2013January 6th 2013 Claverton DownFebruary 12th 2013: Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre
Sunday 26th February - Marshfield, South Glos.
Leader: Bill Bristow
Meet: 10.30 am at eastern end of Marshfield village by new school, Grid Ref. 784 738
(Map Landranger 172). Finish: 2.00 pm with option of afternoon extension.
A stroll around Marshfield village area looking for winter birds
Sunday 11th March - Bushy Norwood, Claverton Down, near Bath University
Leader: Lucy Delve
Cars: Meet outside Claverton Cats and Dogs Home, The Avenue. Map: 172 GR: 776 642
Joint visit with Bath RSPB members' group. Time: 9:00 am. Morning Only.
Targets: Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and other woodland birds.
Sunday 18th March - Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Leader: Chris Phillips
Meet: 11.00 am Upper car park, Grid Ref. 845 779 (Map Landranger 173). Finish: Approx 3.00 pm.
Target: Early migrant birds, possibility of hirundines.
A walk of approx 4 miles on tracks, one steep climb, short distance on quiet road.
Saturday 24th March - Luckington - Sherston – Sopworth, Wiltshire
Leaders: Phillip and Lucy Delve
Meet: 10.00 am Luckington Village School alongside the green, Grid Ref. 833 840
(Map Explorer 168). Finish 3.00 pm.
A moderate circular walk of 5 miles over undulating pasture, tracks and road.
Target: Scenic countryside walk, of multiple interest, to record natural history along the way.
Sunday 15th May - University of Bath
Five members joined us on this afternoon excursion, in dry and cloudy weather, which quickly turned cool with a keen wind.
We started off indoors in the Pavilion in the South Building. Here we explained the approach we have been using to introduce people, often with little knowledge of natural world, to nature that can be experienced almost anywhere. The ecological approach focuses on helping people understand how to look, where to look and what to look for, but also draws on alternative ways of engaging with the natural world such as through photography, art, folklore, cultural associations etc. We also demonstrated use of a digital microscope and LED hand magnifier for examining small specimens such as bryophytes and lichens, revealing a coral-like landscape of cups and flaps.
We ventured out into the wind for a short walk around the university campus starting off in the car park where we looked at 'island biogeography' and demonstrated the resurrection of desiccated mosses using a water spray. Norway Maples Acer platanoides provided an opportunity to use hand lenses and magnifiers to look at a good range of epiphytes and note how their distribution followed the path of rain water down the branches and trunk like rivers and valleys. Criss-cross patterns on the bark were attributed to the regular climbing activities of squirrels.
A belt of Beech woodland provided an opportunity to note the patterns of growth of fresh Beech shoots, as well as Beech mycorhizzas and Beechnut fungus Xylaria carpophylla. Marvellous woody Ganoderma adspersum horse hoof-like fruit bodies were evidence of wood decay near ground level, but the amount of wood decomposition in the aerial canopy was perhaps more of a surprise.
The emergence of fresh leaves and shoots on many trees was a source of interest. New Holly leaves were soft and rubbery to the touch and beautifully tinged with magenta, in contrast to the familiar dark, spiky leaves of previous year's growth. Several conifer species such as Pinus nigra var. laricio, Larix decidua and L. kaempferi, Cupressus X leylandii, showcased a range of fresh growth and new and old cones and male 'flowers'. On Poplar, possibly Populus nigra ssp. betulifolia the sources of interest were the venation patterns on the underside of leaves and also the dense carpet of white down from the catkins that carpeted the ground under the trees.
A Sycamore tree Acer pseudoplatanus had a rich epiphyte flora and was badly infested with battalions of evenly spaced aphids on the underside of the leaves.
As we strolled back towards the South building past the lake we had a good view of a Heron motionless amongst the lily pads. Mignonette was in flower growing amongst the rocks on the lake side.
Now thoroughly chilled by the wind our final stop was to examine a wall of industrial brick and its epiphyte flora of mosses and lichens including Xanthoria parietina. Tiny red velvet mites provided a final opportunity to use hand lenses before retreating indoors from the wind.
Alan & Marion Rayner
Wednesday 18th May - Woollard and Lord’s Wood - report to follow
Leader: Pat Chant
Meet: 7.00 pm Grid Ref. 633 645 (Map 172). Finish: approx 8.30 pm.
Targets: Tawny Owl, Cuckoo, Badger.
Easy walking, 1-2 miles on fairly even footpaths/tracks.
Saturday 21st May - Cranborne Chase
Saturday, 21st May 2011:
Cranbourne Chase [Leader: Tom Rogers]
At the National Trust’s Win Green car park 7 NATS members joined the leader on bright sunny morning with a moderate southerly breeze. From the car park we walked up to the top of Win Green where there was an OS trig pillar and a topograph. From this topograph we could see Bournemouth & the Isle of Wight, both some 30 miles plus away. On most hills the OS trig pillars have either been removed or have become obsolete because of GPS. But on the side of this trig pillar, there was a plaque stating that the pillar formed part of the OS GPS network of Great Britain. From the viewpoint we then joined the byway, that would lead us down to Tollard Royal. Notable finds included Small Scabious, Little Stitchwort and a large patch of Wood Avens, which was found on the floor of Beech coppice alongside the byway. Also discovered by David, under a discarded car door panel, was a Slow Worm.
On reaching the village, we then completed a small circuit taking in the church and returning to the village pond at the end of the byway for lunch. Whilst having lunch several species were noted including Treecreeper, Goldfinch & a Broad Bodied Chaser dragonfly. After lunch we then joined part of the Wessex Ridgeway for our return journey. Along this path we had very close views of 2 Red-legged Partridges walking parallel to us separated by just a fence. Over the walk we encountered some 30-bird species including; Marsh Tit, Garden Warbler, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Kestrel, Raven & Buzzard. Once again on high ground, we were surrounded by singing Skylarks. Alongside the track and next to a field of winter wheat there was a small patch of Yellow Toadflax. Finally, several fields distant, we spotted a group of 9 Hares; which for some of our party was the largest number they had seen together at one time.
Full List of Birds below:-
Blackbird Great Tit Raven
Blackcap [H] Greenfinch Red-legged Partridge
Blue Tit Green Woodpecker Robin
Buzzard House Sparrow Rook
Carrion Crow Jackdaw Skylark
Chaffinch Kestrel Song Thrush
Chiffchaff Lapwing Swallow
Garden Warbler [H] Marsh Tit Treecreeper
Goldfinch Meadow Pipit Wood Pigeon
Great Spotted Woodpecker Pheasant Yellowhammer
Full List of Flowers below:-
Bird’sfoot Trefoil Red Campion
Black Bryony Rough Chervil
Chalk Milkwort Sanicle
Common Fumitory Silverweed
Common Rock-Rose Small Scabious
Common Spotted Orchid Valerian
Gerander Speedwell White Campion
Greater Knapweed White Helleborine
Herb Robert Wood Avens [Herb Bennet]
Little Stitchwort Yarrow
Meadow Cranesbill Yellow Rattle
Ox Eye Daisey Yellow Toadflax
Full List of Butterflies below:-
Brimstone Orange Tip
Common Blue Small Heath
Large White Speckled Wood
Other Species Found below:-
Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly
Several Carpet Moths inc a Silver Ground Carpet Moth
Sunday 29th May - Hazlebury Common
This was a joint meeting with Wiltshire & West of England groups of Butterfly Conservation.
Eight Nats members and three members from WOE branch of BCC gathered at Chapel Plaister. It was a cool, cloudy and rather windy morning to explore the oasis of natural grassland that is Hazelbury Common. This season has been quite extraordinary in that the bulk of the butterflies that are normally on the wing at this time have completed their cycle, so it was clear to all that it would require some diligence to find insects to enjoy.
Happily the group accepted this idea, and so instead of proceeding in the customary crocodile following the leader down the approved path, the group spread out across the down to widen the search and increase the probability of finding butterflies and moths sheltering low down in the grass.
A few "grass" moths were found with both Crambus pascuella & Crambus lathoniellus, but it was not until we reached the relatively sheltered area at the lower part of the down that we came across the first butterflies. Not surprisingly the first was a very battered Common Blue whose wing-edges were very frayed which did not help identification, but there were sufficient other features to go on. A few minutes later Gordon Rich made the find of the day with a male Adonis Blue. This insect was very obliging and easily "potted" which enabled all to see it really well, before being released unharmed. This species is just about hanging on at this site as in the last two years there have only been single figures recorded. Later a Large Skipper was found in the lee of the hedge and a couple more Common Blues as the weather warmed a little. By dint of working hard and looking at everything a number of moths were found and identified which included Yellow Shell, Grass Rivulet and Common Carpet as well as several micro moths with no English names, but whose scientific names were, Crambus perlella, Celypha lacunana, & Eucosma hohenwartiana.
Beetles were not ignored so Bloody Nosed and Garden Chafer were identified, but a small beautifully coloured green chafer could not be named. At the outset of the walk several handsome specimens of Salsify were seen, which is the purple coloured species, similar to Goatsbeard. Despite the adverse conditions and the perversity of the season, the group seemed to have enjoyed the challenge of a real "hands on" field meeting.
Sunday 5th June - Bratton - report to follow
Leader: Mark Turnbull
Meet: 10.30 am Grid Ref. 898 513 (Map 184). Finish: approx. 2.30 pm
Targets: Chalk downland species including Clustered Bellflower, Sainfoin, Corn Bunting, Skylark and blue butterflies.
Moderate walking with few stiles, approx 4 miles, walking boots advised.
Sunday 12th June - Bathampton - report to follow
Leader: Terry Doman
Meet: 2.30 pm at The George pub car park, Grid Ref. 777 665 (Map 172). Finish: 4.00 pm.
Target : Kingfisher.
Easy walking on mainly level footpaths and canal towpath, 1-2 miles.
Sunday 19th June - Selsey Common
Ten members met at Selsey Common, above Stroud, on this bright but blustery day. The ancient stone quarries on this site provide a fine habitat for many native plants in June including Pyramidal, Bee and Fragrant orchids. Common Spotted Orchids were still in evidence, but some weeks past their best and there were also a few spikes of Common Twayblade. Across the common we encountered Yellow Rattle and Salad Burnet growing in profusion. We found examples too of Kidney Vetch, Mouse-eared Hawkweed, Zigzag Clover and Rest Harrow. Growing in sheltered spaces were Yellow-wort, Hop Trefoil and Self-heal.
The moderate winds kept butterflies low in the vegetation, but we did see Small Heath, Adonis Blue, Meadow Brown and Marbled White.
Saturday 25th June - Bathampton Meadows and Oxbow Reserve
This memorable meeting started with a telephone call from my wife, Gillian, to say that a Peregrine had come down our chimney. Its subsequent rescue is another story!
As a warden, I am permitted to show small groups of visitors accessible parts of this Avon Wildlife Trust reserve, which is normally closed to the general public. 10 members accompanied me, including one who joined the Nats that morning. Following overnight rain, it was warm, humid and overcast, although the weather improved with a few sunny periods later.
Our target dragonfly species had been in short supply and the dull weather did not help us. We found only one male of the Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, and one female Banded Demoiselle. Butterflies were a bit better, with Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large and Small Skippers and Marbled Whites. Just outside the gate was a Common Nettle covered in Peacock butterfly caterpillars. Birds seen included a female Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Swift, however only Steve Creed saw our target bird, the Kingfisher. Whitethroat and Blackcap were heard.
The reserve was created in the mid-1990's by digging out the water-meadow to a depth of 3-6 feet, forming the oxbow lake and other pools and planting the whole site with flowers, grasses, reeds and sedges, shrubs and trees. Since then, some of these have failed, whilst others have come in by wind, water or bird activity. I am very grateful for Rob Randall's help identifying plants. New ones seen included Marsh Cudweed and Lodden Pondweed. Rob was very excited about the latter, which is only found on a few sites nationally. There was more excitement to come. Mairead King spotted Bee Orchids, a 'first' for the reserve. Then, miraculously, Rob found a Roesel's bush-cricket in long grass, another 'reserve first', and possibly only the second record for the Bath area. This species is spreading from Southeast England. The Society's survey work was enhanced by this visit.
Sunday 10th July - 12 High Bannerdown, Batheaston, BA1 7JY - report to follow
Leader: Elisabeth Allen
Meet: 9.00 am. Finish: approx 11.00 am.
Targets: Hawk-moths, Micro-moths.
An opportunity for members not in Moth Skills Group to examine the contents of a moth trap.
Saturday 16th July - Bradford-on-Avon - report to follow
Leader: John Presland
Meet: 2.00 pm at John Rennie Close, Grid Ref. 833 597 (Map 173). Finish: approx. 4.00 pm.
An easy 1-2 mile walk along the canal towpath and back along the river and through woodland.
Sunday 24th July - Knapp Hill and Walkers Hill - report to follow
Leader: Tom Cairns
Meet: 10.00 am at car park, Grid Ref. 118 638 (Map 173). Finish: 4.00 pm.
Targets: Downland plants.
Approx 5 mile walk with steep slopes over Pewsey Downs National Nature Reserve.
Saturday 6th August - Dolebury Warren - report to follow
Leader: Rob Randall
Meet: 10.30 am at Burrington Combe car park, Grid Ref. 476 587 (Map 172). Finish: 4.00 pm.
Targets: Good range of flora and fauna.
An easy walk after an initial climb, 4-5 miles, good views, boots recommended.
Wednesday 10th August - Malmesbury
A small but game group met at Malmesbury for this circular walk, along the River Avon tributaries and the hills between. Having previously encountered a field of cows with young and another with a bull, our guide took a safe and shorter route than advertised. This was all to the good, as we could linger along the river, enjoying the mixed hues of Purple Loosestrife and Bush Vetch, and to see riverside birds including the promised Kingfisher.
Most birds were keeping under cover in thick foliage, but we did manage to see or hear quite an assortment of small birds, including Chiffchaff, Linnet, Goldfinch, Blackcap and the House Sparrow.
Our hopes of seeing dragonflies in any numbers were not fulfilled, but we did find a teneral Southern Hawker, hanging in foliage by the river, and later a Brown Hawker hunting in a lane. Butterflies were more numerous – in fact we saw nine common species – but what was surprising were the large numbers of moths, including some nocturnal species. We saw Heart and Dart, Yellow Shell, Shaded Broad–bar, and micro moths Agriphila tristella, Agriphila straminella, and Udea lutealis.
The final hour of our day was spent by some in the Conygre Reserve by the Long – Stay Car Park in Malmesbury. Here we searched for our target species, the white form of Meadow Crane's-bill successfully and Burnet Saxifrage which eluded us this time.
Sunday 21st August - Shiners Wood, near Prospect Style, Lansdown
On a sunny afternoon, 19 of us set off on a walk up Broadmoor Lane, Weston, to Shiner's Wood, near Prospect Stile. The Cullimore family, in conjunction with Woodland Improvement Ltd and the Forestry Commission has converted 34 acres of arable land to native woodland. Within the last ten years it has been planted with Pedunculate Oak, Ash, Wild Cherry, Field Maple, Rowan, Silver Birch and woody shrubs, including Hazel, Crack Willow, Guelder Rose and Spindleberry. It was planted in memory of Fred Cullimore and named after a favourite horse called 'Shiner'.
On the way to and from the wood we saw Swallows congregating on wires and hunting for insects across fields, possibly getting ready to migrate. A Buzzard flew over and a Goldfinch was sitting in a nearby tree. We also saw a Field Grasshopper, Digger Wasps, flying to and from their holes in a sandy bank, and a Brown Hawker. The latter was an exciting find because it was in a 1km square where dragonflies had never previously been recorded! As we passed a sheltered sunny bank and hedgerow there were several butterflies; Speckled Woods, Gatekeepers, a Common Blue and a Silver-washed Fritillary. In the wood, which is at the open scrub stage, we found Meadow Grasshopper, Dark Bush Cricket, Long-winged Coneheads, also Meadow Brown and Small Skipper butterflies, Mesembrina meridiana a large black relative of the House Fly, 7-spot Ladybirds and Common Carder Bee. Among the flowers there were Rough Hawkbit, clovers, Creeping and Woolly Thistles, Black Medick, Fleabane, Agrimony and Centaury.[GB]
Saturday 10th September - Claverton Down Woods / Breach Wood - report to follow
Leaders: Dave Shorten and Rob Randall
Meet: 10.30 am opposite toilets at entrance to Free Field, Grid Ref. 764 627 (Map 172). Finish: either 12.30 pm or 4.30 pm.
Morning: Easy walking on flat ground. Bring container(s) for fungi if desired.
Afternoon: Breach Wood. Meet at 2.00 pm by pedestrian crossing at bottom of Rush Hill, Grid Ref. 726 630 (Map 172). A short road walk with a few inclines followed by a leisurely stroll around Breach Wood, oak with hazel coppice, boots recommended.
Wednesday 14th September - Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall - report to follow
Leader: Chris Phillips
Meet: 10.30 am in Main Car Park, Grid Ref. 449 397 (Map 182). Finish: approx. 4.00 pm.
Targets: Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Lapwing.
A level walk of approx 2 miles along old railway with visits to bird hides.
Saturday 24th September - Newbridge Park and Ride Car Park
Six members of the society joined me on a walk along the Avon Valley Walkway, starting at the Newbridge Park and Ride Car Park at 10:00. The weather was dry, yet cloudy and reasonably warm for the time of year at 12-19ºC. We took the archway under the road (next to the Boat House Inn) and along the tow path past the Bath Marina and Caravan site. This little section was quite productive for snails and it wasn’t long before we had found half a dozen different species, although most of them were White-lipped Banded Snails or members of the Glass Snails family. As the glass snails are difficult to identify in the field without a means of keying them, I collected a few empty shells for identification at home.
We used the Bath-Bitton cycle path to cross the river and join the river side path towards Kelston on the other side. The sun broke through the clouds and it became quite warm. A couple of Green-veined White Butterflies ventured forth, a Buzzard circled overhead and a Green Woodpecker ‘yaffled’ from the trees on the other side of the river. The Amber Snail that I had seen on the damp reconnaissance earlier in the week must have though it too warm and dry this time and didn’t make a show. I found a larva of the Green Sheild Bug (Palomena prasina) and shortly afterwards we found an adult. Nearby I saw, perched on some foliage, a male Southern Hawker Dragonfly with half of one rear wing missing, but this didn’t seem to impair its ability to fly.
Rob Randall found some rare Loddan Pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) in the river. As the river curved under the cycle track, we re-joined it and returned towards our starting point. The drier bed of the old railway track offered a slightly different variety of snails. The walk finished at 13:50.
- Garden Snail (Helyx aspersa)
- Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana)
- Copse Snail (Arianta arbustorum)
- White-lipped Banded Snail (Cepaea hortensis)
- Girdled Snail (Hygromia cinctella)
- Strawberry Snail (Trichia striolata)
- Silky Snail (Ashfordia granulata)
- Rounded Snail (Discus rotundatus)
- Slipper Snail (Cochlicopa lubrica)
- Cellar Glass Snail (Oxychilus cellarius)
- Wrinkled Snail (Candidula intersecta)
- Garlic Glass Snail (Oxychilus alliarus)
- Hairy Snail (Trichia hispida)
- Lesser Bulin (Ena obscura)
- Two-toothed Door Snail (Clausilia bidentata)
Sunday 16th October - River Axe, Devon
This joint coach meeting with Bath RSPB group, was a first introduction to the Axe Estuary for many of our party. In spite of early rain, when the coach passed though Crewkern, the rest of the day was fine and good weather contributed to a pleasant day out. We arrived early and parked in the coach park, adjacent to the tram terminus and waited for Don Cotton from the local RSPB group our guide for the day. A quick check revealed that the tram terminus toilets were closed for two weeks. Don came to the rescue and suggested we move the coach to the beach. Much relieved we returned to the coach park, to walk to the Seaton hide. On the way Don explained the various developments that have been made to improve the habitat.
Lunch was taken, by request, on the beach in warm sunshine, watching swimmers taking a dip and looking longingly at Beer Head where a Ring Ousel had been seen that morning. After lunch we returned to the coach park to pick up Don and move to a side street close to Black Hole Marsh and Colyford Common. Here we then visited four very impressive hides, overlooking the River Axe and various lagoons. While watching the birds, we were amused by the trams passing in front of the hides travelling between Seaton and Colyford. Notable birds seen included Blacktailed Godwits, Greenshank, Redshank, Green-sandpiper, Curlew, Wimbrel, Lapwing, Shellduck, Wigeon, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk and Kingfisher.
In total 43 species of birds were recorded on the day. Also seen were Southern Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies, a Stoat and several Rats that provided a subject for our photographers. A few weeks before this visit there had been a Hoopoe and Semi-palmated Sandpiper in this area and in the previous year Black Hole Marsh had hosted a Solitary Sandpiper. Although we were unlucky on the day to see such rarities, it illustrates the quality of the Axe estuary and floodplain nature reserve and will surely warrant another visit in the future.
MH / PD
Sunday 16th October - Fungus foray – Westonbirt Arboretum and Silk Wood
Leaders: Cotswold Fungus Group (Annual event)
Meet: 10.00 am in main car park close to Visitors' Centre, Grid Ref. 851 898 (Map Landranger 173).
Normal entry fees apply. Finish approx 4.00 pm.
Easy walking, bring hand lens, small knife and basket/tray. The best of the collected specimens will be laid out at the end of the meeting.
Sunday 13th November - Widcombe/Bathwick/Smallcombe stroll
Twenty-six of us enjoyed this stroll in sunny weather. From the garden centre, along the canal to the footbridge to Sydney Buildings, up behind the houses on the west side of Bathwick Hill and down into Smallcombe on part of the National Trust's Skyline Walk recently diverted to skirt around the farm. Because we were in the lee of Bathwick Hill, we were sheltered from the southeasterly breeze. At the highest point, it is possible to see as far as Wales in clear visibility although we found it too hazy. We went into the cemetery and along the track to Horseshoe Walk to rejoin the canal in Widcombe.
Because the weather had been unseasonably warm there were still a few flowers in bloom. A Peacock and a Red Admiral butterfly were enjoying the sun along the new path. Some Blewits, a type of mushroom normally found in pastureland, were spotted on an area of mown grass on Horseshoe Walk. Although the birds seen were mainly common ones, unless we record them, we do not know what has disappeared. Incidentally we saw no House Sparrows in the hedge by the canal where they used to be seen frequently. There were numbers of Wood Pigeon, Magpie and Jackdaw. We heard some birds, which Lucy helped us identify, including Dunnock and Blackcap. Others seen were Wren, Robin, Bullfinch, Goldfinches, Greenfinch, Redwing, Kestrel, Jay and Pied Wagtail. Two or more Ravens can be seen frequently flying over this area, but we saw only one. In Smallcombe there was an almost white Buzzard, which kindly perched to give us a good view.
For those of us who reached the canal bridge on Horseshoe Walk there was a distant view of a Peregrine perched on the spire of St John's Church, a fitting end to the walk!
[A & GB]
Sunday 11th December - Litton Reservoir
The unpromising weather forecast did not deter 8 members from turning up for this walk and we were rewarded with the sighting of 31 bird species. Herons were numerous, with 15 in just one field, Redwing and Fieldfare too, were evident in large numbers, while Long-tailed Tits were present in several noisy flocks. A small group of Teal showed in excellent light on the upper reservoir. While the hoped-for kingfisher did not appear, we had splendid close-up views of a Grey Wagtail. Due to the mild winter there was a surprising number of flowering plants to be seen, including a couple of snowdrops and some hazel catkins. We enjoyed a dry walk with surprisingly good light, although somewhat muddy underfoot.
28th or 29th December - Imber Ranges
Eight members met at the Warminster entrance to the Imber Ranges and very soon we saw a flock of 23 Golden Plover and a Peregrine Falcon that glided past moments later.
Through the morning we experienced several showers, with some heavy downpours and although we were not caught out in the open, the weather did curtail our activity somewhat.
On our approach to Imber village, a flock of 18 Lapwing flew up and a solitary Stock Dove was found.
As we travelled onward, numerous small parties of Fieldfare, Starling and on two occasions parties of Goldfinch were seen from our cars. Buzzards seemed to be thriving in this habitat.
We drove up to New Zealand Camp and in the trees here, with a small Chaffinch flock we saw a couple of Bramblings.
It was pleasing to find a good population of Kestrels on the Plain as Kestrel numbers have dropped considerably.
The weather improved in the afternoon and it became sunny but remained cold and windy. At Haxton Down, we tried two Barn Owl sites without success, before spending the rest of the afternoon watching a Short Eared Owl roosting site. Initially there was little activity apart from Buzzards and one quickly disappearing Peregrine Falcon. However at 4pm. we had several sightings of female Hen Harriers quartering the ground. Their colour showed well as they banked and turned in weak sunlight and two birds dropped down to roost in the long grass.
We kept looking down the valley for Short Eared Owls without success, until at 4.30pm. we were surprised by a solitary Short Eared Owl flying high above us.
The light was now fading and to avoid the onset of hypothermia we decided to travel home.
It was pleasing that this trip was so productive, as in the previous year a similar trip was cancelled due to bad weather.
Sunday 3 January - Annual New Year Walk, Bath
Despite the seasonal frosty nights and low daytime temperatures, thirteen members joined the leaders under a blue sky, on a calm and sunny morning. Shortly before the start of the meeting, a Green Woodpecker was disturbed from the gardens at Frankcom House and, as we gathered together in our forecourt, a Sparrowhawk flew overhead. Adjacent to Beckford Road, where we joined the canal towpath, we found a single Fieldfare, a male Chaffinch and a female Blackcap. Overhead we heard the thin high pitched "seep" note of Redwing, one of a large number to be seen currently in and around Bath.
We progressed down the track towards Grosvenor Bridge, under the railway arch and turned right into the fields, following the River Avon eastward along the south bank. Here we saw some of the Cormorants, which regularly perch high on electrical pylons. Along the riverbank were, Grey Heron, Mallard, Moorhen, and most notably a single Little Grebe. All of us enjoyed a sustained view of a Green Woodpecker clambering among branches of a pollarded Willow. A couple of Buzzards flew from a riverside copse, pursued by carrion crows. Small passerine species were thin on the ground, but those seen included Dunnock, Robin, Blue and Great Tit and Goldfinch. On reaching the stile on Mill Lane it was good to see about a dozen Lapwing along with Black Headed Gulls in the fields opposite.
At the Toll Bridge, the bright sunshine highlighted the yellow undertail feathers of the Grey Wagtail. Our attention was then taken by three fishermen, who had just landed a massive Pike, which weighed in at 15lb 4oz. After being photographed, the fish was returned to the river and slipped away down stream. The return walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath was pleasant although we saw very few small birds. These included a small party of Long Tailed, Blue & Great Tits, Robin and a variety of corvids, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove. Ravens were seen the day before, now not an uncommon sight in and around the city.
Sunday 24 January - Birds - Cotswold Water Park
Following the thaw of recent snow, water levels were still high and a few lakes (pits) remained frozen in places. Fifteen members gathered at Neighbridge, viewing three adjacent pits, before making the short car journey, to the Lower Mill Estate parking area. From here we walked along The Thames Path eastward, stopping at several pits to view wildfowl. Highlights were Goosander on most pits, 2 drake and 3 "redhead" Smew on pit 29, and 46 Red Crested Pochard on pit 44.
Lunch was taken at the Information Centre, which contains an interesting geological display. The prize exhibit is a fossil mammoth skull, excavated from local gravel workings. It reminded one member of childhood lessons, where his brother was told of cave men in past times. His parents were later very amused when the lad asked them "what was it like when you had to live in a cave?!"
By group consent, we visited nearby villages of Driffield and Harnhill. At Driffield, we added several passerine species to our list, including Greenfinch, Redwing, Fieldfare and Yellowhammer. At my (Lucy) suggestion, we walked through the field north of the church. With each step we seemed to gain height, where the soil was sticking to our boots. However, the walk proved successful, as we found two Hares laying low in their "forms" and among the many feeding Rooks from the large rookery close-by, a small party of Stock Doves. Then, to my great joy, I located six Grey Partridges. Our good fortune continued in Harnhill, where we found up to three Tree Sparrows, although seen only by a few lucky members. Here the meeting closed, having recorded some 60 species.
Three of us went to see a gull roost on flooded fields by the Thames at Eysey Manor Farm, where many gulls were bathing. Coming home in fading light, we were lucky to see a Barn Owl hunting beside the B4040 just west of Minety; a great end to a most enjoyable day in good company.
Sunday 7 February - Blashford Lakes Wildlife Reserve near Ringwood
Our first visit to this Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Reserve for both societies will surely be repeated. It ticked all the boxes; birds, pleasant scenery, comfortable hides, an information centre with toilets, and well laid-out, with sign-posted level paths.
We saw most of the common wildfowl species, including Goosander and Goldeneye, the male of the latter species occasionally throwing their heads back in display posture to a female. There were notable numbers Gadwall and Wigeon, but only a few Pintail. A "red head" Smew, White Fronted Geese and a male Ruddy Duck were not seen by everyone.
The "hot-spot", in terms of much enthusiastic feedback from members, was around the information centre and the Woodland Hide. The stars of the show for everyone were undoubtedly the Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling, with a supporting cast, including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and various tit species. Feeders situated around the Woodland Hide afforded wonderful close views and excellent photographic opportunities. Other notable woodland birds seen away from the hides were Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush, (singing) and Bullfinch. We recorded almost 60 species at the reserve.
My thanks to Mike Hawken and Terry Doman for acting as co-leaders in our "three-way split" and to all the hard work by Mike, Alan Barrett and Glenys Henshaw in organising the coach and dealing with the booking forms.
Saturday 13 February - Birds - Marshfield
An amazing thirty two members attended this walk despite a cold wind and near freezing temperatures. We started by the West Littleton road turning off along Northfield track heading towards Rushmead Lane, soon noting various typical farmland birds including Skylark and Meadow Pipit. At Rushmead Lane we then split into two groups, the first group headed towards Rushmead Farm where we found the local specialities -Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting and several people managed to get views of Brambling among the flocks of finches around the buildings and machinery. The second group walked up Orchid Lane to view over towards the M4 where more finches were evident, and also some very distant Lapwings. The two groups then changed places. Ravens called overhead as well as Buzzard and Kestrel and after taking lunch at Rushmead barn, some of the group departed, and those remaining walked to the end of Rushmead Lane and back along the West Littleton road to our starting point. A total of 42 bird species were seen.
Wednesday 24 March - Multiple interest - Kilmersdon/Great Elm
Blessed with a dry and fairly bright morning, thirteen members met at Kilmersdon, for a short walk along the old railway path (National Cycle Route 24) to Mells. Along the route are reminders of the railway heritage, including now very overgrown rails and a guards van. Enamel finger signs depict old style station directions, located on the bridges.
30 species of birds were seen and or heard, including Chiffchaff (early Spring migrant), Song and Mistle Thrush, Skylark, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer and Raven, We located Red Legged Partridge in nearby ploughed fields. There was some welcome flowering colour along the path; clumps of Primrose, Violets, Coltsfoot and Dog's Mercury and a number of types of fungi – puff-ball, King Alfred's cakes, and scarlet elfcup. Phillip Delve spotted a Weasel carrying a Mole in its mouth, but unfortunately most of the group did not see that. As we stopped for lunch, the rain which had been forecast arrived, and we retraced our steps back to Kilmersdon.
Saturday 10 April - Multiple interest - Wellow (National cycle route 24)
Eighteen members and a potential new member, gathered on a warm and sunny afternoon at the old Somerset and Dorset Railway siding car park where we listened to migrant Chiffchaff and Blackcap, whilst gazing up at a soaring Sparrowhawk that was disturbing the newly arrived Swallows. After hearing a brief history of the railway in the area, the walk took us through the village and past the Fox and Badger Pub then down past the old railway signal box to the ford and stream at the bottom of the valley. We had distant views of Red-legged Partridge and Great Spotted Woodpecker while House Sparrows and House Martins flew close around the houses and gardens. A Grey Wagtail stayed a while at the stream edge but only a few members saw the Kingfisher speed past when Lucy Delve called it. We walked on up the hill toward the church, where some saw a Mistle Thrush, whilst others were delayed looking at a group of caterpillars. Phillip Delve's photographs identified them as those of a Scarlet Tiger Moth. Leaving the village we joined the old railway again (National Cycle route 24) close to the Wellow Trekking Centre, where we saw around ten or so Yellowhammers and an Orange Tip butterfly, adding to Brimstone and Peacock seen close to the car park. We stopped at the geological stack of rocks, held together in a steel frame. It shows examples of the rock strata identified by a local man from near-by Tucking Mill, William Smith, and is a fine monument to his work in producing the geological map of the British Isles in the year 1815. A total of 24 species of bird were seen.
Thursday 15 April - Multiple interest - Lacock (Old Wilts & Berks Canal)
Sixteen people attended this four mile linear walk through fields and wooded footpaths along the canal tow-path. The cold wind did not deter the bird song and several Chiffchaff and Blackcap were heard, particularly in the wooded area. A Tawny Owl, Grey Heron, Jay, two Swallows, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were among the birds seen.
The canal having been partly restored has water in places and spring plants were just beginning to grow, such as Water Crowfoot buds (Batrachium, sp), Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and a few flowering Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris). A patch of Cowslips (Primula veris) was found on the bank and the first signs of Ramsons flowers (Allium ursinum) were beginning to show. There were a few unidentified fish in the water and frog spawn at the edge, some of which had been eaten and some with developing tadpoles. Last year's Reed-mace was growing profusely and still had its fluffy seeds erupting. [NB A Reed-mace (Typha latifolia) is often wrongly called 'bullrush'. A bulrush (Scirpus lacustris) is a rush and is in a different family altogether.] On the return walk we watched a Carrion Crow sitting on a nest high up in a poplar tree and very visible, with a mate watching nearby.
Saturday 24 April - Countryside Ramble - Avon Valley, Saltford
Nineteen members were blessed with a stunning Spring weather for this, our third such walk in this area, the previous two were winter meetings. The walk took an extra thirty minutes, probably due to the more varied natural history interest in April. Before we had even left the car park at the Shallows, the three common raptors of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard had all been seen we noted a Song Thrush as we climbed up to the Batch.
Approaching St Mary's Church, we eventually saw a singing Goldcrest, and we soon then heard the songs of Chiffchaff and Blackcap close to the cycle path. The timing of this walk was aimed at seeing incoming migrants and we were fortunate to get very good views of a singing Lesser Whitethroat as we approached the Medieval Ponds, although Common Whitethroats were absent. A single and silent Willow Warbler was a surprise in an area usually well blessed for this species.
Being a relatively large party, those at the front of the group missed a Swift seen by those at the rear in Avon Lane. Fortunately, a sizeable flock of about twenty birds greeted us at the entrance to the Avon Farm Estate and it was great to hear them screaming overhead in such warm conditions after the long, cold winter. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard and seen by some members and a pair of Stock Doves were a surprise sighting further along the river. A relatively common winter visitor in the fields, this species usually moves out of the immediate area during the breeding season.
Butterflies were well represented with Orange Tip, Comma, Green Veined White and Speckled Woods all on the wing, as well as the expected Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and the odd Brimstone. Spring flora interest included Lady's Smocks, in flower near Swineford Locks.
The final tally was 38 species of bird. Ironically, it was only when I arrived home that I recorded my first Holly Blue and Large Red Damselfly of the year in my garden - species that we had searched for during the morning's walk. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, enhanced by the warm sunny weather and lovely scenery.
Sunday 9 May Birds - Goldcliff and Newport Wetlands RSPB Reserve
In unseasonal cold, overcast but dry conditions, eight members and one guest met in the small car park area at Goldcliff RSPB reserve, immediately noting the song of a Wiillow Warbler and parties of Linnets overhead. Moving to the first platform, we found a rich selection of waders and wildfowl including approximately 12 Avocet, flocks of Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit, several Redshank and Lapwing, an Oystercatcher, a single male Garganey, a small group of Gadwall, Shelduck, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret. Amongst the Dunlin, Phillip spotted a Curlew Sandpiper, almost in its full brick-red breeding plumage. Passerines included Skylark, Meadow Pipit, a male Reed Bunting, Swallows, House Martins and Swifts. From here we walked slowly around to the sea wall, en route, hearing Reed Warblers and one Lesser Whitethroat which was also seen briefly.
From the sea wall, we had a good view of the nesting Avocets, and on the 'rear' lagoon we added Tufted Duck, also a single female Wheatear and a White Wagtail on the wall itself. On the shore we located a Whimbrel and a single Common Gull in the company of four Herring Gulls. We then returned, stopping at the third platform where Ann Strahan picked out a Spotted Redshank in full breeding plumage feeding in the shallow water.
After lunch we made the short drive to the Newport Wetlands RSPB Reserve to be greeted by a singing Song Thrush and brief glimpses of Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. From the visitor centre we could hear a Cuckoo calling not too far away so headed in its direction and some members had stunning close-up views of this bird perched on a pylon. Further along the path, Ann did well again finding a perched Little Owl, as we proceeded around the reserve in an anti-clockwise direction, hearing occasional blasts of song from Cetti's Warblers. From the foreshore, we found a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover and a group of four Whimbrel. Around the lighthouse, a few Reed Warblers could be heard but the light breeze seemed to be discouraging them, and a Sedge Warbler, from presenting themselves for good views. Wildfowl on the lagoons included Tufted Duck, Pochard, together with Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe.
As we watched from the blinds, Lucy Delve spotted one of the target species, Bearded Reedling at some distance in the reeds fringing the lagoon. We enjoyed 'scope views of a very active female together with occasional views of the male. Very few insects of any note were seen, owing to the cool conditions.
Saturday 22 May - Insects/Botany/Birds – Colerne Wood
Ten members enjoyed a very warm sunny stroll from Thickwood village, down into this tranquil deciduous woodland managed by The Woodland Trust. We began with an unexpected Red Kite, loudly called by Phillip Delve, the bird eventually being chased off by two Buzzards. More predictable species followed, including Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer and the low and deep "cronking" of a Raven, an increasingly more common sight around Bath. Tom pointed out Yellow Archangel, Wood Melick Grass (Melica uniflora) local to the area and Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) Rob Randall drew our attention to a Nomada species of bee investigating bare patches below the hedgerow; small, with yellow/black striped abdomen not unlike a little wasp, but with orange/brown legs.
Near the wood entrance, Lucy Delve briefly heard a Bullfinch calling and a Treecreeper singing. Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Wren were all very audible. The dominant tree seemed to be Ash, together with Wych Elm, Beech and Hazel. Among the prolific Wild Garlic and Dog's Mercury, Tom located Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum multiflorun) and Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) some of the latter trying to confuse the unwary naturalist by having five leaves! We found a few Early Purple Orchids in full flower, but the Greater Butterfly Orchid in the open "meadow" was only in bud. Lepitoptera here included Green Hairstreak, Common Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies, Mother Shipton, Burnet Companion and Muslin moths, to add to Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Green Veined and Large White and a Silver Ground Carpet moth seen earlier. Other interesting insects included a species of Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis), a dark black small hoverfly (Portevinia Maculata) whose larvae eat the roots of Wild Garlic, a few female Beautiful Demoiselle and a not too close encounter with a Hornet.
Back in the wood and returning to the steps up to the entrance, Lucy Delve located a Spotted Flycatcher, having identified the bird on its Robin like "tick" call. Tall ash trees in this type of habitat are ideal breeding sites of this migrant. (All sightings of this species should be reported to the relevant County Records Centre - Tom will submit all notable records of the meeting to the Wiltshire Biological Records Centre.
Wednesday 26 May - Insects – Hazelbury Common, near Box, Wiltshire
Seventeen members attended on a sunny, warm (18 degs c) morning in a light NE breeze and we had little difficulty finding butterflies. Target species of Marsh Fritillary and Dingy Skipper were seen well but no Grizzled Skippers could be located. Other species on the wing were Common Blue, Orange Tip, Large and Small White.
We found a good number of moths including Burnet Companion, Mother Shipton, Small Yellow Underwing, Silver Y, Green Carpet, Grass Rivulet and several Pyrausta sp. Then came the find of the day, by Gordon Rich, a pair of mating Narrow Bordered Bee Hawk moths. Other insects included Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata), Birch Weevil, Cardinal beetle, Sailor beetle and Bloody Nose beetle larvae. The usual orchids were on show at this time were Twayblade, Common Spotted and Green Winged Orchid although not in the usual numbers. Bird life was fairly quiet with only Buzzard, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and Lesser Whitethroat being noted during our visit to this very rich and interesting site.
Saturday 5 June - Multiple Interest - Arne RSPB Reserve, Dorset
32 of us set off by coach on this joint RSPB/Bath Natural History Society trip to Arne RSPB Nature Reserve on the west coast of Poole Harbour about 4 miles south of Wareham. It covers about 535 hectares and is part of Purbeck Heaths. Lowland heath is an internationally threatened habitat restricted to NW Europe. We were fortunate to have a fine day and expected the reserve to be crowded as it had featured on "Springwatch" that week, but it was not.
We started the day with a walk around Combe Heath as we were told that there were 11 Dartford warbler nests in this area. Most of us were lucky to see this elusive bird. One was on the top of a gorse bush long enough for some to see it through a telescope. Others saw a family moving around in bushes. Their scratchy song could be heard. Stonechats, meadow and tree pipits were also seen in this area. Out on the mudflats were shelduck with young, little egrets and black-headed gulls. The walk passes a pond where there were large red and azure damselflies, four-spotted and broad-bodied chasers, an immature keeled skimmer and a male emperor dragonfly. Near the pond were a raft spider and a green tiger beetle.
In the afternoon, most of us visited the east side, where there was a choice of several walks. Sika deer could be seen in various places, including near the water at Shipstal Point where there was also a fawn. Other walks went through heath, woods and farmland. Along these a nightjar was heard churring, as they do sometimes during the day, and great spotted woodpeckers, a hornet and finches could be seen.
The new visitor centre had a video link to nests of barn owls and kestrels. Some of the young had been eaten by stronger ones. Hopefully some will survive! Hot drinks were available from a machine that had arrived since we had done our recce.
The gorse was in full bloom, but the heather was still in bud. Some late spring flowers, such as bluebell, violet and ground ivy were around. We also found heath bedstraw, bog myrtle and bird's foot trefoil. It was disappointing that only one or two butterflies, including a probable silver studded blue, were seen. In all, however, it was a good day with 31 species of bird seen and 2 heard.
Tuesday 8 June - Multiple Interest – Kennet and Avon Canal Towpath Walk
John Garrett, Tom Rogers and Bill Bristow joined Lucy and Phillip Delve prepared for heavy showers, with, hopefully, some bright or sunny spells in between. Although conditions were not ideal for insects, it was warm and humid, with long dry spells, some sunshine, and only two short but heavy downpours. Blue-tailed Damselflies drifted among the vegetation along the towpath and Phillip located a White-legged Damselfly the River Avon near the Pumping Station and Red-eyed Damselfly on floating vegetation on the station pond among the very active Banded Demoiselles. The target species, Scarce Chaser, was not found. Tom spotted a Large Skipper butterfly sitting low among the Yellow Flag Iris and Hemp Agrimony and Bill later noticed a pale coloured moth flying toward us; this was soon identified as a Brimstone. Phillip's keen eyes found a diminutive nymph Dark Bush Cricket and as we walked down to the Pumping Station, he spotted a Scarlet Tiger moth in flight, showing its unmistakable bright red under-wing; this day-time flying species was no doubt freshly emerged.
The meeting was a great bird watching success. Birdsong included Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler and several Song Thrush and Lucy was delighted to find a Marsh Tit, sadly a declining species. We enjoyed close encounters with families of Blue and Great Tit, Linnet, Whitethroat and Wren, observing the parent birds feeding their young fledglings. The Wren's nest was in a low ivy covered wall by the Claverton Pumping Station pond. An adult bird made several flights to and from a nearby oak tree, collecting insects and we could just see a chick's mouth receiving the food. On one occasion, the adult took away a faecal sack. There were brief interruptions to our Wren watching when a pair of Kingfishers suddenly appeared close to the buildings, and other notable birds here included Swallow, Raven, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail Grey Heron and Buzzard. And, when not looking or listening to birds, we took note of some of the flowering plants, Bill drawing our attention to Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes). A very enjoyable "Springwatch" walk.
Sunday 4 July - Insects/Botany - Bannerdown, Bath
On a morning that did not appear promising, sixteen enthusiasts joined me on this area of calcareous grassland above Batheaston. They included five non-members who had read about the walk in "Local Look" magazine. We started very slowly, below an overcast sky looking at nearly every flower and insect. Not all butterflies require sun to fly. We saw many Ringlets and some Meadow Browns and when the sun eventually appeared, we found Marbled White, Brown Argus, Small, Large and Essex Skippers, Comma, Red Admiral, Small Copper and Speckled Wood, plus Peacock caterpillars. Other insects included Six-spot Burnet Moth, male and female Dark Bush Crickets, Meadow Grasshopper, a female Glow Worm, a Scorpion Fly, and a Longhorn Beetle Strangalia species. Birds were lying low, but Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Wren were seen and Bullfinch, Chiffchaff and Blackcap heard. Flowers were, however, abundant, with at least 50 species identified. The highlights were the orchids, Common Spotted and Pyramidal, Milkwort, Horseshoe Vetch, Squinancywort, Wild Basil, Bittersweet, Carline Thistle, Rock Rose, Yellow-wort, Common Thyme, Restharrow, Fairy Flax and Small Scabious.
Saturday 24 July - Insects/Botany/Birds - Priddy & Stockhill, Mendips
I decided to divide the large party (twenty-one members and four visitors) and am grateful to Lucy and Phillip Delve who acted as co-leaders for half of the group. The weather conditions were initially calm, cloudy and humid. Fortunately, a brief spell of sunshine before we all left the car park stirred some butterflies, including Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Peacock and Marbled White.
We all then crossed the road before shortly heading in opposite directions on the Mineries site, where lead was mined for about 2000 years until the 1800s. One of our target species, a female Black Darter, (mainly yellow) was located in long grass. In the afternoon, the male, (black) was also found. The Waldergrave Pool, to the north, is largely covered by vegetation. Nevertheless, we found Emperor Dragonflies, a Four-spotted Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer and Emerald, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure damselflies. On 3 July Downy Emeralds were abundant, but their flight period had probably ended. Our other target, the Common Hawker, proved elusive. Additional butterfly species included Small Copper, Small Heath, Small Skipper, and Large Skipper. The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary season appeared to be over (two seen on 3 July). Notable birds species of some 20 identified) were Crossbills (party of 5 flying and calling over the car park) Stonechat, Reed Bunting, a pair of Tree Pipits, Skylark and Raven. Other fauna included juvenile frogs and toads, Bloody-nosed Beetle and a web-spinning spider, Araneas quadratus. Moths included Common and Wood Carpet, Brown China Mark, Shaded Broad-bar, Scarlet Tiger, Large Yellow Underwing, Copper Underwing, Agriphola straminella, and Udea lutealis and the caterpillars of Fox and Cinnabar moths. The highlights of over 30 species of flora recorded were Yellow Rattle, Eyebright, Thyme, Bladder Campion, Bog Asphodel and Rough Chervil.
Despite the lack of management of the reserve (including the Waldergrave Pool) previously carried out by The Somerset Wildlife Trust, its flora and fauna appear not to be unduly diminished, as this very successful meeting demonstrates.
Sunday 7 November - Trees/Birds - Stourhead, Wiltshire
Thirteen members and one visitor joined us for a pleasant five-mile stroll around this National Trust Estate. Periods of sunshine enhanced the glorious autumn colours of the beech, lime and larch, although many deciduous trees had lost most of their leaves following recent strong winds. At the start of the meeting, we listened to recorded birdcalls, on Ann Strahan's iPod, to remind ourselves of the sharp metallic ""chip chip" call of the Common Crossbill and the single nasal squeaky flight call of the Brambling. Phillip and I had found both species here on 1st November. We walked to the entrance of the gardens and stopped to admire the views across the main lake and some members took photographs. Wildfowl included Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes. Around the edge of the smaller lower lake, with its cascade and water wheel, we found Green Sandpiper, Grey Heron and Grey Wagtail. The range of birdsong at this time of year is limited predominantly to the Tits family, Goldcrests, Wrens and Robins. Most members heard and saw small parties of Redwing as we walked towards "Shady Hanging" which consists of Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Large and Western Hemlock. As we ascended the wooded path, a party of calling Crossbills, flew overhead. As we kept an ear out for more Crossbills, we studied a patch of fungi, now past their best, including Wood Blewitts and Puff Balls. We stopped for thirty minutes at the top of the slope in the open grassy ride and some members walked the short distance to Alfred's Tower. Around the tall beeches in this area, we found Chaffinch, Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh Tit and Nuthatch. Skylarks called briefly and we had a glimpse of a Raven and a Buzzard. I then heard a fairly distant Brambling from the beeches ahead. We walked along the wooded edge by the ploughed field where there was a flock of about 30 Chaffinch and everyone saw at least one Brambling through a telescope. Sadly no more of the Crossbills was seen. The walk south from St Peter's Pump towards Stourhead House was taken at a steady pace as some threatening purple/black clouds gathered. However, the sun continued to shine and the backdrop of trees in this stunning Georgian landscape provided us with fine views to enjoy as we made our way back to the reception centre. The leaders recorded a total of 41 species seen or heard on the walk.
No reports available...
Saturday 15 March - Chew Valley lake
Seven members met at Herriotts Bridge for a morning visit to the lake to see water birds and early spring migrants. We did spot Sand Martins and heard Chiffchaffs singing, and then, by Mike Bailey's invitation, visited the ringing station where he retrapped a Water Rail and also Greenfinch and Robin. After this we had heavy rain and so decided to cut short the meeting. [RMC]
Sunday 30 March - Swell Wood and Greylake
Nine members met at Swell Wood, west of Langport, on a bright, sunny, spring day, with Chaffinch, Robin, Nuthatch, and Coal, Great and Blue Tits all making use of the feeders provided in the RSPB car park. From the hide we saw numerous nesting Herons, many of them having successfully hatched their brood. This is the largest heronry in the South-west and can number 100-150 nests. A short walk through the wood, accompanied by an RSPB volunteer, revealed Bluebells, Primroses, Wood Anemones, Violets, Lesser Celandines, Dog's Mercury and Hartstongue fern. Among the birds we spotted Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Sparrowhawk, and a Nuthatch inspecting the entrance to an unused Woodpecker nesting chamber. We lunched at Greylake reserve where we spent some time in the hide, seeing Snipe, Little Grebe, Reed Bunting, and Ravens nesting on a pylon. Finally we paid a short visit to Shapwick Heath. Here we found a Great White Egret that obligingly stayed close to a Little Egret, showing very clearly the difference between the two. We also sighted a pair of Long-tailed Tits constructing a nest in a gorse bush, Water Rail, and Otter paw prints visible in the mud, to round off an enjoyable day on which we had amazing bird count of fifty-one species.
Wednesday 9 April - Keynsham and Willsbridge
A group of eleven members met on the edge of Keynsham for a rural stroll of four miles up to the very edge of Bristol. The first part of the walk along the Avon to Hanham Lock gave us our first warblers of the day - Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler - plus the Kingfisher promised in the programme. Here too we saw Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow - the first of the year for most. Further along we came close to a Kestrel perched on a dead tree by the path and obviously not interested in people, making our cautious approach unnecessary. As we neared Willsbridge, we looked out in vain for the two Redstarts seen on the recce just three days earlier, but no doubt they had just been travelling through. Willsbridge Mill Nature Reserve looked very beautiful in its fresh greenery, and here we paused for lunch and a welcome cuppa from the Warden. By the time we reached Bitton Station via the Bath & Bristol Cycle Path we had seen most of the bird species that we tallied that day – a total of 40 in all, including Jay, Raven, Buzzard, Mistle and Song Thrushes, Bullfinch and Grey Wagtail. But imagine our surprise, as we walked back through the fields to the Avon, to find many Fieldfare and one Redwing in one field, still overwintering here this cold spring. Although bright, it was so cool we saw only one butterfly on the whole walk – a Peacock. And the only mammals spotted were three Muntjac deer. [EA]
Saturday 12 April - Spring fungus foray - Lower Woods, Wetmoor
Three members of Bath Nats joined three from the Cotswold Fungus Group to look for fungi on this Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve. Before exploring the woods, the leader introduced the party to species likely to be seen. These were mostly members of the Morel family, but also included Scarlet Elf Cup and St. George's Mushroom. All were seen during the morning apart from the Flat Morel (but see report of the Batheaston meeting of 19 April). Most finds were small and inconspicuous, colonising dead and rotting wood. More conspicuous species included (1) Ascomycetes - Morels (Mitrophora semilibera and Verpa conica), Bachelor's Buttons (Bulgaria inquinans), Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca), Eye-lash Fungus (Scutellinia scutellata), King Alfred's Cakes (Daldinia concentrica), and wood stained green by Chlorociboria aeruginascens;/ and (2) Basidiomycetes - St. George's Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa), Velvet Shank (Flamulina velutipes), bootlaces of Honey Fungus (Armillaria sp.) and the bracket-fungus Crepidotus mollis. New to the reserve were: Inocybe phaeodisca, Funalia trogii, Phellinus punctatus, Physisporinus vitreus, Trechispora farinacea, Melampsora populnea (on Dog's Mercury), Diaporthe arctii (on Burdock), Botryosphaeria dothidea (on Rose), Microthyrium ciliatum var.hederae (on Ivy), Ciboria amentacea, Bertia moriformis, Rosellinia desmazieresii and Phomopsis euphorbiae (on Wood Spurge), taking the total list to over 600. [DS/RDR]
Saturday 19 April - Alien Invasion of Batheaston
Four Bristol Nats members joined eight from Bath Nats to search for garden escapes and other non-native species. The party ascended Fosse Lane, where most species were found. Few-flowered Leek (Allium paradoxum) was dominant in a sunken section of the lane and Coral-root Bitter-cress (Cardamine bulbifera) was abundant farther up, although a few were seen much lower down the hill than in previous years. Eastern Comfrey (Symphytum orientale) had been reduced to a few plants. A few plants of Tutsan, another shrubby Hypericum and Stinking Hellebore had either escaped or been planted. Some Crested Field-speedwell (Veronica crista-gallii) was seen but larger colonies lined the hedgebanks in Steway Lane on the way back. A surprise addition in Steway Lane was the Flat Morel (Disciotis venosa) spotted by Mark Kitchen. The most significant find was Early Meadow-grass (Poa infirma), also spotted by MK, in seed on a road verge in Elmhurst Estate - the first record for the BNHS area and only the third record for Vc.6. It was growing in bare ground next to the curb in a colony about the length of a car, suggesting its possible origin. This grass used to be restricted to the coasts of West Cornwall but has spread in recent years and is now increasingly seen inland. [RDR]
Saturday 3 May - Spring Flora and Birds - Blaise Castle Estate, Bristol
Four joined the leader in this dramatic setting for spring birds and flowers. The birds were not very active, the most notable being Grey Wagtail on the brook, Blackcaps singing, and a Green Woodpecker drumming. A Kestrel and Buzzard were also seen. More interesting plants included the rather scarce Thin-spiked Wood-sedge (Carex strigosa) and Lesser Periwinkle naturalised near a grotto. One large Beech had very knobbly roots, which had been colonised by a black fungus, possibly the cause of the deformations. A Yew tree on the edge of the cliff had fallen in a storm but had survived with its main trunk horizontal and its branches now growing up as secondary trunks. A leaf-beetle (Gastrophysa viridula) was abundant on Broad-leaved Dock, and early butterflies included Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue. A bonus was an impromptu guided tour of Blaize Castle, offered by one of the wardens. In addition to a comprehensive introduction to the history of the estate and the local legend of Goram the giant's Chair, we were horrified to see large numbers of the invading Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), which had been hibernating in the folly. [RDR]
Sunday 18 May - Birds, Spring flowers - Hodder's Combe, Holford
On a dry, sunny morning two Bath Nats members joined the leader on a circular walk from the car park in the Somerset village of Holford at the foot of the Quantock Hills. The walk entailed following a stream up through the Oak woods to the open heathland [a rise of 220 metres], returning along the ridge between the valleys of Hodder's and Holford Coombes, and finally dropping down through scrub to the starting point. The car park produced the usual species for the bird list, i.e. Robin, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit, Chaffinch, Rook, Wood Pigeon and Swallow. Once in the wood the number of birds lessened except for Pied Flycatcher, Wren, and the sound of Cuckoo. The birds out on the heath and scrub were more numerous with Pheasant, Kestrel, Buzzard, Raven, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Swift, Yellowhammer, House Martin, Skylark, Willow Warbler and Magpie all being identified. Among the flowers we noted Lesser Celandine, Yellow Poppy, White Campion, Bluebell, and Violet. After the previous night's rain visibility was excellent, allowing us excellent views across the Bristol Channel to Wales and other parts of Somerset. [TR]
Sunday 1 June - General interest - Cleave's Wood, Wellow
A joint meeting with Cam Valley Wildlife Group to see the orchids and other interesting plants for which the woods are well-known. One clearing still had a good variety of plants typical of limestone grassland, but other clearings previously rich in species were rapidly disappearing due to a lack of management. Despite being an SSSI the wood and associated grassland and scrub are not a nature reserve and it is managed predominantly as a pheasant shoot. Woodland plants had fared better than the grassland species and several plants of Meadow Saffron were seen in leaf. The leader had earlier conducted a survey of Fly Orchid and White Helleborine for the Somerset Rare Plants Register. These were both seen in quantity and extra plants of the former were added to the list. The Fly Orchid population had also been recorded in detail for the BSBI (Botanical Society of the British Isles) Threatened Plants Survey, so the extra records were very useful. A very unexpected bonus was the sight of the solitary wasp (Argogorytes mystaceus) sitting on one of the Fly Orchids. This orchid is dependent on just this one species of wasp for pollination, and its flowers produce a pheromone mimicking that produced by the female wasp. The male wasps often emerge before the females and are attracted to the flowers and attempt to copulate with them. This is, of course, unsuccessful but in the process the orchid has the chance of reproducing its own kind. [RDR]
Saturday 7 June - Wilidlife along Kennet & Avon Canal and River Avon
Eight members spent this pleasant summer afternoon beside the Kennet & Avon Canal and the River Avon. From Bathwick we walked slowly to Bathampton along the canal towpath. There was plenty to see amongst the canal-side vegetation - Amber Snails on Yellow Flag, green leaf beetles (Gastrophysa viridula) infesting well-holed Broad-leaved Dock plants, as well as Large Red, Blue-tailed and White-legged Damselflies. Most of our party saw a male Scarce Chaser on the far bank, although at this time of year these dragonflies are often seen on the guy ropes of moored barges, much closer to the path. Leaving the canal at the George pub, we crossed the dual carriageway towards the River Avon. From the Batheaston toll bridge we could see both Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles in the reeds close by. On the weir there were Grey and White Wagtails. I was especially pleased to see the White Wagtail here, a summer visitor, for the second time this year. From the toll bridge we followed the river footpath back towards the city. Along this path we found plenty of Nettle Tap micro-moths (Anthophila fabriciona), and also a relative of the Raft Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) carrying a large egg sac. Further on, beside the new bypass where it crosses the Avon, there is a small tract of waste ground now covered in wild flowers and grasses. Notable plants here included three Bee Orchid spikes and many Grass Pea plants, hidden in long grass. Here too were a few Common Blues and a Large Skipper, though butterfly numbers generally seemed to be low this year. To complete our circular walk we returned to Bathwick via Lambridge and the Grosvenor footbridge. Thanks are due to Rob Randall for sharing his botanical and insect expertise on this outing. [PD]
Sunday 15 June - General interest - Catcott Heath
Catcott Heath is a Somerset Trust Nature Reserve on the Somerset Levels. A group of nine BNHS members risked their meagre petrol reserves during a strike by tanker drivers to assemble about a mile from the Reserve for this meeting. As we walked along the track to the Reserve, we enjoyed a varied selection of late song from warblers, Robins and Wrens, with views of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinches. Here Lucy Delve spied one of our target species, male and female Variable Damselflies (a species easy to confuse with Common Blue and Azure Damselflies) which were present in good numbers. At the Reserve itself we first made for the pools at the bottom end where we hoped to find the Great Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus). After admiring the four billy goats living there to keep down the vegetation, we got down to the serious business of scanning all the pools. In spite of our diligence, only one of us spotted a spider on the water, which we suspected might be Dolomedes but proved to be too small to identify. But we were more than rewarded by the plants here and in the open part of the Reserve. These included Greater Bladderwort, Milk Parsley, Marsh Fern, Marsh Cinquefoil, Meadow Thistle, Bog Myrtle, Lesser Spearwort, Woodruff, Meadow Rue, Southern Marsh Orchid, Bog Pimpernel, and the rare bramble Rufus arrheni (thought for a long time to be confined solely to Longleat). Also in the open Reserve we saw our first larger dragonflies encouraged by the sun's warmth - a female Emperor, male and female Black-tailed Skimmer, and female Common Darter. Butterfly species included Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, and Brimstone, and among the moths were Straw Dot, Lattice Heath, Shaded Broad-bar, and Nemophora degeerella (a micro-moth with extremely long antennae). In spite of hunger pangs we overstayed our planned time, and on the return walk, one member pointed out the rare Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris) in a meadow by the track. [EA]
Sunday 22 June - General interest - Beaulieu Road Station, New Forest
Our coach trip to the New Forest was well supported, with some two dozen members enjoying the variety of habitat produced by deciduous woodland, heath and bog. Overnight thunderstorms had threatened to spoil things but the day was bright and sunny, albeit with a fresh-to-strong W-NW wind. The attraction of this venue is that there is usually something to suit all interests. Our botanists enjoyed Wild Gladiolus, Heath Spotted Orchid, Bog Asphodel, Sundew and Bog Pimpernel among other plants, and insects were well represented despite the wind. Silver-studded Blue, Purple Hairstreak, Large Skipper and Speckled Wood butterflies were all found, and a single fritillary species that flew past us at speed as we were having lunch might well have been an early Silver-washed Fritillary. Dragonflies recorded included Golden-ringed - always a pleasing insect to see - and the scarce Small Red Damselfly. Among the supporting cast were several Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers and a single Keeled Skimmer, as well as Large Red and Azure Damselflies. We had to work hard for our birds and not everyone was able to see all the highlights, but several obliging male Redstarts put on a show, together with a single Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipits, and Stonechats and were seen by most. Brief 'fly-by' species included Wood Lark, Hobby, Cuckoo and Stock Dove, although the group had fragmented by this stage and these performed to fewer than half our party. The wind limited our chances of seeing Dartford Warbler, although a few members did manage to spot a juvenile that briefly sat up in a gorse bush before hiding once again deep in cover. One lucky member also had brief views of what was almost certainly a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, an extremely difficult species to see these days unless you know of an occupied nest hole. Mammals were thin on the ground or in the trees, but Grey Squirrels appeared and New Forest Ponies provided the 'ahhh' factor and plenty of photo opportunities. Thanks to the hard work of many and not a little skilled field-craft, we all got something out of the day, including a very pleasant walk. [CV]
Sunday 29 June - Clattinger Farm, Swillbrook
Seven members enjoyed a roughly two-hour stroll around each site. Walking through Swillbrook as far as the path adjacent to the new development, we heard Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting. A Hobby overhead gave a good 'jizz' comparison with the smaller, similarly shaped Swifts flying alongside. Sand and House Martins hawked insects low over the water. Damselflies were active during the sunny intervals - Azure, Blue-tailed, a few Common, and one Large Red. A male Black-tailed Skimmer was seen briefly on the stony track and some members saw a Four-spotted Chaser. Flora included Great, Square-stemmed and Hoary Willowherb, Enchanter's Nightshade, and Purple Loosestrife, but only one Marsh Orchid. Butterfly numbers were poor, but we found one Comma among a few Ringlets and Meadow Browns, and also a long-horned beetle, Agapanthia villosviridescens. Clattinger Meadows were glorious multi-coloured floral carpets of pinks, reds, blues, yellows and white. Common Spotted Orchids and Yellow Rattle had passed their best, but other plants were in their prime, including Knapweed, Betony, Greater Burnet, Field Scabious, Devil's-bit Scabious, Pepper Saxifrage, Lady's Bedstraw and Oxeye Daisy. We added Large Skipper and a freshly emerged Gatekeeper to our butterfly list, and also recorded a female Emperor Dragonfly, male and female Banded Demoiselle, and a female Common Darter. A Blue-bordered Carpet moth sat obligingly for photographers, and many Yellow Shell moths were disturbed in the hedgerows. A very small spider with a lime-green abdomen caught our attention - Araniella curcurbitina. We also found Swallows, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and House Sparrows close to the farm buildings. Thanks are due to Rob Randall for assistance with plant and insect identification.
Saturday 5 July - Butterflies, Limestone flora - Walton-in-Gordano
Despite a less than favourable weather forecast one member decided to join the leader in this interesting area rarely visited by Bath Nats. On Walton Common a blustery day meant that butterflies were lying low or being blown rapidly about. Good views were had, however, of Ringlet (in quantity), Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Marbled White and Silver-washed Fritillary. Moths included Silver-Y and Common Carpet. Other insects seen were Emperor Dragonfly and the long-horned beetle, Strangalia maculat. Spiders included Pisaura mirabilis and the crab spider, Misumena vatia, which changes colour from white to yellow depending on the colour of flowers on which it waits for its insect meals. Bedeguars and Pea-galls, caused by gall-wasps, Diplolepis rosae and D.nervosa/D.eglanteriae respectively, were seen on rose bushes. Pea-gall causers cannot be identified unless the larvae are reared in captivity so that the adults can be examined more closely. Roses included Lesser Sweet-briar (Rosa micrantha) in quantity, but Narrow-leaved Sweet-briar (R.agrestis), was no longer to be found where it had previously been quite frequent. It was feared that it had been cut down during scrub clearance. Some birds were making the most of the strong winds and a Kestrel soared on the breeze in a manner reminiscent of the aerobatics of the nearby Swifts. Special plants, not affected by the wind, included Dropwort and masses of Common Rockrose and Common Thyme. After lunch a circular walk took in the coastal path. A wet flush in pastures held the remains of Southern Marsh Orchid and Bristle Club-rush (Isolepis setacea). On the rocks a Herring Gull was having great difficulty swallowing an Eel that kept trying to escape from its beak. Unfortunately for the Eel the gull's greater strength and persistence won the day. A pair of Grey Wagtails were frequenting a rock pool fed by fresh water from the cliff. The presence of nearby scrub ands gorse permitted close views of Whitethroats and Linnets, and insects included Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Scarlet Tiger and Yellow Shell. Just look what the rest of you missed! [RDR]
Saturday 12 July - General interest - Litton Reservoir
The unsettled weather did not deter nine members from turning up for this meeting. We were rewarded with 22 species of both woodland and water birds, among the latter a Cormorant on a tree top, a Great-crested Grebe resting on the water, and three Herons. House Martins were swooping low over the reservoir for insects, chattering as they flew, and an unidentified warbler was seen feeding its young. We caught a fleeting glimpse too of a Kingfisher as it flew along the water's edge, as well as sighting a handsome male Bullfinch. The various plant species noted included Meadow Vetchling, Meadowsweet, and a large patch of Wild Basil. There was a complete absence of butterflies and dragonflies due to the unfavourable conditions. [LMF/BB]
Sunday 20 July - General interest - Dolebury Warren
Gordon Rich was unable to lead due to family commitments so Rob Randall ensured that no one got lost. Spotting plants and other wildlife was therefore very much a group effort. A dozen members had convened on one of the few bright sunny days of the summer and managed a long but very rewarding walk around this Avon Wildlife Trust reserve. Some of the target butterflies were conspicuous by their absence but Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Heath, Speckled Wood and Marbled White appeared among the 'Browns', and Peacock, Small Skipper, Silver-washed Fritillary and Scarlet Tiger moth were also on the wing. Six-spot Burnet moths were abundant everywhere, many of them mating pairs or individuals feeding on the nectar of large cushions of Wild Thyme. The limestone heath on the north slopes was home to Ling, Bell Heather, Bilberry and Heath Bedstraw as well as Common Green Grasshopper. Birds seen included Raven, Green Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon. The recent wet weather had resulted in the appearance of several fungi such as Parasol Mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera and M.mastoidea) and the orange wax-cap, Hygrocybe conica, and a highlight of the meeting was a huge fairy-ring of Yellow-staining Mushroom (Agaricus xanthodermus), unfortunately a poisonous species not suitable for the pot. [RDR]
Saturday 26 July p.m. - Brambles for beginners - Conham Valley River Park
This was advertised as a joint meeting with the botanical section of Bristol Nats to study brambles, but due to a mix up it went into their programme as a Sunday meeting. As it happened, no Bath Nats members felt confident enough to attempt brambles, so the afternoon was used as a reccy for the meeting the following day, which did attract five Bristol botanists. We discovered a range of native species and one introduced bramble as well as the other target species - Sulphur Cinquefoil, Spear-leaved Willow-herb and Greater Dodder. [RDR]
Saturday 2 August - Botany & Grasshopper SIG Meeting - Solsbury Hill
This meeting, organised for the Botany and Grasshopper SIGs, was not as successful as hoped for. Although we encountered quite a few grasshoppers they were all examples of the common Meadow Grasshopper and Field Grasshopper. Species seen in previous years could not be located, and in fact very few were singing, perhaps because of the strong wind. An unsuccessful search for Groundhoppers resulted in the capture of a Long-winged Cone-head. Dark Bush-crickets were seen too, but that was all. Botanically the hill had been much more interesting the previous year when it had lain fallow, but we came across some late flowering plants of Rough Clover and plenty of typical plants of limestone country. [RDR]
Sunday 17 August - Botany SIG Meeting Saltmarsh Plants - Shirehampton
This was a Bristol Nats trip to which our own Botany SIG was invited. Only RDR was there to represent Bath Nats but it turned out to be a very interesting meeting. The walk began on scrubby ground on what used to be railway sidings near the Lamplighters pub. Among a variety of native species were numerous plants of the introduced crucifer, Hoary Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana), while one plant of Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) was seen later. These have yet to be recorded in the BNHS area. Another alien crucifer, Perennial Wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia), is already familiar to Bath botanists. There was also a fine show of Moth Mullein, native to Britain but not to our area, and of Viper's Bugloss. In the saltmarsh near the M5 bridge were found two plants of Sea Purslane, confirming its continued presence in Vc. 34. Other saltmarsh species included Saltmarsh Rush (Juncus gerardii) and Long-bracted Sedge (Carex extensa), but the hybrid grass X Elytrordeum langei could not be found. Insects included both Long- and Short-winged Cone-heads and Speckled and Dark Bush-crickets, and five baby Slow-worms were uncovered under a piece of flotsam. [RDR]
Sunday 28 January - Dymock's Wood, Doynton
Previously this area was a field carrying crops of wheat though it had been gradually degrading. The present wood, now twenty-five years old, is in four sections and at one point falls away to a stream. Section (1) comprises mainly Lime and Hornbeam, (2) has more Mountain Ash than Oak, (3) contains mostly Birch, and (4) has Aspen and Alder. On this visit we looked at the dormant trees, the rot and decay beneath them, and any interdependent wildlife we could find. The bark of several Hornbeams showed damage from squirrels. They lick the sap beneath the bark and can eventually cause the tree's death. One trunk had no bark left and had been colonised by beetles as evident from their holes. Examination of rotting wood showed two clearly distinct types. Brown rot is caused when certain fungi consume the cellulose, leaving the dark lignin. White rot results when only the lignin is broken down. Most fungi are saprophytic and not always visible, but we did find Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes), a saprophyte specific to dead Elm. A parasitic fungus we were shown on the dead branch of a plum tree was identified as the Blushing Bracket fungus (Daedaleopsis confragosa). Decaying oak leaves often showed the remains of galls, though the insects had long gone. A Knopper gall (Andricus quercuscalicis) was found on an old acorn. When a corrugated iron sheet was lifted we saw it had sheltered many batches of mollusc eggs. There was also an old Field Mouse nest with empty snail shells excavated by mice, and cherry stones nearby. Elsewhere, fresh green growth was springing up from the rich debris –particularly Wild Arum, Bluebells, and many seedlings – and a Robin and a Great Tit sang intermittently. This had been an informative winter walk, and there were crumpets and tea still to come. [BB]
Saturday 10 February - Chew Valley Lake
Five members met on a sunny morning after two days of snow, sleet and rain. Water level was very high, and at Herriotts Bridge the islands were submerged. The usual birds could be seen here together with Pintail and Goosander. After stopping for Redwing we reached the Blue Bowl hide where we watched Great Crested Grebe at their courtship display and also had fine views of Goldeneye and Pochard, with Reed Bunting and many tits at the feeders. At Herons Green we enjoyed good sightings of Goosander, Shelduck, Shoveler, Kestrel, and a flock of Lapwing. The rain set in about 2.30 p.m. after we had visited Norton hide, so we then decided to quit while we were still ahead. [JH]
Sunday 11 March - Lacock
A sunny day provided sixteen members with a spring-like walk from Lacock, along the Wiltshire/Berkshire canal and up towards Bowden Park, and then down to Bewley Common back to Lacock. Restoration work continues along the canal and a bridge, known as Double Bridge, has been recently re-built. A few early spring flowers were out. These included Celandine, Common Field Speedwell, White Violets and Common Mouse-ear, but Brooklime, Water Starwort and Yellow Iris, growing by the water, were all too early to be in flower. Around Lacock, in the shelter of the dry walls, Ivy-leaved Toadflax and Wall Rue were growing well. Among the birds seen were Buzzard, Cormorant, Lapwing, House Sparrow, Long-tailed Tit, and a Skylark that flew up singing on its way. A good deal of interest was shown when Doug Friend found an unusual ladybird. It posed for a photograph and was later identified as a Cream-spot Ladybird, Calvia 14-guttata. [LMF/BB]
Sunday 1 January - Annual City Stroll
Six enthusiasts turned up on a mild overcast morning; we had a few spots of rain but also sunny periods. Before everyone arrived a Kingfisher was seen by the stream in Prior Park Garden Centre. We set off along the canal where Moorhen, Mallard and Black-headed Gull were on view. After crossing the canal we climbed up onto Bathwick Fields. This is National Trust land cut for hay in July and then lightly grazed for about three months to encourage flowers and insects. Here we added Magpie to our list, had a fine view over Bath and saw a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Crows. As we dropped down to Smallcombe Farm, a Bullfinch was heard. Other birds seen there included a pale Buzzard, a Jay and a Fieldfare. We were entertained for some minutes by a very active Goldcrest at close range. As we climbed to Widcombe Hill via the National Trust's Smallcombe Fields, a flock of at least ten Greenfinches landed in a tree ahead of us. A Kestrel flew over and we had another fine view of Bath. Our bird list grew to twenty-two and we returned to the Garden Centre in time to see a performance by the Widcombe Mummers.
Saturday 21 January - Around Biddestone
After two weeks of dull weather our meeting was blessed with a fine sunny day, and our party of 23 set off in good spirits from Biddestone pond. Before leaving the village we had close views of House Sparrows in cottage gardens, and as we proceeded along the lane we were accompanied by a large number of Yellowhammers flying along the hedges just ahead. We also saw a Kestrel perched on a telegraph pole. Our route took us across arable land, and being on a plateau we had extensive views in every direction. Further on we came across a large flock of Linnets feeding on the ground and occasionally rising and swirling into the sky in a huge cloud. Two weeks previously the leaders had seen a large flock of mixed finches in adjacent fields at this point. We left the arable and descended by a lane into woods where, unfortunately, pheasant shooting was taking place. Before the firing commenced, we could see as many as seven Buzzards circling overhead at one time. On leaving the woods we rejoined the lane on higher ground, and several Hares and a Roe Deer provided us with splendid views. Skylarks flying over the fields and singing were a joy to see and hear. What was less pleasant, however, was being passed by a convoy of Land Rovers displaying on racks all the pheasants shot that morning. The group recorded sightings of 32 bird species in total, including Raven, Sparrowhawk, Nuthatch, Fieldfare, and a Heron in a tree.
Sunday 19 February - Dundas-Conkwell
The meeting started at Dundas Aqueduct on a rather cold but dry day. After crossing the aqueduct we descended the flight of steps to the river and were rewarded with excellent views of Siskin and Redpoll in the riverside Alders. Goldfinches, Greenfinches and a Treecreeper were also seen as we followed the river downstream. We heard a Song Thrush singing and saw Mistle Thrush and Redwing, along with Heron, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Buzzard. We continued to rise out of the valley on a rather muddy path to Sheephouse Farm, then continued up Warleigh Lane to the village of Conkwell. Leaving the village down a steep, rocky, wooded track, we then broke out into open fields to be greeted by wonderful views of the Avon valley and the Kennet & Avon canal.
Saturday 25 February - Hens Wood and Avebury
Eight members explored woodland in Wiltshire managed by Forest Enterprise. Hen's Wood consists of Spruce, Larch, Birch and Hazel and sustains a small breeding population of Willow Tit. It is monitored by the Wiltshire Ornithological Society (WOS) and permission is required for natural history groups to visit. The strong, cold, north-easterly wind meant that it was difficult to hear any Willow Tits giving their harsh and somewhat aggressive call note. Unfortunately only three members had a brief view of one bird after it had been located on call by one of the leaders. Marsh Tits were sighted on a number of occasions, however, along with Long-tailed, Coal and Great Tits. A pair of Buzzards 'mewing' overhead distracted the group for a few moments as we concentrated on looking for Willow Tits and listening for their calls. The WOS monitor another declining species, Tree Sparrow, and have erected nest boxes at Manor Farm, close to the village of Avebury. Here we recorded only a few passerines, including Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Chaffinch. Finding a position out of the wind, we were also able to gain telescope views of several Stock Doves among a mixed flock of Wood Pigeons, Starlings and Rooks. The most enjoyable sighting was perhaps of three Hares racing across a nearby field.
Saturday 4 March - Edford Wood
On a cold bright morning a good-sized party of Nats was greeted not only by Edford Wood's voluntary warden but also by his tame Harris Hawk that accompanied us for the duration of the walk. Although the wood is privately owned, it is managed by the Somerset Wildlife Trust as part of a complex of five woods in the Mells Valley. We followed a circular path that took us away from the public footpath into more interesting parts and, with a little time left afterwards, the warden showed us into another streamside wood on the opposite side of the lane. While the exceptionally cold dry winter made for easy walking in this normally damp woodland, it also meant that the Wild Daffodils, for which the wood is famous, were still in bud. However, carpets of late Snowdrops still bloomed along the stream where clumps of emergent Monkshood testified to the presence of acidic coal deposits. The differences between Common and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage were pointed out and we were delighted to see the frequent bright red splashes of the Scarlet Elf Cap Fungus (Sarcoscypha coccinea) brightening up the dark woodland floor. Bird life was generally sparse, but a Nuthatch was spotted and Buzzards were both heard and seen - including a fine view of a male atop a telegraph pole as we neared the end of the walk. As if not to be outdone, a Raven flew 'cronking' over the party as we headed to our cars.
Sunday 26 March - Avon Valley at Saltford
This meeting was planned to coincide with the last of our winter bird visitors and, more hopefully, with early spring migrants and plants, and perhaps the first insects on the wing. As it turned out, the very late spring put paid to these plans, and the group had to work hard to see very much at all. A lone Primrose greeted us as we walked up to St Mary's church, but the mediaeval ponds were unusually quiet with no sign of the Water Voles. Beyond Ashton Farm the last of the winter thrushes were visible together with at least two overwintering Chiffchaffs, and here a male Sparrowhawk carrying prey was seen by a lucky few. It was during the descent to Swineford Lock and around the Sewage Treatment Works that the best of the birds was seen. These included two male and three female Reed Buntings and two small streaky finches with pale underparts which we decided, by a process of elimination, were almost certainly Lesser Redpolls – only the distance over which they were viewed did not aid identification. At the Lock itself a Kingfisher and a pair of Grey Wagtails added some colour to the proceedings, as did a mixed flock that included Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits. Canada Geese, Mallard and Cormorant, with a Kestrel and several Buzzards seen across the valley, also helped to swell the species count. A Goldfinch and a Song Thrush were in early song back at the car park where it started to rain again. An enjoyable walk in lovely surroundings, if a little short on natural history.
Saturday 8 April - Nunney (Castle and Combe)
Thirteen members joined the leaders for a pleasant three-mile meander through mixed woodland, fields and lanes, the walk starting in the centre of Nunney village in view of the 14C castle. Our first sighting was a Swallow dashing over the roof tops, its tail streamer feathers highlighted against a brilliant blue sky. Other migrants seen and heard on the first part of the trail alongside Nunney Brook were Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. We stopped to listen to resident songsters too - Song Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Goldcrest. A Green Woodpecker made its presence known, giving out its distinctive and strident 'yaffle' call. Beside the brook there were plenty of Bluebells not yet in flower, though the Wood Anemones were showing their delicate nodding white heads. Only a few members caught a glimpse of a Kingfisher as it flashed past, but all saw a Treecreeper, its white underside contrasting with the dark-green, moss-covered tree trunk. In sheltered areas during the walk, the party found Comma and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. Out of the woods and into pasture and agricultural land, a Buzzard was spotted as well as a mixed flock of Yellowhammers, Greenfinches and Chaffinches, while we listened to a Skylark singing overhead. Sightings during this walk were very much a team effort.
Saturday 6 May - Compton Dando/Lords Wood
Nine Bath Nats met by the bridge at Compton Dando for a walk through the lanes and footpaths up to Burnett then back down the adjacent roadway. Fortunately the season was sufficiently advanced to allow most summer visiting birds to be present. Whitethroats mixed with native Yellowhammers in the regenerating hedgerows, while Swallows and House Martins flew overhead. Early spring flowers were evident, including Primroses and emerging Bluebells. Blackthorn flowers bedecked the bushes. We halted awhile near Elm Farm, at the top of the climb, to see if the owl boxes had occupants, and indeed they did - Kestrels nesting! Evident too were Brown Hares running in the fields. Positive land management hereabouts encourages all forms of wildlife. The walk lasted over four hours but it was taken at a leisurely pace in reasonable weather and all enjoyed themselves.
Wednesday 10 May - Elm farm, Burnett
Five members turned up for the first part of this field trip when a variety of moths were shown and identified by Richard Pooley. In addition to the two traps run at Elm Farm by Richard Pooley and Mike Bailey, there were further specimens from a trap kept in nearby Keynsham by a local moth enthusiast. The traps at the farm yielded twelve species of moth, among them noteworthy examples such as Pebble Hook-tip and Scorched Carpet. From the Keynsham trap both Lime and Poplar Hawkmoths caught the imagination, with their striking size and coloration contrasting well with the minute Chinese Character moth which is so well camouflaged that it resembles a bird dropping. This examination of moths was followed by a walk around the farm led by a prominent local birdwatcher, Roger Palmer. Although I had to miss this, I understand that it was enjoyed by all and that a good selection of farmland birds was seen.
Saturday 20 May - Biss Wood, West Ashton, near Trowbridge
A party of around fifteen members assembled at the wood entrance [ST 881567] on a warm sunny morning. The leader, also the owner of this ancient wood since 1984, touched briefly on its history. He explained the absence of any trees more than a hundred years old as due to the removal of all saleable timber for death duties in 1930 when the Long Ashton Estate, of which the wood was a part, was broken up. He further explained that the absence of the usual boundary woodbank and ditch resulted from the conversion to agriculture of about three quarters of the original woodland area between 1958 and 1971. The wood had been neglected since 1930, but a coppicing regime was reinstated in 1984 following a tradition that historical documents had shown had been in operation for more than 750 years. Present-day markets had dictated that coppicing, mainly for firewood, over a cycle of 25 years was the only viable coppice option. The most spectacular floral show in the wood was found in the area coppiced in 2003/4 and now ablaze with sheets of Ground Ivy and Bugle which had succeeded displays of Primroses, Bluebells and Violets a few weeks before. Orchids noted were Early Purple, Twayblade and Greater Butterfly, with Common Spotted in bud. A glade formed in 1985 showed large patches of Solomon's Seal - rather surprisingly as this ancient woodland species is usually associated with deep shade. It was suggested that flailing each autumn had kept its usual competitors at bay. Bird song was much in evidence with migrants – Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Garden Warbler – joining in with the usual residents, i.e. Robin, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, and several species of tit. A Buzzard overhead provided evidence of an occupied nest deep in part of the wood not visited.
Saturday 17 June - Bathampton Meadows AWT Reserve
On a hot, sunny day with no cloud and a very light NW breeze, seventeen people came on a walk round this reserve. It is owned by the Highways Agency, leased and managed to Avon Wildlife Trust, and not open to the general public. As even AWT members with permits (a small number) have only limited access, it was a great pleasure for me to be able to take Bath Nats around. This has been the third year that a pair of Canada Geese has nested at the reserve. The eggs have failed to hatch each time despite being sat on for the usual thirty days without being eaten by a fox or other mammal or bird. We saw a goose on the nest. I first recorded one here in early April, and on all but one visit since. Was it sitting on the same eggs or new ones? At the same pool we caught sight of a male Emperor Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chasers, and a copulating pair of Black-tailed Skimmers, and we had a very close view of a male Broad-bodied Chaser. There were also many White-legged Damselflies in the long grass. At the oxbow lake a male Scarce Chaser was seen perched. Birds identified included Reed and Sedge Warbler, both of which breed at the reserve, and Dunnock was heard. It was surprising not to find a Common Blue butterfly, maybe because the Birds-foot Trefoil was not fully in bloom. Small Blue, Large and Dingy Skipper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, and Marbled White were all recorded however, as was a Hart and Dart moth. All this was before lunch, when a few people left. After lunch the highlight for me was discovering at the oxbow lake more Red-eyed Damselflies than I had ever seen there on a single day. Seven pairs were in tandem and egg-laying, four of them on one head of a Yellow Water-lily flower. One pair was copulating and there were more than ten other males. There were also copulating pairs of Black-tailed Skimmers, Scarce Chasers and White-legged Damselflies, and five other species. A Reed Bunting appeared nearby. This had been one of my best days at the reserve.
Saturday 1 July - Kelston
A group of twelve members met near Kelston church on a hot, sunny day. We walked through fields and then followed the Cotswold Way path to Kelston Roundhill with splendid views all round. The sun had brought out many butterflies, with a profusion of Meadow Browns and good numbers of Marbled Whites, Skippers and Ringlets. Five-spot Burnet moths were conspicuous in the sunlight, and dragonflies seen included Emperor, Southern Hawker and Scarce Chaser. Several silken tents of the spider Pisaura mirabilis were noted in vegetation beside the path. A good range of flora was observed, with colourful displays of Field Scabious, Greater Knapweed and Musk Thistle. We saw a typical selection of hedgerow birds, and members enjoyed tracking down the elusive singing Blackcap and Whitethroat.
Saturday 12 August - Blagdon Reservoir
Despite the high water level at Blagdon Lake reducing the areas of exposed foreshore suitable for wading birds, there was still much to see, including more than fifty Lapwings and several Common Sandpipers. Having assembled at the dam, fifteen members relocated to The Lodge car park and followed the southern shore track on foot; passing through woodland and unspoilt meadows, and from lakeside inlets to headlands. At the dam we recorded Grey Wagtails and an overflying Curlew, and near the lodge some of the party saw a Spotted Flycatcher among other woodland passerines. Wildfowl, in eclipse plumage, included significant flocks of Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard, and Tufted Duck, plus a few Teal and Ruddy Duck. At lease one pair of Tufted Ducks had a brood of ducklings. There were also family parties of both Little and Great Crested Grebes with their stripy young. Several interesting insect species were seen, among which two Clouded Yellow butterflies were notable. A colourful caterpillar of the Grey Dagger moth (Acronicta psi) was found crawling up a Beech tree. There were several Migrant Hawker dragonflies, with one mating pair giving exceptional telescope views. Also present in some numbers were Ruddy Darters and Common Blue Damselflies. On the other hand there were very few Small Tortoiseshell butterflies compared with previous seasons.
Saturday 23 September - Lower Woods Nature Reserve
This reserve is owned and managed by the Gloucester Wildlife Trust and is a unique piece of ancient English landscape. It covers 300 hectares (750 acres) and is bisected by the Little Avon river – no relation to its larger namesake. The Saxons called it Horwuda, meaning muddy wood, but on this fine autumn afternoon the fifteen Bath Nats members encountered dry paths, walking on a carpet of fallen Poplar leaves. Apart from a pair of Coal Tits at the start, birds were reluctant to show themselves for the rest of the walk, though species heard included Robin, Buzzard and Raven. Summer flowers were no longer flowering, but we did come across a bank of Autumn Crocus. The lack of flowers was compensated for by plenty of berries on Blackthorn, Guelder Rose, Spindle, and Black Bryony. Snails can easily be overlooked, but a Copse Snail (Arianta arbustorum) and Door Snail (Clausilia bidentata) were both recorded. Speckled Wood, Large White and Red Admiral butterflies flitted along the wood edge, but the only moth seen was Silver Y. Out of several species of fungi the only ones positively identified were Beefsteak and Sulphur Tuft. A single afternoon visit could not, however, do this large wood (with its 27 different species of tree) full justice.
Saturday 7 October - Keyhaven, Hampshire
This was a joint coach outing with Bath RSPB since both groups were arranging an October field trip to this area. The weather was very kind but the tide was not, the water being much higher than expected due to the full moon. Our plan had been to walk along the shore path, but at one point this would have required paddling, so we went the alternative route on the rather long, back shore road. It did, however, pass a pool with various waders and these took some time to identify. We also discovered a Collared Dove nesting ten feet up in a tree. After reaching the shore and having lunch sheltered from the wind, we had an ebbing tide for the return sea walk. Sightings included Grey Plovers, Little Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits, Turnstones, a juvenile Ringed Plover, and many species of duck and gull. A few late Swallows and House Martins were also making their exit to Africa. We heard reports of an American Golden Plover and an Osprey in the vicinity, but the Osprey eluded us. The final tally of bird species seen came to nearly fifty, so in the end it proved a good day.
Saturday 21 October - Newton St Loe
Ten members set off on a fine, sunny morning over conservation-friendly Duchy of Cornwall farmland. Our first interesting find was a cluster of Parasol Mushrooms. Coming to the lake we noted a family of two Mute Swans with four cygnets gliding along by the shore, a very few Moorhen, Coot, Teal and Mallard on the lake, and a lone Heron at the water's edge. By contrast the wooded area at the end of the lake was alive with bird activity. Blue, Coal, Marsh, Great and Long-tailed Tits were all present. A Nuthatch was busy hammering at the bark of an Oak tree, and Goldcrests and a Goldfinch could be seen and heard. For some minutes we watched a beautiful Comma butterfly sunning itself on the tip of a Beech branch, but at mid-day the sun disappeared and rain drove us to shelter, with our sandwiches, into the porch of Stanton Prior church. At 1.30 we set off in sunshine again on the last lap of the walk across arable land where Yellowhammers were dashing along the hedge tops. A Kestrel crossed the field in front of us, its streaky breast plain to see. We came to a waterfall where, to our delight, a Grey Wagtail was feeding along the edge, a sight we had hoped for all day. In the lane leading back to Newton St Loe were unseasonal Spindle berries, White Dead-nettle, Hazel catkins, and a Field Pansy in flower.
Saturday 4 November - Mells area
Twenty members were fortunate to attend the Nats circular walk around Mells in perfect weather. The air was still and the sun shone all day. We started at the site of Mells Road station, now part of the national cycle network, and walked along the abandoned railway for a mile or so closely observing the birdlife. Small flocks of winter visitors, both Fieldfare and Redwing, were observed. On the ground we were delighted to find the scarce Pale Toadflax, Linaria repens, still in flower. A number of Red Admiral butterflies were also seen. The walk was a circular one and we stopped at the old fish ponds in Mells to observe Kingfishers, whose territory this undoubtedly was. We came back to the start point over the fields and through the concrete works having accounted for a grand total of 35 bird species -a very rewarding day for all concerned.
Saturday 25 November - Saltford
It was the third time we had chosen this walk and it proved as popular as ever with members. Overnight rain had largely cleared by the time we commenced and, in contrast to the walk in March, we quickly assembled a reasonable list of birds. This included Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush as well as good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing. A splendid Kingfisher was seen by some of the group at the medieval ponds, despite the clearance work being done there, but it was as we climbed Avon Lane to Ashton Farm that we found the best of the birds. Perhaps the highlight was an over-flying Woodcock – thought to have been disturbed by shooting on the other side of the valley – but there were many other species working their way through the hedgerows. Species here included Reed Bunting, Jay, Bullfinch and Goldfinch, and we finally recorded our first raptors in the form of Sparrowhawk and Buzzard near the farm gates. The Avon was very full, virtually covering the weir at Swineford Lock and restricting the birds to be seen along the river bank. However, another Kingfisher, Grey Heron and more Cormorants were all sighted, though the wintering Chiffchaffs at the treatment works unfortunately proved more elusive. The meeting ended with a flourish back at the Shallows car park with a lovely mixed flock of Long-tailed, Coal, Great and Blue Tits and two more Goldcrests, bringing the group's tally to 46 for the day. This bettered the two previous walks in this area by six species. Perhaps if we run the event again, a spring visit might reveal an interesting contrast in the list of species found, besides allowing members to observe a greater variety of natural history.
Saturday 2 December - Corsham Court
Bright sky and an unseasonably warm day greeted us on our arrival at Corsham. A well-attended meeting got off to a good start when a reported hearing of a woodpecker was soon confirmed when a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over in the direction of the churchyard. There were well over a hundred Canada Geese on and around the lake, together with an abundance of Coots, Mallards and gulls, including Common Gulls. Two Cormorants and a Heron perched prominently in trees on the island, though a pair of Great Crested Grebes, seen by the leaders on the recce two days earlier, were conspicuously absent. At the western end of the lake the presence of a Water Rail was betrayed by its distinctive squeal, but it did not emerge from the reeds and no-one saw it. We progressed from the lake to Mynte Wood where we had better luck, adding a Raven, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Greenfinch to our list of sightings. This meeting was primarily a bird-watch, but Rosemary Smith drew our attention to a splendid lichen, Xanthoria parientina, which we examined under a glass to admire the beauty of its colour and structure. Just before the meeting closed we had spectacular views of a Sparrowhawk in search of its lunch.
Sunday 17 December - Somerset Levels, Westhay
Nineteen members arrived at Ashcott Corner on a fortunately dry day with long sunny intervals. On Meare Heath there were Goldfinches, Siskins and some Redpoll. Due to the warm weather the numbers of wildfowl were low, though we did see Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Wigeon. Water ripples noticed on the bank of the South Drain were later found to have been caused by a young Otter, and from the large hide we watched one or possibly two Otters swim across the water disturbing the Mute Swans. The tower hide yielded Greylag Geese and numerous Cormorants. As we drove to the Westhay reserve a juvenile Sparrowhawk crossed the road directly ahead. Walking next along the London Drove we first heard, then saw, a solitary Raven, and then at a distance an Otter walked across our path. From the north hide we saw a flight of fifteen Snipe which came down in the surrounding reed beds. There was a dilemma regarding the best out of three or more possible Starling roosts. Armed however with the latest information we went to Ham Walls, which proved a fortunate choice, and while waiting for the Starlings we added Little Grebe and Little Egret to our list. A large Starling roost then formed on the north side, but luckily other flocks arrived just in front of our viewing area. The birds appeared to drop into the reed beds as if poured from a jug and they produced a continuous chatter. As the Starlings circled, a Peregrine Falcon flew over the roost, but the Starlings and the Peregrine ignored each other. It was now getting dark and we returned to the car park having seen a total of 43 bird species and had three sightings of Otters.