Tuesday 08 January – Stoke and Eastville Park Leader: Richard Scantlebury

Today’s walk was a real treat for the 48 of us (including a baby!) who met at the Snuff Mills car park. Weather conditions were sunny and still with an average temperature of 8°C. Straightaway we could observe a high number of magpies gathering together as expected at this time of the year. Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits and Robins were singing as we walked towards the tunnel to cross the M32. We first stopped on the other side of the tunnel, at the bottom of Purdown, to listen to a Greenfinch singing. By the Duchess Pond, we saw four Moorhens, a Coot, a Wren, six Goldfinches in a small bush and a Green Woodpecker briefly flew over our heads. We had the pleasure to watch the majestic flight of a Grey Heron over the pond, before it disappeared. We kept walking away from the pond in Stoke Park Estate, only to stop a minute after in order to observe a beautiful pair of Stonechats at the top of a bush. At the same time, we were amazed by a flock of twelve Meadow Pipits flying overhead. On the way back to the car park, we encountered a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest in the same tree. At about 11:15 we walked along the River Frome towards Eastville Park and saw Mallards, Woodpigeons, Robins, Wrens and Long-tailed Tits along the way, but the star of the day was a gorgeous male Kingfisher. I learnt that male kingfishers have an all-black beak whereas females have a red base. He posed for us for a good ten minutes up on a branch before diving into the river and then calling as he disappeared. He stopped further away up on a branch and sat again for another ten minutes. It was the first time that many of us were able to observe a Kingfisher so close and for such a long time. Along the Frome Valley Walkway around the lake, we were pleased to see a sleepy Tawny Owl roosting in the box that was set up one year ago by the Friends of Eastville Park. Two Cormorants were up in a tree, one of which was a juvenile with its white belly. In total, six Great Spotted Woodpeckers were observed chasing around, an expected behaviour at that time of year. One Raven was chased by several Magpies and Carrion Crows. Above us we could observe Black-headed Gulls, and there were 40 roosting Feral Pigeons up in a tree. A beautiful male Goosander landed slowly in the lake, which was also occupied by Grey Herons, Mallards and Mute Swans. Just before leaving the Walkway, the Kingfisher – most likely the same as before – came back and stopped on a branch close to the water with a very big fish in his beak. At the same time, we could see two Goldcrests up in a tree. On the way back to the car park along the river we saw or heard the following species: Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Dunnock and Starling. 45 species were listed overall. Many thanks to Richard who led this amazing walk! Adèle Remazeilles