Field Trips in 2015

Sunday 4th January – Winter Bird Count

reporter Lin Pateman

We left home in darkness, carefully negotiating icy roads and as sunrise dawned at the HQ it revealed a glorious winter scene to start the day. As part of the Wensum Wonders (all women) team, we met at the HQ, parted company with the boys and dropped off the mountains of cakes and biscuits for later. This revealed a paucity of ‘scopes for the girls, all that planning and we failed to agree who would bring one, oh well we had to manage!
Eight teams registered and with another two teams of some of our most experienced birders in the club taking part, everyone headed out at 8 o clock to boost their start to the Norfolk year list.
Observing flocks of fieldfare on the ground in the brilliant sunshine was much enjoyed and we had to remind each other to move on.
Routes are kept secret from colleagues in the most nonchalant manner and when meeting other teams whilst out and about, bins are quickly lowered so as not to give away the location of that chiffchaff in the tree behind them! Have you had an egret today? With no distinction of little or great, both were seen by some.
We had to agree to miss a red head smew at Swanton Morley GP as it was too far to walk round to the furthest lake for one bird and then, no matter which bridge or mill we checked, do you think we could get a grey wagtail this year?
As I stood looking over the lake at Sparham, a kind birder, not a member (thanks Richard), let me share his ‘scope and the great white appeared in view, excellent addition to the list. The girls moved along the hedgeline to try and find the goosander that had inconveniently disappeared behind the island; when a bird took off and literally flew over my head. “Night heron” was called and it was a healthy adult bird which I watched disappearing into the trees over the pool behind us. We agreed it must have originated from the escapees of Gt. Witchingham wildlife park and considered whether they could have bred ln the locality, otherwise it was an old bird since 1987!
Much excitement came from a single yellowhammer atop a hedge at the old raptor watchpoint where we had hoped for our resident barn owl and a sparrowhawk exited the barn.
Without a single owl or woodpecker, there came a time in the early afternoon when we felt that our score was going to be low this year, however our change in route turned out to work well in the end.
It was a brilliant day out, searching as many areas of the valley as we could.
By 4.30pm all teams were gathered back at the HQ and enjoying all the welcome refreshments and warmth, thanks to Peter and Ruth for their kind support.
After plenty of buzzing chatter to reveal what was found and where, the scores were called in and a hush descended over the Valley. I could not bring myself to present the “Alec Waller trophy” to my other half’s winning team, so thanks to Bernie for doing the deed on the club’s behalf !
Those retiring to the Bridge Inn were suitably sated with generous portions and lively banter.

What a terrific day, with great company! Thanks to all who took part and made it possible.

Eight Teams and their scores:-

Hawkeyes; Alan Fordham, David Gibbons, Phil Borley – 73
Mill Streeters; Alwyn & Carole Jackson, Charles & Fran Neale – 70
Tenacious Three; Richard Norris, Steve Chapman, Joe Harkness – 68
Josh’s Gang; Josh Leeder, Terry Baker, Philip Howard – 64
Wensum Wonders; Mary Walker, Sue Gale, Liz Bridge, Lin Pateman – 63
The Enfield Crewe; Jacqui & Colin Fenn, Brenda & Seamus O Dowd – 62
Kingfishers; Bernie Marsham, David Knight, Paul Adams – 62
House Sparrows; Pete Lambley, Lyn Garland, Brian Bosley – 56

Unofficial Teams :
Lucy Topsom & Glenn Collier – 79
Ian Brittain & Paul Riley – 73

Total species list for the day – 89.

P.S. If you like the sound of a great birding day out and fancy having a go at a Summer Count (longer daylight hours), please let me know. If enough folk are interested, then I am willing to organise an event. All levels of knowledge and experience can be catered for and help with transport can be shared.
Lin Pateman Secretary Contact: wvbs.secretary@gmail.com or tel. 01263 587262.

Saturday 31st January – The Hawk & Owl Trust and NOA Hempton Marsh

reporter Martin Spriggs

8.15 in the morning saw a motley crew decamping from warm cars onto the car park at the Hawk and Owl Trust site near Fakenham . A bracing zero degrees met us, this did soar during the morning to a splendid one degree Celsius. Alwyn checked his list and shepherded the last stragglers into the visitor centre. We paid our dues where applicable , admired the Harvest mice in a tank in the corner and marched boldly out onto the decking. Already birds were being recorded but nothing of any note.
The group totalling 18 was split up into two units and Mary and Alwyn, having put together a `cunning plan` gathered their bods.
Alwyn lead the way down to the feeders by the old reserve entrance. Richard N had already booked a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the woodland by the centre and our sections revered list taker (resplendent with cap and ballpoint stuck behind ear) began to list. The screen before the feeders gave a really close up view and we saw birds in all directions – Coal tit, Marsh tit,Brambling,Nuthatch, Blue and Great tits, Longtails, Chaffinch but the prize here was three Bullfinch(2 Male 1Female). Colours were so bright and beautiful, fantastic.!! We moved on, so quietly, until the boardwalk. Here frozen frost made every footfall a resounding crunch. A herd of Wildebeest approaching perhaps?
The woodland by the clearing below the Frank Jarvis hide gave Siskin high in the trees and in most peculiar positions and Treecreeper as well as more Tits. The group reached the central drain and pausing to view from the bridge Alwyn pointed out a Kingfisher. The bird was on the top of reeds leaning out over the water and just sat still for some time about 100m east. Flying towards the woodland it cut back to the drain and then flew about 12 inches off the water straight up towards us, under the bridge and on for 100m or so before disappearing towards the river. Straight as an arrow and with a perfect reflection in the water, a prime bird to see.
We now encountered the opposition moving slowly towards us. We intermingled, they not giving anything away and vanished towards the Whitely hide. Our group trudged on towards the river, picking up on the way Grey Heron and Buzzard.
As we approached the peat path by the river it was obvious as to the amount of work carried out on the old scrape. It has been greatly expanded and now both the Paul Johnson hide and the Whitely hide look out onto clear water. A rising decking passing up through the trees showed where the new Tower hide is to be placed, again overlooking the new scrape. We passed on to the Paul Johnson Hide along the path admiring the immaculately trimmed reed bank leading up to the scrape. It looked fine but very few birds were seen — total, 1 Pheasant. Our group walked back to the Whitely Hide to find a full cast of small birds at the feeders. We had good views of Nuthatch, Brambling, Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch and a Stoat. This last was spotted crossing the iced up water in front of the hide and disappearing into the undergrowth beyond the feeders. It could be seen working along towards the ground birds under the feed table and suddenly up they all flew. The Stoat continued on its way not apparently attempting a catch.
By now several folks were a little chilly so we headed back to the visitor centre, on the way finding some of the fungi we were told to look out for,— Scarlet Elf Cup – two on each side of the path. The small ones approx. 1cm across, larger ones 1.5 cm. and a most vivid scarlet. Back at the cars and coffee downed, some left for other places. Those left, car shared down to the Hempton Marsh. Climbing up the muddy bank (really Alwyn, try harder next time) we all dashed across the main road and congregated at the reserve gate before forging ahead along the boardwalk, also crisp and crunchy. A small reserve with the Wensum running along one edge and some Alder Carr and woodland. Two hides are available, one overlooking water meadows with small reedy pools and coarse grass and one looking into a clearing with feeders. This hide was the most productive with plenty of small birds including Treecreeper and Siskin but no new species.Whilst packed into this hide the weather turned for the worse and a sleety snow began to fall. The temperature dropping we decided enough was enough and made a break for the cars.
Beginning at 8.30 it was now 13.15, a brilliant morning had been enjoyed by all and after thanking Alwyn and Mary for leading we all left.

Total species = 43

 Saturday 28th February – Holkham

reporter Liz Bridge

Seventeen of us met in the village car park before making our way down Lady Anne’s Drive, either by car or on foot. Those on foot had the reward of a Stonechat sitting on the fence just inside the entrance. The rest of us had to wait a couple of hours before finding one in the dunes! I’m not sure I have seen so many species whilst viewing from the car park before; a sample is Rough-legged Buzzard, a chance to compare with the very pale Common Buzzard which is usually around this area, and then the more normal Common Buzzard (if there is such a thing), together with Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk and a Red Kite. On the ground we espied a small group of Fieldfares, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal and then two Grey Patridge flew in, giving us a very good views. We eventually dragged ourselves away as there was a lot to cover and get back to the cars before the parking tickets ran out. It was a very windy day and the wind in the trees crowded out any bird song or calls as we took the path through the wood, until a Cetti’s Warbler came through loud and clear. We spent some time in the two hides (was it just to get out of the wind?). Jordan’s hide, I think, was probably the most productive: and here we at last found White-fronted Geese of which there had been over a hundred reported the previous day, and a few Pinkfoot. But we only just about made double figures for the White-front, they obviously knew we were coming! Rough-legged Buzzard was seen again, along with Common, Marsh Harrier and another Red Kite. Keen eyes spotted Pintail and a pair of Avocets on a distant pool. Wildfowl logged included Shoveler, several Gadwall, Shelduck. It was now time for a bit of sea-watching. A decent flock of Common Scoter was very close in and, with great delight, we found a Velvet! Red-breasted Merganser, a Red Throated Diver and Great-crested Grebe delighted us all. Then, with the wind increasing, we made our way back along the beach. Small birds were few and far between but a pair of Ringed Plover and a Rock Pipit got blown by the wind to land quite close. So back to the village car park for lunch and then some went home and the rest of us made our way to Titchwell. Over 70 species had been recorded at Holkham, a truly good number. Titchwell brought this number to over 80 as we added Red-crested Pochard (to the joy of at least two members who wanted that species for their year list!), a Water Rail, Spotted Redshank, Godwit, Dunlin and Golden Eye to the list. By this time a Norfolk Mizzle had started so the party split up: some continued to the sea, some went home and the rest of us had a ‘nice cup of tea’ and a bun.
Very many thanks to Phil and Lin who stepped in at the last minute to make this such an enjoyable day.

Editor’s Note We’ve had a great reaction from one member to the day’s outing :- “I would just like to say how much I enjoyed my first outdoor trip with the Wensum group – great birding and really good company. What a lovely welcoming group you all are, and so helpful, especially to a relative novice like me! Thank you to Lin and Phil for leading the day, and thank you to the whole group for such a great day out. I look forward to the next chance I get to go out with you all”

Total Species recorded = 86

Sunday 29th March – The Hoe Bird Walk

reporters Sonia Mant & Catherine Brown

The start of British Summer Time the previous night meant a particularly early start to this years Hoe bird walk. So, despite a rather less than favourable forecast, we set out, and after driving down many little lanes, often multiple times, we eventually found the rest of the group, just as they were preparing to set off.
We left at 8.00am sharp to walk to Hoe Common, where David told us about the wildlife surveys being conducted,and the restoration plans, including scraping back or beating the bracken to allow the heather to grow back, and the planned use of ponies to restore the balance of flora. He also assured us there are Adders on the site, but sadly they chose to be sensible, and were in hiding!
Being newcomers to the group, we had arrived with a sense of trepidation, but were soon made to feel welcome, and the whole group went out of their way to include us, pointing out different birds, and teaching us the different songs and calls made by some of the species seen. Sadly, the weather chose not to favour us, and, after a dry start, the rain came. We still managed to spot a displaying Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a flock of finches, a group of Long Tailed Tits collecting feathers, a couple of Little Egrets, and we were surrounded by the calls of the newly arrived Chiffchaffs
Back to the car park, and then a walk along the road to the railway line in the increasingly heavy rain. Despite this, we still managed to see a few hardy creatures. After much searching by the entire group, we eventually spotted the Mistle Thrush singing away in the top of a tree, and, later, a Tree Creeper singing and flitting amongst the branches (through rather wet and steamy binoculars!) We also saw a Goldcrest, a pair of Bullfinches who refused to stop and perch for us, and a Common Buzzard perching in a tree looking rather bedraggled!
Some of the more hardy members of the group decided to drive up to Worthing Church, but, alas, the kettle was calling us. the bird of the day was a Barn Owl in the rain, who flew past us across the field
As newcomers, lessons we have learnt – the need for waterproofs, and to remember to bring the flask of tea.
Thank you to the group for introducing us to a part of Norfolk we didn’t know existed.

Total Species recorded = 63

Saturday 25th April – Wild about the Wensum

reporter – Liz Bridge

A beautiful day, if with a chill breeze.  I arrived mid-morning and there were hordes of families arriving.  This year’s event was the busiest, the biggest and the best, I am told (this being my first time of attending).  Many organisations were represented, the majority of them being in a large marquee; there was face painting and activities.  Wensum Valley Birdwatching had a stand and we invited young people, and their parents, to tell us the name of the bird on the photograph (you would not believe the number who thought the Wood Pigeon was a duck).  Not as easy as it seems when there was only a small part of the bird to be seen. If you got five right you got a sweet, and if all twenty a treat!  I was quite surprised how many knew their birds, the mothers were very good too!  Others from the Society took their ‘scopes down to the two hides overlooking the scrape, not merely to spot birds but to help visitors to the hides see and identify those birds on the scrape.  I would like, personally, to thank Lin and Ray for their organisation of the volunteers and importantly those of you who gave up part of their day to help.

Editor’s Note. 70, yes 70, species were recorded jointly from the hides including a distant Red Kite. The Little Ringed Plover was the first for many of us to locate and they didn’t disappoint with four showing well.

Sunday 26th April – The Bayfield Walk  and Glaven Valley

reporter Keith Jones

The walk follows tracks around the estate which is carefully managed in order to help support the local wildlife. We met in the Cley Spy car park at 9.00 on a bright cloudy morning with a cool northerly breeze.  The walk was attended by 14 members.

As usual, members of the group were really good at identifying bird calls and then with patience we were able to get good views of some of them. Highlights included Whitethroat,  Lesser Whitethroat and several  Blackcap warblers. A Chiffchaff was seen carrying nest material into Brambles and we had great views of a Yellow Wagtail , Stonechat and Wheatear. We also saw Treecreepers and Nuthatches , as well as a distant Cuckoo. The bluebells were still not fully out, but we saw several hares enjoying the spring sunshine and 3 Red Deer.

The woods were fairly quiet but there were plenty of birds on the lake in front of Bayfield Hall including Little Grebe, Shelduck, Pochard and Tufted Duck. We were able to finish the walk with a cup of tea and cakes at the Wildflower Centre cafe before returning to our vehicles via Glandford.

It should be noted that the London Marathon took place today with many runners completing the 26 miles in less than 4 hours; it took us 5 and a half hours to complete the 3 and a half miles of this walk, but we did have a count of 68 species!

A lovely morning enjoyed by all.

 7th – 11th May – WVBS Members Trip to Dorset

Day 1 -Thursday 7th May –  reporter David Gibbons

Eleven members met at RSPB Rye Meads, just outside Harlow, on our way down. A 50p toll  for the last 200 yards to enter the reserve was a bit strange. Coffee and a snack in the Lapwing Hide was just what we needed as fellow members arrived, and the list was started. RSPB volunteers in the Visitor Centre suggested a route to follow and off we went, not all members had arrived yet but they caught us up and they had a Red Kite in the car park, no worm for the early bird!

The hedgerow provided us with Whitethroat, Garden warbler and Blackcap and in Draper Hide saw Common Terns, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck , Coots, Moorhens etc.

On our way to Kingfisher Hide we got Common Buzzard, and in the hide, Hobby, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher and Kestrels going in and out of a box high up on a pylon. On the way back Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and several common species.

Lunch on the picnic tables outside the visitor Centre and back on the road again, M25 and M3 down to Portland.

A motorway stop for Tea and Cake for some, pure chance as 2 cars met up.

Lovely views of the Isle of Portland as we entered Weymouth, across the causeway and up to the top of the island, our Motel soon came into view on land which once was a Stone Quarry. Reception and we booked in, a bit behind time according to the schedule set by the Trip Organisers, but all members had arrived, so a quick turnaround. “Just a mile” to walk to the The Eight Kings PH where dinner had been booked. Some members set off in cars , but most of us could walk to stretch our legs after the drive down.

Anyway we walked past 3 Public Houses a Fish and Chip shop with lovely aromas, and we walked!  Hungry and thirsty!

The streets were wide with parking each side where cars were parked end-on to the pavement, the houses were of local stone, some detached but most were  not, they were of different sizes, 2 or 3 stories, some wider than others, nice and different to what we see in Norfolk. Several Land Rovers covered in white dust from the quarries was a nice sight.

We got a ‘phone call, from our colleagues who went by car, probably on their second drink by now, to tell us it was more than a mile probably nearer 3 miles!!!

I think we knew that, I believe it was part of the organisers plan, to access our fitness for the days ahead, to get sea air into our lungs and to keep us sober!

Anyway we did see Herring Gull and House Martin as we were now on the coast road and then we saw The Eight Kings PH.

Local beer from Ringwood Brewery was on tap and a Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay blend seemed popular.  Fish and Chips, Scallops, Steaks, Burgers and Home made Pies were the choices of members.

 A summary of the day took place, 62 species, and a briefing for the following day, as we waited for our meals. We were the last to leave the pub, so had the organisers failed in one of their objectives?

Surprise, surprise Taxi back !!

Day 2 – Friday 8th  May –  reporter Lucy Topsom

Portland and Surrounding  Areas

 We were off to an early start today, our first full day’s birding.  Our first port of call was the Portland Bird Observatory.  It was overcast and windy, but unfortunately from the north instead of the south.  Thus birds caught in the fine nets was low.  However, we were able to compare Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaff and we realised just how small they were, weighing approximately 8g.  They always seem so much bigger when you are looking at them through bins.  We were amazed at the number of goldfinches which lived and also bred in the observatory grounds.  I think they had our Norfolk share as well.   Another highlight was to see a Little Owl in the nearby quarry.  It was situated in the rock crevices out of the bitterly cold wind.  Bird of the day for some members was the Rock Pipit seen on the large Portland boulders.  Lots of auks were on the sea.  Breakfast beckoned.

 After sustenance we proceeded to the Portland Castle where we scanned the Harbour for sea birds. Nothing new here but we were able to see Greater Black- Backed Gulls clearly.  On to Ferrybridge to walk over a mountain of pebbles on Chesil beach.  This is an awesome natural sea barrier. More sea watching and some good waders found.

 Radipole RSPB Reserve was our next reserve to visit, a reed bed haven right in the middle of Weymouth.  The key new birds seen here were Bearded Tit, Common Sandpiper, Teal, Shelduck, Hooded Merganser and Marsh Harrier.  We had fantastic close views of Cetti Warbler. You don’t see them very often!

On to Lodmore another reed bed reserve.  Key birds seen were Bar Tailed Godwit, Bearded Tit, Sandwich Tern, Little Egret.  Lesser White Throat called and after a bit of patience had really good views.  Up in the sky more than 100 hirundines were soaring above our heads.  Our list was increasing. Off to Wareham’s Red Lion for our next hotel stop, and a nice hot shower!

 We were not finished yet, bird log done, then a jovial evening ensued culminating in the celebration of a member’s Birthday and another member’s son passing his medical degree.  A momentous day all round.  Off to bed for zzzzzzzzzzzzz!

 Day 3 – Saturday 9th  May –     reporter Liz Bridge

 Visit to RSPB Arne

 Well recovered from the celebrations of the previous night, the Birthday Boy and Proud Dad are raring to go birding.  As are the rest of us.

The reserve at Arne is situated within Poole Harbour and although chiefly lowland heath also has salt marsh, woodland and reed beds adjoining the mud flats of the harbour, a really good variety.  Setting off from the car park, having seen a brilliant Siskin on the visitor centre feeder, we were immediately alerted by the frantic alarm calls of blackbirds (and by Glenn) to the possibility of a Tawny Owl in the vicinity.  Still and quiet we waited, then the owl made a move and was seen by some of the team as it flew off.  The Blackbirds went silent.  What a start to the day!  We wandered up a slight slope through the wooded area with heath on one side and ploughed field on the other.  Woodland birds called or sang; Nuthatch, Blackcap, Coal Tit, Jay, Woodpeckers and others.  (It was amazing how many Green Woodpeckers we heard that day.) The ploughed field gave us Stock Dove and Mistle Thrush, also along the field edge Song Thrush. A warning was given to listen and search for a possible Spotted Flycatcher.  Several minutes passed in intense concentration, eyes searching the branches of oak trees beginning to be covered with green leaves.  At last the bird was seen, slipping from one branch to another, then another tree, trying to confuse us. A first of the year for many of us, and indeed for the reserve.  So ambled onwards, watching and listening. It was a real joy to watch a pair of Goldcrest in the process of building their nest.  How tidy and small it was.  Soon there was the harbour on one side and heathland on the other.  Curlew, Shelduck and others were spotted: then someone with a sharp eye found two Grey Plover hiding on the salt marsh.  A really good spot as it was difficult to see them even knowing where to look.  It was really lovely looking over the bay, a wonderful place to perhaps sit and stare on another day.  We could not really do that this day as coming up the track towards us were, I guess, fifty or more Beaver Scouts with their leaders and some parents.  They descended down to the small beach by the water and we went on our way. The path followed the cliff top and we got better views of harbour.  A surprise sighting was a Bar-tailed Godwit, and from a hide further along we espied five Spoonbills standing on one leg, snoozing on the spit.  Lovely Sandwich Terns were also seen.  This trail then headed back to the car park where we hastily grabbed our lunch before setting out on another circuit in the afternoon.  This trail took us out to Coombe Heath.  We had not managed to see Dartford Warbler in the morning but were told that there were sixty pairs on this part of the heath this year.  Yes we did find Dartfords, but only two, where were the others?  We had Stonechat, male and female.  My favourite was to see and hear a Tree Pipit.  I really hope I have got to grips with its song now!  We were also able to see a channel of the harbour called Middlebere Lake.  What else did we see that day? Really black Great Black-backed Gulls, Swallows, House Martins, Swifts (a first of the year for some), Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaffs, Little Egret, Grey Heron.  A great place to visit and a really good day in spite of the thousands of Wood Ants on the paths!

Day 4 – Sunday 10th May  –   reporter Eric Jarvis

Durlston Country Park.

After a hearty breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel, Wareham, slightly later than normal as it was a Sunday, we set off for Durlston which was near Swanage, about a half hour’s drive away. Upon arrival at Durlston we all met up in the car park then walked down to Durlston Castle and the Dorset Wildlife Trust centre where we obtained maps of the reserve. We then set off on the Clifftop Trail which started off on a steep incline down the cliff giving us superb views over Peveril Point to Old Harry rocks. A bit further round the cliff we were able to see a few Guillemots on the sea together with the odd Razorbill and in the distance were a few gannet gliding over the water. Some of the more adventurous of the party climbed up to examine The Great Globe, a forty ton lump of Portland Limestone  transported by boat and erected in 1887.  A bit further on we turned a corner and encountered a stiff westerly breeze. On the sea in a sheltered bay was a large raft of Guillemots and Razorbills, the majority being the former, and on the cliffs a number of nesting Fulmars with their attendant opportunistic Jackdaws and a single Kestrel.  On the lower ledges of the cliff were a few Cormorants drying their wings

Our party carried on around the Clifftop Trail until we reached Tilly Whim Caves. These had once been used for quarrying Portland stone and were open to the public last time I was here! However they were closed in 1976 due to rock falls. Just past the caves was the remains of another quarry with the old horse drawn mechanism for pulling up the hewn stones still in place – a highly dangerous job.

On the cliffs here we observe several species of gull, four Rock pipits chasing each other around and a couple of Rock doves.

Just before Anvil Point lighthouse the Clifftop trail turned back on itself and climbed up the hill through woodland and eventually joined the Wildlife trail. In the woods we encountered Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Jay, Blackbird and Whitethroat.. This trail led us north of the lighthouse up a fairly steep hill into wildflower meadows and downland  with gorse and bramble bushes. Here we found a yellowhammer, Dunnock, Skylark and briefly, a Yellow Wagtail. Back to the cars for lunch and after a lively discussion it was decided to make for Coombe Heath (no, not the one at Arne) near Wool.

The Blasted Heath  

By some miracle, and the vagaries  of Satellite navigation, we all eventually turned up at the correct location via differing routes. We had lost two members of our party who had decided to revisit Portland as there had been report of a rarity there. We walked down a metalled  road signposted Shaggs towards Coombe Bog. or Coombe Heath as the locals prefer it. On the way we had a Green Woodpecker calling, a Blackcap in a hedge and a pair of Siskins nesting in a pine tree. A Buzzard was soaring distantly at the far end of the heath.

We turned right at the end of the farm track into the entrance to the heath which was managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust. According to the site map  there was a footpath which circumvented the reserve, with a permissive path which went around Lulworth Lake. The eastern side of the area was MOD land with no access. The site map did warn us that  the paths could be muddy and so we set off on the footpath which was a shallow stream. Further on it got boggier and muddier as we jumped from tussock to tussock to (unsuccessfully) keep our feet dry. Some intrepid souls (those equipped with wellies) ventured ahead to see if the going was any better but soon returned to tell us it was impassable. So we decided to go off-piste across the heath to join up with a track shown on the map that would take us to the permissive path down to the lake.

The going over the heath was now a bit easier. We had hoped to see Dartford Warbler but we were unlucky in that. However we did have Stonechat  and also a Tree Pipit. We could hear the honking of Canada geese on the lake and they appeared to be on our left hand side. However, the track we were on was leading us away from them. We decided that a mistake had been made and we retraced our steps. Some of the party decided to take another route to try to find the elusive lake but soon decided that as it was getting late we had better return to the cars. On the way back we had Song Thrush, Great spotted woodpecker, Whitethroat and Long-tailed tit.

It had been a brilliant last day’s birding and we drove back to Wareham looking forward to our evening meal (and drinks). In total we had seen 69 species of bird during the day, a pretty good total.

Day 5 – Monday 11th May   – Reporter Mary Walker

All too soon dawn broke on our final day. The troops were dispersing in different directions.

Glenn & Lucy already having departed in the middle of the night to try and twitch the Citril Finch  at Holkham, two members off to Wales, one to Taunton, and one with the birth of a new grandchild imminent unsure whether to set the Sat Nav for Norfolk or Brighton.

The rest of us descended on a wonderful little reserve, Ockham and Wisley Common, a Surrey Wildlife Trust managed area. Well done Alan for finding such a little gem which is situated between the M3 and M25. After enjoying fresh coffee and coffee and walnut cake and remarking we had forgotten to include New Forest ponies on our mammals list, a short exploration began.

 The heathland is managed to enhance its wildlife value. Invading scrub has been removed, grazing introduced, and large areas of magnificent broad-leaved woods encouraged through coppicing. Non-native shrubs like Rhododendron have been removed. Thick areas of trees on the Heath are deliberately managed for Nightjar.

We found most of our target  woodland species here, but sadly not the Crossbills. A hard bird nowadays, which had been seen the week before our visit. At long last we connected with the Sparrowhawk, circling above the Pines. This species was conspicuous by its absence in Dorset. Plenty of butterflies fluttered by and Eunice’s moth identification was challenged by one or two moths we found on the bark of the trees. We think the last was a Scalloped Hazel, but the jury remains out.

All in all a very successful trip for WVBS. Where will next year’s destination be?

Thurday 14th May – A Ringland Circuit                reporter Jeni Willis

Approximately 16 member assembled at the Ringland Green on a chilly evening for this outing.  Fortunately the rain held off.  As I only live a 10 minute drive away from the starting point it is a walk I am sure I will take again.  The views over the open countryside were particularly great and would be stunning had the weather been better.  It was surprisingly hilly for Norfolk.

The ‘star’ of the evening for me was the kingfisher – which posed so that we could all get a good view and  I expect other members will have their own ‘star’. After the circuit some members went on to – hopefully – hear the nightingales at a nearby site.

Thanks go to Steve Chapman for organising this walk and his relevant information about the area and the also list in which 39 species were recorded.

Sunday 17th May – Dawn Chorus                     reporter Philip Howard

Fourteen members met in the car park at 0415 for an early start of the Dawn Chorus. Glenn whispered to us to be quiet and to listen to the birds. We could hear Blackcap and Garden Warbler. After a few minutes we set off walking and it seemed to me to get lighter earlier this year than last year..Walking on, the birds were now in full song and as we reached Charles Sayer’s land we found the gate locked and had no alternative but to go the long way round. There were cows in the field so  Ray and Steve said they wanted to be cowboys and moved the cows on. By this time the sun was rising  on a beautiful morning. The birds were even more vocal and we saw Sand Martins over and Great Crested Grebes on the lake. From there we could see our Tern Rafts but  they were full of gulls. Ray and his team seemed to be fighting a losing battle with their prevention plans. By contrast the island Charles Sayer’s  had cleaned had Common Terns on. We walked on and heard Tawny Owl. We searched for it but no luck. A Buzzard was flying over and we continued our walk. Through a gap in the hedge we looked over a second lake and saw a Kingfisher and Ray was able to show us its nest in the bank just where we were standing. Steve thought he would get a closer look but unfortunately lost his footing in a hole at the back of the box and fell down! Another Great Crested Grebe on the lake and we spotted it’s nest and so moved away to avoid any disturbance. Over the field we were lucky enough to spot a Barn Owl. At this point Ray and I left the group to walk back to the carpark where Chris was preparing the bacon. We lit  the stove and the bacon was soon ready. The group arrived soon after and sat around chatting about the wonderful morning enjoying the great bacon butties in the sunshine. A great end to a great morning.               Apart from a fox and deer we logged 56 bird species.

Thanks to Glenn and Lucy for leading the walk and keeping the list and also to Chris for her bacon treats.

An Evening Walk at Scarning Water Meadows      reporter  Alwyn Jackson

On the evening of Tuesday 26th May Society members Wendy and Trevor Brown guided us round their “local patch” – Scarning Water Meadows.  It is situated west of East Dereham and just inside the Scarning Parish boundary behind the Drayton Hall Estate.

We learnt that it is managed by the Scarning Conservation Volunteers who work in conjunction with the Scarning Parish Council to improve the area for wildlife and visitors.  Their aim is to control the rank growth of weeds to enable natural water meadow plants like Water Mint, Marsh Woundwort and Water Chickweed to flourish and also encourage other wildlife like the Water Vole which Trevor managed to find for us.

Both Trevor and Wendy explained about the past and future management of the site and we saw plenty of evidence of their efforts.  During last winter they had created two new scrapes shallow enough to make them attractive habitats for dragonflies, damselflies, water beetles and amphibians.  They had also cleared some of the drainage ditches to create a better habitat for amphibians.  Future and on-going tasks involve cutting the northern area known as Lucy’s Meadow as much as possible (I wonder who Lucy was?), digging out a stile, planting some holly bushes, sorting out the boundary fence, removing bramble and buried wire near a play area and stopping up the drainage ditch to retain the water. Wendy also told us that there are plans to restore an overgrown pond on the edge of the site where mature trees needed some attention before they fell and damaged the nearby housing. If you are interested in helping with any of the tasks or would like to help in any way please contact Wendy on 01362-695062 or email her at wendy.b@dsl.pipex.com.

It was pleasing to learn that the Scarning Conservation Volunteers had not only received an Interactive Funding Grant of £1000 towards the cost of installing information boards on the meadows but were also awarded a 2014 Norfolk Community Biodiversity Award for their sterling efforts.  The judging panel were impressed by the group’s efforts to manage the site and their plans to make it an area more accessible to the community.

We managed to record a good number of bird species along the way including close views of Common Whitethroat and a number of Song Thrushes singing at the same time, not a common event.

We all finished the walk in good spirits realising that Wendy and Trevor along with their volunteers are putting so much time and effort into caring for this locally precious wildlife habitat.  We are so very lucky to have such a willing group to provide not only a wonderful recreational area but also a great place to take a stroll and appreciate the wildlife.  Thank you Wendy and Trevor.

P.S.

Adjacent to the Meadows is Vicarage Park which was first laid out in 1678 and covered eight acres but by 1815 it had expanded several times and covered a hundred acres. Seventy acres were planted as parkland with walks to the church and to the southwest. Tree belts were added in 1838 and the watercourse was straightened in 1844. Beech hedges were planted within a moated site in the park by 1889. Part of area is now built over, part a public open space and part private gardens.

Sunday 28th June – Hickling NWT + Boat Trip          

Part One      The   Boat trip                               reporter Jacky Pett

CIlFNpOWcAAkGi4Those who got up at the crack of sparrows to get to Hickling Broad NWT at 7.30 am were rewarded by the happy sound of House Sparrows sharing their craic, while the rest of us gazed at the skies, partly in search of cranes, and mostly in dubious hope that the rain would keep off.  What is it with rain and WVBS outings?

The warbles of Whitethroat, Willow Warblers and the unique “Sedge Flycatcher” in a bush accompanied our stroll to the staithe.  We had half an hour to do this.  Not far, should take a quarter.  WVBS members are quite likely to take two hours for such a trip, especially with the opportunity of close-up views of renamed Sedge Warbler, the sound of Curlew tantalisingly close, and the flash of a Bittern floating across the rustling reeds.  Bullied by yours truly, most strode out, ignoring the possible Little Grebe that had already taken cover along the dyke, and arriving to greet the Swallow (and maybe the Amazon, I didn’t check) as our boats arrived to greet us in return.

I have many memories of Hickling, including being stranded in a boat at low tide on the mudflat, and the boys jumping into the broad to tug us out to deeper water.  I was thus confidently able to reassure someone who wondered what would happen if we fell in.  I was intrigued as we wended our way through walls of susurrating reeds to hidden hides, accessible only by boat – our boats  – to be greeted by nesting Swallows, singing Reed Bunting, a Ruff, conveniently placed right in front of us, and several Avocet, including this year’s juveniles, some standing sentinel with reflections like paintings, others dashing about and corralling the chicks.  Many were content to admire the waders, ducks, geese and buntings in plain sight, others searched for Bearded Tit in the greenery opposite.  Those with better eyesight, augmented by scopes, sought to decide whether the martins flying around at a farm some way off were sand or house varieties. You can determine the decision by the bird list below.

After the second scrape hide, we moved off over open water populated mainly by Greylag Geese with occasional Mute Swans ad a Great Crested Grebe family, to arrive next to the Weavers Way.  We wove our way across a swing bridge to the tree platform – high in the canopy we searched in vain for the Spotted Flycatchers who were pinging at each other, while others admired the view over the marshes.  It was greener than I remembered it; partly due to the youth of the reeds themselves, but mainly I was surprised at the number of trees and hedges running between them.  No longer does the reedbed stretch uninterrupted from Hickling to Horsey; the aim for diversity means that trees are now left for perches, and of course, we benefit from the species enrichment.  I still love the picture in my mind of a vast reedbed stretching for miles, though.  You could get lost in that.  Or write stories set there.  Whole books – even a series perhaps?

Thank you to the organisers and our volunteers from the Wildlife Trust for a wonderful start to my birthday.  The cake was good, too.

Hickling – Part Two         Stubb Mill/Reserve             reporter Mary Walker

After a coffee break the group plus a couple more members assembled by the visitor centre and made our way, by means of a new path, down to Stubb Mill. This was a very pleasant walk looking out over the marshes. So different from our usual approach to the Raptor Roost in winter, when by torchlight  we “puddle jump”.

Stubb Windmill was built between 1795 and 1825 by Sir George Berney Brograve. It was used to pump out water, thus protecting the grazing marshland.

Hazel Nudd, wife of Harry Nudd who was Staithe Warden in Hickling for forty years, gave us a fantastic history lesson. Harrys’ father Billy and grandfather both lived as marsh men and had sixteen miles of dykes to protect. Harry was born in the old cottage next to the Mill, where Billy lived until his death in 1993. The cottage is now derelict, but Hazel took us inside and explained the old and hard way of life. Hazel unlocked the Mill and all 20 of us climbed in single file, higher and higher.  The Nudd family had looked after Stubb Mill for three generations and it was fascinating to hear the family history. We stood shoulder to shoulder in a tiny room that was once a bedroom for eleven children. Despite listening to our History lesson, one member of the party spotted a Kingfisher through the cobwebs on the window, so we took it in turns to shuffle around for a look.

Time to climb down and say our thank yous’ to Hazel for looking after the WVBS so well. As we ambled back to our cars two Spoonbill and a flock of Black-tailed Godwits provided entertainment. Then a Sparrowhawk shot in front of us, we heard a squeal from the bush, and it emerged with a Chaffinch in its talons. Nature!

The rain had set in by lunchtime, so most members headed homewards, but a hardy few tightened coats, pulled hats down and set off to walk around the reserve. The rain ceased, the sun came out and with it plenty of Butterflies and Damselflies.

All in all a lovely day out with seventy nine species of birds seen.

Many thanks to Eileen Wyatt for keeping such a long list!

Sunday 9th August – Field Trip to RSPB Minsmere 

reporter Liz Bridge

Clear blue sky, sun shining, Sand Martins flying around. What a difference to how it would have been two weeks before. Would the birds live up to their environment? A quick peer through ‘scopes to see tiny faces peeping from the nest holes, then turning round to find young Goldfinch and a young Chiff Chaff in the small trees behind. And, already butterflies around the brambles. Off we went to the North Hide. We listened as hard as we could on our way, but very little bird sound forthcoming. Looking out towards the scrape a joy was to see many Black-tailed Godwits, many still in their breeding plumage, a lovely rufous colour down their fronts; also a fair number of Ruff, as we found elsewhere on our journey. Prize for me at the moment went to four Green Sandpipers.
But enough of sitting in a hide, onward towards the sea. Whitethroat, Linnet, Goldfinches in the shrubs, more butterflies. But no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat reported earlier. Suddenly, a Green Woodpecker shot by, we heard a lot of them during the day. A light breeze got up, swaying the reeds back and forth to deter any small warblers from showing themselves. We did hear a continuous unidentifiable call from
the reeds and waited a while to see what it might be. Maybe young calling for food, but no sign of a Parent. In the distance over the trees, raptors, a Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, were seen enjoying themselves. The sea was pretty quiet too. The Sandwich Terns seen a few days ago flying in
with food for their young had disappeared. The East hide produced some delights – a Common Sandpiper and more Green Sandpipers as well, some Spotted Redshank, with a couple showing good signs of their black breeding plumage. Some Dunlin also showing their black bellies. A fair number of Common Tern; an expert birder found three Arctic Terns as well. Little Gulls were also seen. Swallows flying low over the water. It is so easy to stay for ages in a hide, seating after all! But we moved out and along the sandy path towards the sluice. Some of those who were not carrying lunch hastened their steps to get back to the car. Others took more time and were rewarded with young Stonechats. We sat looking out to sea to eat and suddenly those three Arctic Terns flew by. Swallows were sitting in a dead tree and flying in and out of the sluice.
Eventually we got back to our feet and directed them inland towards the South Hide. Six Little Egrets were on one pool to our left. Then a gap on our right gave a sighting to the scrape. I then was really satisfied that I had seen Little Gull, nine of them. Expert eyes spotted Curlew Sandpiper with the Dunlin. Four glorious Red Knot were with them. We moved into the hide and a call went up – five Whimbrel flying in. Really, really good views of the head pattern and the shorter beak downturned at the tip.
Now that was good; their autumn migration has begun. Greenshank also added to the tally. At that point a call from the group who had gone to their cars for lunch. Where on earth were we? We agreed to meet in the Bittern hide. But it is a long way, and WVBS members do not walk quickly, must not give the slightest chance of missing a bird! We arrived just as the advance group were leaving, oh dear! It was quiet from the hide. A Little Grebe and one youngster provided the entertainment, the youngster
being left on its own in the middle of the pool. No wonder there was only one chick left! Patience exhausted we set off for Island Mere hide, only to be delayed by several species of butterfly, damsel and dragonfly around brambles which formed a veritable sun trap. What skills some of our members have in identifying more than birds. Here we were joined by our advance party who were on their way back, so we were all together again for a short while. But we did drag ourselves away from this warm, sunny spot and proceeded to Island Mere. Viewing from this hide was again a little disappointing. Cormorants, Great Crested Grebe; those with the energy to put up their ‘scopes spotted raptors far away, and even a Hobby. But one of the party saw Otter, probably three, but before he had time to call they were gone. What a shame but good to know they are there. We also learnedthat fields the other side of the scrape were being covered in netting after being sown so that the sandy soil did not blow away.IMG_2097
By this time we were all a bit ragged and called it a day, taking the shorter route up Whin Hill back to the car park. What a pity the café was closed, I could have done with a cup of tea. My highlights of the day were the almost black Spotted Redshank and the Small Heath butterfly seen in the sun trap area. But it is almost not right to pick one bird.
Those on the trip would all like to thank Ray for rescheduling the outing and for arranging for the glorious weather.
Species List : – 74 recorded – recorder Eileen Wyatt

Saturday 29th August – Snettisham                

reporter Lucy Topsom                                  

On a beautiful late summers afternoon we met up at the RSPB car park at Snettisham.  Some of our group had previously birded at Titchwell.

We started the long walk to the coastal hides. We gradually added birds to our list such as Sand and House Martins together with Swallows and Blackcap.  No swifts were seen on the day. Once at the coast we looked out over the Wash to a vast area of mud as the tide was still out. We walked along to the last hide and watched Common Sandpipers, Greenshank and maybe more than 50 Little Egrets amongst other waders.  Spotted Redshank were also seen and a Green Sandpiper was heard.  We also watched 2 Barn Owls quartering the marshes, along with Marsh Harrier and Buzzard.  After a short time we walked back up to the coastal path and were amazed to see that the tide had more or less come in.  There were a pleasing amount of Ringed Plover feeding away but had to disperse due to the quickly incoming tide.

The highlight was watching Knot fly in formation, as they turned  their wings sparkled in the sky.  You could actually hear the sound of the swirling mass.  We also saw huge flocks of Curlew with a few Whimbrel amongst them, with a mass of black and white Oystercatchers.

As the sun started setting we walked back along the coastal path to the car park and watched the setting sun against the sea.  What a beautiful end to the day after a wonderful natural spectacle.

Species List

Titchwell

Robin, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Greenfinch, Lapwing, Goldfinch, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Spoonbill, Avocet, Herring Gull, Curlew, Little Stint, Teal, Shelduck, Starling, Reed Bunting, Curlew Sandpiper, Reed Warbler, Kingfisher, Blackcap, Swallow, House Martin, Bullfinch, Tufted Duck, Coot, Mute Swan, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Dunlin, Little Grebe, Shoveler, Gadwall, Cormorant, Cetti’s Warbler, Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Water Rail, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Wren, Dunnock.

51 species)

Snettisham

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Egyptian Goose, Chiffchaff, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Black-headed Gull, Blackcap, Feral (Racing) Pigeon, Mallard, Blue Tit, Sandwich Tern, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cormorant, Pheasant, Common Gull, Pied Wagtail, Black-tailed Godwit, Carrion Crow, Wren, Dunnock, Herring Gull, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Shelduck, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover, Common Tern, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Stock Dove, Ruff, Tufted Duck, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Barn Owl, Skylark, Water Rail (heard), Red-legged Partridge, Avocet, Wigeon, Wood Sandpiper,  Green Sandpiper (heard), Whimbrel, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Blackbird, Woodpigeon,

(60 species)

Wader count total

Avocet, Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Knot, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Stint, Sanderling, Turnstone, Greenshank, Redshank Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper (23 species)

Sunday 27th September – Field Trip to Frampton Marsh

reporter Lin Pateman

A stunning sun rise assisted nine early risers to travel 68 sometimes misty, miles in 3? temperatures to meet at the car park at RSPB Frampton Marsh, where we quickly saw reed bunting, yellowhammer, lots of juvenile goldfinch, robin, dunnock, greenfinch, curlew and lots of meadow pipits. A weasel gave excellent views in the garden at the visitor centre. We headed out into the rapidly warming air and layers were being discarded at the first gate. In the field with the cattle, we saw and heard cetti’s warbler, reed warbler, linnet, skylark, meadow pipit, yellow wagtail, goldfinch and a female sparrowhawk perched on a fence post. At the 360? hide with benches overlooking the reedbed, freshwater scrapes, wet grassland and saltmarsh, we enjoyed clear sights of common snipe, greenshank, redshank, moorhen, a lone avocet, dunlin, wigeon, shoveler and teal, marsh harrier, many grey herons and little egrets. We walked on in lovely warm sunshine with no breath of wind, which lasted throughout the day. It was such a change from our previous club visits in extremely grey, wet, cold and windy autumn weather and there were frequent comments on how blessed we were. Scanning the skyline we could not see a peregrine on the Boston stump, this would be more likely on a future boat trip!

   Up on the sea bank, from where we viewed the Norfolk coast (17miles away) some the first returning flock of c.50 pink feet flew over. Whilst we witnessed a merlin flying over close and then hunting meadow pipits, our leader called a kingfisher behind us, which he spotted on the ground beside the ditch and we all spun round to enjoy it flying the length of the water.

The group made full use of the RSPB facilities at lunchtime, reported our sightings to the warden and picnicked on the garden benches.  Refreshed, we then set off to walk the bank (3km) to the river mouth; where the outfalls of the rivers Welland and Witham meet. It was a very pleasant walk and we picked up a few more birds for the day’s list, although not the large numbers of wader flocks that will be seen a bit later in the year. The bonus at the water’s edge was a ruddy shelduck amongst a flock and brent geese, ringed plovers, a golden plover, grey plover, turnstone and cormorant.

   On the return leg we scanned and scoured the trees and hedgerows for migrant warblers to no avail. Some partook of the secretary’s chocolate cake at the car park before checking out the reservoir, where we found a lone ruff, pintail and gadwall to add to the list of 66 species in all. What a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable day out, thanks from all to Phil for leading and Colin for keeping the list!

Sunday 24th October – Kelling Quags – Kelling Hard – Salthouse Marshes

reporter Lucy Topsom

We gathered together for our 9am start and decided to see how many different birds we could hear\see before we left.  We anticipated a good day as the weather was pleasant and not windy.  A few minutes before the start, a Green Sandpiper was heard flying over along with a Grey Wagtail.  We then ambled along the path down to the sea.

We soon picked up Yellowhammer, Goldcrest and Coal tit, Gold, Green and Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and then seen.  There were an unusual amount of Song Thrushes in with some Redwings.  A lot of Curlews were calling during the morning.  A Bullfinch was heard and then seen, which was a useful addition.  Most of us had good views of the new seasons Bramblings as well as Redpoll from our scopes. A Blackcap was seen along with a great number of  other common species.  A small group of  Black -tailed Godwits flew over.

When we walked as far as the water meadow we had good views of Snipe, Pied Wagtail, Shelduck, with flyover Lnnets, various gulls and amazingly four Swallows hawking over the water who didn’t know that British Summer Time was ending that day.  Our walk took us towards the sea where we had Stonechat, Heron, and a Grey Partridge was calling and then a small flock was seen rushing into the hedgerow. Upon looking out to sea we had Gannets, Common Scoter, a Guillemot, Red -throated Diver.  On our way back we saw a Rough legged Buzzard and then headed back to the Kelling Reading Rooms Cafe for a refreshing cuppa and a sandwich.  At this juncture some of the party left due to other commitments.

After lunch we headed for Salthouse and started walking towards Granborough Hill. We saw 2 Wheatear which is a late record for the year and several Meadow Pipits and Skylark.  A single Gadwall was seen on the sea.    Toward the end of the day we saw a Short eared Owl that we flushed out from beneath our feet which made us jump. We remarked that it had most probably just flown in from the sea and then a short while later another one was seen.  Wow what a wonderful way to finish off the day with a grand total of  78 either heard or seen.

Our thanks go to Mary and Sue for leading the walk and for keeping us safe from the ditches!

 Sunday 29th November – A field Trip to High Ash Farm

reporter Joe Harkness

Sixteen hardy Wensum Valley birders met in the car park of Venta Icenorum Roman town inIMG_0499 Caistor St. Edmund for a morning walk around High Ash Farm. My Grandma ‘waxes lyrical’ about the farm for being a prime walking spot and I was very much looking forward to visiting. It was also my first field trip with the society! Mary and Steve were our guides and they had a decent recce on the Monday so it looked promising for some good sightings.

We set off in intermittent drizzle and it was a bit blowy, however our spirits weren’t dampened in the slightest. I was instantly impressed by the way that the trails have been set up to follow the treelines and field edges, maximising the birding potential for the site. I was also always struck by the rolling pastoral vistas of the Tas Valley. A finch flock wheeling away beside a hedge gave us a nice taster of things to come.

Avian highlights were to be had and the first of which for me was a party of Goldcrests skitting through the coniferous canopy joined by a Treecreeper which I was chuffed to get everybody on to. A good number of Chaffinches were seen in the trees and margins but no gargantuan flocks in the first leg.

At Chris Skinner’s house, a few members stopped to have a chat with him when he came out to greet them. Liz and I walked on and viewed his garden (we don’t do straining!) and were treated to a Coal Tit, a stunningly marked Mistle Thrush and several Redwings. Liz put me onto a Fieldfare, feeding on berries atop a tall conifer. It was a stunning bird, made even more resplendent by the dark green background – a true Christmas card scene if ever I’ve seen one! Slowly the rest of the group trickled up to join us and I got everyone onto a Nuthatch I’d just seen darting about a tree. Several remarks were made about Mr Skinner’s ‘garden list’ before we moved on.

As we began to descend a gentle decline amidst mutterings of the lack of Brambling seen, cries of “Brambling in the road” rang out. We convened to watch a sizeable flock of Linnets, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Bramblings as they moved from trees to the road to feed and back – affording us all some fantastic views. These were definitely the highlight of the walk for many and a smart Yellowhammer picked up by Steve and a Reed Bunting courtesy of Glenn topped off our walk back to the car park. A great trip to a great site, shame it’s not in the recording area!

A total of 42 Species were recorded during the morning.

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