Photo: Chris Bateman
Please keep your eye on this page for news of outings further afield, which may be planned at short notice. There is no charge for these trips apart from normal entrance expenses etc. and contributions towards petrol costs if car-sharing. All are welcome, and we would be especially pleased to see new faces.
* * *
SOME REPORTS OF PAST EVENTS:
Saturday, 4th November 2017 - Slimbridge WWT reserve, Gloucestershire
Photos: Greylag Goose, Trevor Halsey. Bewick's Swan, Carol Wood
Nine of us travelled down from Shropshire and we were joined by fellow birders from Wolverhampton, Eira and Roger Outhwaite.
Slimbridge is known for Bewick's swans, visiting us every winter from Russia. Unfortunately, apart from the one photographed around the visitor centre, the hundreds that are expected to arrive were still in the Netherlands at the time of our visit. Global warming perhaps? We benefitted from the good weather however and also the hides and the facilities the reserve has to offer. It is so well managed, it attracts large numbers of wading birds at all time of the year and it is difficult not to be impressed by the numbers you can see in one day. This includes the cranes, which were introduced several years ago and are now starting to breed here.
I think for one of our members, Barbara, the highlight was the white fronted geese, which she correctly identified as being the European race,with the pink bill.
We were all pleased with the reserve. Slimbridge has much to offer, for experienced birders, families and novices alike, and autumn is an especially good time to visit.
Below is a list of the birds we saw:
Kingfisher, Gadwall, Little Egret, Starling, Peregrine, Pochard, Shelduck, Cettis warbler (only heard), Widgeon, Teal, Mallard, Jackdaw, Greylag goose, Canada goose, Curlew, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Shoveller, Water rail, Moorhen, Magpie, Rook, Pied wagtail, White fronted goose, Long-tailed tit, Blue tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, House sparrow, Pintail, Wood pigeon, Buzzard, Grey heron, Black headed gull, Tufted duck, Dunlin, Blacktailed godwit, Coot, Dunnock, Coal tit, Great spotted woodpecker, Herring gull, Crane, Bewick's swan.
* * *
Sunday, 21st May 2017 - RSPB Ynys-Hir, near Machynllech
On Sunday 21st of May, six of us travelled to Ynys Hir on the Welsh coast. Unlike the previous Saturday the weather was dry and sunny! It was my first visit to the RSPB reserve and it came highly recommended. It didn't disappoint. Keith offered to keep bird records and was kept very busy. It really is a wonderful place to visit, and May an especially good time, though I think later in the year could also be worthwhile. Thanks to all who came. To round off an already perfect day, we visited the Dovey Osprey project. Montgomery Wildlife trust are doing a great job. Newly hatched chicks were being fed trout by their parents. All easy to see though the scopes and on the screens provided. Altogether a grand day.
Cuckoo, nuthatch, blackbird, black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, Canada goose, chaffinch, chiff-chaff, coal tit, cormorant, curlew, dunnock, garden warbler, goldcrest, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, house martin, jay, lapwing, little egret, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, oyster catcher, osprey, pied wagtail, pied flycatcher, red kite, redpoll, redshank, redstart, reed bunting, robin, sedge warbler, shelduck, siskin, skylark, songthrush, spotted fly-catcher, swallow, swift, willow warbler, wood pigeon, wren, tufted duck. An impressive 51 species! Also wood mouse and common lizard.
* * *
Here are some reports of past visits:
Upton Warren, Thursday 9th July 2015
Photo: Clive Cooke
Twelve members joined me for this visit to a prestigious Worcestershire Wildlife Trust reserve, famous for its breeding avocets and lapwings It is divided into two parts: the freshwater Moors pool to the north and the saline Flashes to the south, formed by subsidence apparently, due to salt extraction for the Droitwich salt trade. In between these two is the sailing lake – this is the result of quarrying for the nearby M5 motorway. Together they form a valuable continuous corridor for wildlife of all kinds.
We parked at the sailing club next to the Flashes and after paying for our permits in the café we made our way down some steps and past a wild grassy area where there were quite a few marbled white butterflies – an unusual sight for those of us living in Shropshire. We then walked down a long path towards a hide overlooking the first Flash pool. On the way our ears were suddenly regaled by a blast of song from a Cetti's warbler – again an unusual treat. There were common terns swooping over the water beside us. We sat in the hide for a while ticking off a wide variety of waders, ducks and geese, and spent some time arguing about the identity of certain distant ducks – always a puzzle to most of us at this time of year when there are youngsters and adult males in eclipse to add to the confusion! We were also very lucky to meet a gentleman who told us about a particular tree in the Moors area where we could see a rare butterfly – more of that later.
On to the next hide a little bit further round, overlooking the second and third Flashes. The avocets were much in evidence with their babies – a great success story for this particular reserve.
Now it was time to return for lunch – instead of sticking to our original idea of eating at the garden centre across the road, we decided to stay and patronise the excellent sailing club café. Freshly made sandwiches, soup, home-made cakes and other delights were happily consumed on a long verandha overlooking the sailing pool.
After lunch we ventured out on to the busy A38 and made our way to the entrance to the Moors. Just a few yards in was the special tree we had been told about – would we see the butterfly? The advice was to look up and be very patient… after much neck-craning and twig-scanning through binoculars the creature was eventually spotted – a white-letter hairstreak! Very exciting – a first for most of us, including me.
We followed the path at a leisurely pace, stopping to examine some bee orchids (unfortunately past their best) and calling at two more hides where a couple of very unseasonal wigeon were seen. Further on we were extremely surprised to spot a pipstrelle bat flying in broad daylight, possibly having been disturbed by building work in a barn nearby. From the final hide on the other side of the pool, overlooking the somewhat dried-up Amy's Marsh, we watched aptly-named reed warblers darting in and out of the reeds.
For the few who could spare the time the day was rounded off with afternoon tea at the aforementioned garden centre. A fitting end to a delightful trip.
Bird count: Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Black Headed Gull, Canada Geese, Graylag geese (with goslings),Chiffchaff (H), Wren (H), Cetti's Warbler, Common Tern, House Martin, Swallow, Blackcap(H), Wood Pigeon, Robin, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch(H), Oystercatcher, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Crow, Ringed Plover, Black Tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Avocet, Curlew, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Pied Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Magpie, Ruff, Sedge Warbler, Little Grebe, Reed Warbler, Grey Heron, Lesser Black backed Gull, Buzzard, Water Rail, Gadwall duck, Green Woodpecker(H), and Wigeon. (48)
Butterflies etc: Gatekeeper, Comma, Marbled White, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Tortoiseshell, LargeWhite, Small White, Green-veined White, Brimstone, Red Admiral, White letter Hairstreak, Ringlet, Brown Hawker, Banded demoiselle, Broad-bodied chaser
(We arranged another trip to this popular reserve on Saturday, December 17th 2016 as part of our monthly wildlife walks programme - please see our Walk Reports 2016 page for further information)
* * *
Highnam Woods, Friday 9th May 2014
Around teatime on a warm Friday in early May seventeen group members and friends headed south towards Highnam Woods in Gloucestershire, lured by the promise of a rare nightingale 'fix'. Well… certainly rare for those of us living in Shropshire - the last confirmed sightings here were in the 1970s. After a pleasant rural drive in the late afternoon sunshine, followed by a leisurely meal in a lovely pub close to the meeting point, we joined quite a large crowd in the reserve car park, all trembling with anticipation. (And that had nothing to do with another unfortunate use of that particular car park, which sadly necessitates its closure to the public except by prior arrangement.) Moving swiftly on… Gavin Black, our guide for the evening from the Gloucestershire local RSPB group, gave us some fascinating information about the history of the nightingale in the area, and the rise and fall (mostly fall) of its fortunes:
“In 40 years nightingales have declined by 90% in the UK and there is a serious risk of them becoming extinct here in the next 30 years. At Highnam Woods in the mid-1990s the number of singing males reached the upper twenties which fell to just three in 2009 Since then about six is more usual.”
This year there are thought to be 7 or 8 singing males, which is at least a small improvement. But would we be lucky tonight?
We were led a little way into the woods, regaled on all sides by the “dusk chorus” of song thrushes, robins and blackbirds but no nightingales. Patience, patience… The light was starting to fade a little and midges began to make their presence felt. Feeling slightly uneasy we stood in silence, straining our ears for any tell-tale notes. After what seemed like an interminable wait (probably not very long at all) the first tentative liquid trills penetrated the undergrowth. Smiles of relief all round! After drinking in this lovely sound for a while we moved slowly on around the reserve, picking out several others along the way - there wasn’t much chance of actually seeing these birds as they are notoriously shy and skulking but their rich, sweet song was reward enough. In fact they are fairly dull in appearance; not much larger than a robin with mainly dark brown feathers and a rusty-red tail. Who cares when they have such a beautiful voice? Just before we got back to the car park we were treated to a prolonged recital by just one bird, giving a final spectacular flourish to a memorable evening. Everyone agreed that it had been an unmissable experience, making the drive down (and back home in the dark) well worthwhile. Same time next year?
(There’s a wonderful description of the nightingale and a two-and-a-half minute recording of its song on the British Library’s website - follow this link.)
* * * * *
Conwy RSPB reserve, Monday March 18th 2013
On our way
"Let the train take the strain"... especially when Arriva Trains Wales has a tempting offer for over-55s, making a day-trip from South Shropshire to the Conwy estuary an affordable treat. All we needed was decent weather, and guess what... we got it! Against all the odds there was a brief respite in our so-far Arctic spring and the sun shone for most of the day.
Alighting at Llandudno Junction we followed the "slightly longer but more enjoyable" route to the reserve suggested by its website; still only around a mile. After passing through a largely industrial area and under a couple of flyovers we found ourselves in little park with glorious views towards Conwy Castle and the mountains of Snowdonia. Cameras out! One more underpass and a long footbridge over the railway brought us to a path alongside the estuary where the serious birdwatching began. We would have a few hours to wait until high tide but already there were good views of curlew, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher and shelduck, along with the more usual grey heron, mute swan and cormorant. One member spotted a ringed plover. Such was the attraction of this riverside track that by the time we arrived at the reserve - a little later than expected - we were ready to take advantage of their excellent lunchtime catering, not forgetting the free drink offered to anyone showing a current rail ticket.
Wigeon, teal, coot, moorhen, Canada goose and redshank were soon on the list. The café has panoramic windows overlooking a large lake, and from here a path leads to a couple of hides giving different views of the same stretch of water. We followed the suggested trails at a leisurely pace. The tantalising possibility of views of a firecrest drew us to the likely area - one had been seen here during a recce last autumn and there were apparently two or three still around. No luck for a while, despite patiently staring for quite some time into the dense thickets of gorse and willow where the little blighters usually hang out. Then... a flash, a glimpse – some lucky members of the group did spot a tiny shape and focussed on what was definitely a goldcrest or a firecrest. Later enquiries revealed that there are no goldcrests on the reserve as the habitat is wrong (no conifers) so... a tick for firecrest!
In the wildlife garden area further along the route (lovely in summer no doubt) there were one or two blue- and great-tits, a robin and a dunnock flitting around some feeders. Generally, though, the more common little passerines were notable by their absence, maybe because of a slight chilly breeze or the time of day we were there.
The next hide was positioned at the end of a causeway between two lakes and several more ticks were collected here, including lapwing and a few beautiful red-breasted mergansers. Later were were to observe pairs of these birds engaged in their mating display – they must think it's spring even if we don't! There were tufted duck and gadwall out on the water, and a snowy-white little egret took off from the bank showing its ridiculous yellow feet. Black-headed, herring and lesser black-backed gulls were squabbling overhead. From here we moved on to follow the path right around the eastern perimeter of the reserve, where we came across Welsh Mountain ponies kept to graze on the vegetation. No sign of the other firecrest reported around here. Soon we were again alongside the estuary and the tide was almost at full height, driving in even larger flocks of wading birds. There were too many curlew and redshank to count. After some debate we identified good numbers of dunlin on one of the islands. The last enclosed hide on the route gave us lovely views of the afore-mentioned displaying mergansers as well as pochard, little grebe and greater black-backed gull, and as a highlight no fewer than nine snipe.
A browse around the shop and afternoon tea rounded off the day nicely before our return journey, with the added bonus of a pair of goldeneye on the lake outside the café window. We thought we had plenty of time to stroll back to the station but must have lingered too long along the banks of the estuary - we found we had to run the last few hundred yards and just caught the train with a few minutes to spare! Between us we racked up over 40 species which wasn't bad considering the low numbers of common-or-garden birds.
Conwy RSPB is a nicely-matured, varied reserve with plenty to offer individuals and families looking for a good day out at any time of year. The open area just inside the entrance is currently undergoing extensive landscaping and will eventually boast a huge grass-covered Welsh dragon for children (of all ages) to climb on and explore. Can't wait!
Thank you to everyone who came, including the two gentleman who chose to drive instead of leaving the strain to the train.
* * * * *