Tuesday 25 June – Velvet Bottom Leader: Geoff Harris

A good count of walkers today (17), which considering the very low cloud and the final tally of 32 species was not bad either. Whitethroat was the first song we heard and having played the CD with the volume up in the car, we all had our ears tuned to hear the subsequent nine others. As we entered the reserve plenty of Small Heath butterflies were abroad and a small family party of Linnet sat on a fence wire, the dad staying to give us as good an inspection as he afforded us. Along the tree line topping Ubley Warren Farm, a massive flock 150 plus of, mainly, Jackdaw burst up into the fog with a terrific clamour. Along the track a newly fledged, barely flight capable Chaffinch afforded us intimate views. Chiffchaff and Wren were heard, a few Swallows whipped past and a family party of Long-tailed Tits brightened up the gloom. Blackcap and Willow Warbler were both singing and the first of the nine Song Thrush sang from the top of an old dead oak in the valley, which was as well, as a family of Bullfinches was seen as we listened to his melody. Once coffee was over we entered Long Wood and heard Nuthatch and Coal Tit and a bit further on, an acrobatic Marsh Tit was heard and then seen by all but the leader. Leaving the wood and starting the long climb towards the radio masts we were lucky to hear Skylark braving the damp conditions, a bright Yellowhammer showing his tail stripes and a grumpy looking Rook with a juvenile in tow. Before we got into the final stretch along the road, a Stonechat showed, and after a Kestrel was seen hover hunting, some House Martin jinked by and a Meadow Pipit hopped from branch to stem with a beak full of grub for the kids. The ponds didn’t disappoint this year with a fine male Reed Bunting singing form a Sallow branch. Thanks to Geoff for leading and being patient with us for taking an hour longer than normal. Nick Hawkridge