins – a Dartford Warbler, the first of three. Flopping down to lunch close under Black Ball Hill, another Cuckoo called, some Skylark sang and a herd of Red Deer saw us but we were ignored. Finding a path down to Sheppard?s Combe and on into Lady?s Combe we heard the scratchy song of Whitethroat which showed, as they do, from the tops of low bushes. As we descended into the wood, a Green Woodpecker yaffled in the distance and a Song Thrush sang close above. A final total of 36 species were recorded. A very special thank you goes to Jeff Holmes for sharing his expertise and brilliant local knowledge. (Thanks to Nick for leading.) Nick Hawkridge