Trip report: Southstoke (21 May 2013)

The ‘Save Our Pub’ sign made a good perch for a Blackbird; let’s hope it works as well for the pub! Rain had fallen; the grey skies were thinning so we eleven set out with light hearts. House Sparrow, Robin, and Woodpigeon our sightings before a plunge down into Horsecombe Vale where the ‘squeaky wheel’ sound of Goldcrest mixed with that of Blackcap. A Greenfinch offered us his ‘zizzing’ call, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘chipped’ and a busy Nuthatch gathered a beak full and flew down the hill to its waiting family. A lone Jay flashed across a clearing, in the bottoms Chiffchaff sang, and by the time we reached the waterworks at Tucking Mill, Blue Tit and a Green Woodpecker had regaled us with their calls. The newly laid bed of the old Somerset and Dorset railway had plenty of human traffic – off to explore the newly opened tunnels. There was little avian life until the end, near to our start along the line of the Somerset Coal Canal where Swallows skimmed over the meadows, House Martins along the hedges and above them all, Swifts. The hovering Kestrel made a dark black cross against the blueing sky and a circling Buzzard joined the raptor count, while down on the grass, a Pied Wagtail leapt and fluttered catching beakfuls of newly hatched insects. A Long-tailed Tit was spied in the bushes and a Bullfinch called but, try as we might, no sighting, unlike a Song Thrush which sang from his favourite pitch with great gusto. Before our final climb up the Limestone Link an obliging Yellowhammer sang from his concealment behind the thickest of hedges, only occasionally finishing his song with ‘and no cheese’. The Chaffinches made themselves very obvious as did two male Pheasants trying to share the favours of several females. A tally of 31 species was seen and big ‘thank you’ to David Body for leading.