Tuesday 22 December – Snuff Mills.

Overcast, but still shirtsleeves weather (for some!) on this solstice day with a temperature very close to that of the summer solstice! We 30 gathered to pay homage to the bird population of the River Frome and Vassall’s Park. Moorhen was the first species – two bobbing in the strong current and perilously close to the weir. In the trees on the south side of the river the first Goldcrest were sighted; never still, needle-beaked, miniature dynamos. Not much further into the wood a straggling party of Long-tailed Tit moved about with Blue and Great Tits. A brilliant Jay was admired by us but was not on too friendly terms with the cackling Magpie who were seen over every leg of our walk. A Peregrine was heard and then seen by some of those lurking at the back of the string of walkers, and another spied a Redwing disappearing into a holly bush – never to emerge while watched. Our coffee stop produced a flash of yellow which turned out to be a Green Woodpecker, who gave most of the diners a good display. Through the park and down towards Frenchay bridge where the treetops were simply alive with little birds: Goldcrest, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit – at least seven of each species all feeding wildly. A Nuthatch close by showed how tiny the others were. A quick look upstream over the bridge for a Kingfisher, but nothing – ah, but there was! Sharp eyes found one low down with his belly facing to show creamy pink. It flew most obligingly downstream affording most of us a good lens full. A dog flushed a female Grey Wagtail when we continued downriver, where a Grey Heron got up and demonstrated its flying skills, threading those vast wings through the brush and trees. Our final close encounter with a male Kingfisher was on crossing the footbridge, where it perched within a few feet of us – stunning. Some of the party enjoyed a Sparrowhawk at close range, but everyone stopped to watch a diaphanously-branched Alder, top heavy with more Goldcrest. The final total of 33 was pretty good for this mid-winter day. (Many thanks for leading Nick.) Nick Hawkridge