15 April - Whixall Moss
(Apologies for late inclusion - Ed.)
Photo: Chris Bateman
A group of 15 gathered at Morris's Bridge car park on a sunny but breezy day for a walk around Fenn's and Whixall Moss. This is Britain's third largest raised bog and is an unique habitat in Shropshire.
We started our walk along the canal and checked out the flooded fields opposite. Apart from some teal and Canada geese we did see two waders with a distinct sandpiper appearance, one of which was very pale - however they were too far even for binoculars for a proper identification. There had been reports of a wood sandpiper on the fields just prior to our walk, could it have been? Willow warblers and chiff chaffs sang constantly with an occasional blackcap. Further along we saw a greater spotted woodpecker and had a quick view of a treecreeper. While we were having a coffee stop a blackcap was observed in a nearby tree; in a few weeks the leaf coverage would be too dense. At this point we entered the Moss proper and we could see a kestrel hovering nearby and buzzards circling in the thermals. The breeze kept some of the smaller birds down but male reed buntings were singing on top of grasses, with wrens darting between shrubs. Further inland where there are larger pools black headed gull were swooping and screaming around. It's always worth checking gulls out as male hen harriers sometimes appear on the moss but that is usually in the winter months. The smaller pools are ideal habitat for dragonflies and in a few weeks these would be emerging as adults, together with the arrival of hobbies that predate on them.
Bird count includes: swallow, robin, canada goose, wood pigeon, goldfinch, carrion crow, chiffchaff, wren, lapwing, pheasant, buzzard, magpie, blackbird, song thrush, teal, black-headed gull, pied wagtail, moorhen, coot, sandpiper(?), willow warbler, jackdaw, chaffinch, goldcrest, mallard, tree creeper, gt spotted woodpecker, blackcap, kestrel, jay, reed bunting, curlew, marsh
harrier(?), stock dove, nuthatch. 35 species.
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21 October - Whitcliffe Common, Ludlow
Photo: Chris Bateman (taken in better weather!)
Owing to an appalling weather forecast and boggy conditions underfoot we decided to shorten the walk and didn't expect many people to make it to the meeting point - in fact it turned out to be successful as a dozen keen people turned up! Instead of the planned route up into Mortimer Forest we took a gentle stroll down to the river and along the Breadwalk, ending up at Ludford Bridge. All in all we saw 20 species of birds: Crow, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit (lots of these delightful little birds), Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Swan, Mallard, Lesser Black Back Gull, Male Goosander, Moorhen, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch (heard), Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren, Starling and, luckily, the Kingfisher(!). We all quite happily fell into the Wheatsheaf Pub next to a roaring fire where we were served an early lunch and engaged in a lively discussion. Good time had by all.
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16 September - Stiperstones
10.00am at the Bog car park and 13 people have assembled on a bright but cool morning. On the top of a tree are 2 mistle thrushes and circling overhead, a buzzard. As we start to explore the bushes around the car park, a woodpigeon, 2 ravens and a jackdaw pass overhead and a great tit is sitting in a fir tree. It is surprisingly quiet with nothing about around the pond and it is starting to drizzle so we don waterproofs and head off up the field to the hairpin bend. In the rowan trees there are 2 robins and a chaffinch singing and a carrion crow flies over. As we head up the path towards Pennerley Reservoir we spot more robins and a stonechat sitting on a fencepost, plus a swallow flying low over the field and a kestrel gliding up towards the Devil’s Chair. Despite all the cloud, long distance visibility is very good and Cader Idris can clearly be seen on the horizon. At the reservoir there are a couple of rabbits in the field and 3 house sparrows sitting on the fence, a siskin in a bush and at the nearby white cottage a blue tit and a great spotted woodpecker. We have a coffee break for 10 minutes and I notice there are quite a few small birds on the fence around the reservoir so I investigate, and find a couple of female stonechats and also a number of meadow pipits. Walking down past the cottage garden we see a goldfinch, a greenfinch, a blackbird and a dunnock, and at the side of the path a red admiral. Turning left onto the lower path a wren is in the hedge as we approach the stables and a magpie is in the field. We stop by the pond where there are sometimes mallards and moorhens but no sign today. We do see a collared dove and hear a bullfinch, and as we continue along the path back to the car park we see a couple of female bullfinches. A fairly quiet day, perhaps due to the cloudy and occasionally damp weather, with the most numerous bird being robins which we see or hear all around the walk, so we have to settle for 24 species.
It is now time for lunch so we visit the Bog Visitor Centre where they kindly allow us to eat our sandwiches if we buy a drink but some of us can’t resist their delicious cakes and scones as well.
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15 July - Leintwardine from the Bridge
Photo: Gail Ellis
It was warm and dry, if overcast, as our group of 16 or 17 met on The Green by Leintwardine bridge. Swifts and House Martins flew overhead and as we watched from the bridge we were rewarded by the sight of a Dipper on the gravel bank just downstream. We crossed the road and took the permissive route upstream along the south bank of the River Teme. It was lovely to see a good number of Sand Martins popping in and out of their nest holes in the riverbank, presumably busy with chicks to feed. A Grey Heron was spotted and flew off low away and three Cormorants flew overhead. There were a number of juvenile wagtails about and we had a bit of discussion about whether they were young pied or young grey wagtails. We decided in the end they were Pied Wagtails due to the absence of any yellow under the tail, even though they were on the riverbank, a typical grey wagtail habitat. We then saw an adult pied wagtail and this seemed to confirm we had plumped for the right ID.
One of the highlights the riverbank produced was the sight of a Common Sandpiper with its tail bobbing up and down in typical sandpiper fashion. It only gave brief views before flying upstream out of sight and although we thought we heard it call a bit further along on the walk we didn't see it again. Some sharp-eared members of the group identified the call of a Treecreeper and we then managed to spot it on the willow tree above us. A Beautiful Demoiselle lived up to its name as it perched for us – though this was the only damselfly or dragonfly we saw.
We had an impromptu stop for coffee/snacks etc. and while we sat on the riverbank we were serenaded by a Skylark, which rose into the sky above us. All birdsong seems doubly precious at this time of year when we know it may be many months before we hear it again.
We left sheep-cropped grass behind for a field growing cereals. A Yellowhammer sang persistently from the distant hedgerow but we were unable to spot it. Equally elusive were the singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap somewhere in the trees and scrub near the river. The field was bordered by a wide strip of grasses and flowers which really showed what a difference leaving an uncultivated area could make to the wildlife potential of an arable field. There was a wonderful array of flowers including Mallow, Ladies Bedstraw, Field Scabious and Knapweed. We saw butterflies – Meadow Brown; Small Skipper; Ringlet; and (some of us) Red Admiral. There was also a good number of beetles – including many red-coloured soldier beetles – and hoverflies.
Time had got the better of us so most of us retraced our steps back to the bridge and the Pub, although one intrepid couple decided to complete the full circuit and added Great Spotted Woodpecker to our list. At the bridge we saw an indisputable Grey Wagtail.
Twelve of us adjourned to The Lion for a pleasant lunch. In all we saw and/or heard 32 species of birds.
FULL LIST OF BIRDS: House Martin; Buzzard;Swift; Dipper; Sand Martin; Goldfinch; Greenfinch; Grey Heron; Pied Wagtail; Moorhen; Song Thrush; Nuthatch; Starling; House Sparrow; Blackbird; Carrion Crow; Jackdaw; Cormorant; Woodpigeon; Common Sandpiper; Meadow Pipit; Wren; Chaffinch; Treecreeper; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Skylark; Yellowhammer; Chiffchaff; Blackcap; Grey Wagtail, Dunnock (and Great Spotted Woodpecker by 2 of the group).
BUTTERFLIES: Meadow Brown; Small Skipper; Ringlet; Red Admiral.
DAMSELFLIES: Beautiful Demoiselle.
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17 June - Colstey Wood (between Bishop's Castle and Clun)
Photo: Gail Ellis
Having whizzed back a day early from our week in Pembroke (best laid plans and all that!) we woke up to a very hot and sunny day for the walk and met with 11 others also braving the heat. Fortunately quite a proportion of the route was through mixed woodland which offered some shade although made it difficult to see the birds!
As rank amateurs we relied on the remainder of the group to identify most of the birds we were hearing and seeing. So this is it in no particular order of appearance: Blackbird – Blackcap - Blue Tit – Buzzard – Carrion Crow - Chaffinch – Chiffchaff – Goldfinch – House Martin – House Sparrow - Long-tailed Tit - Moorhen and chick - Nuthatch – Pheasant – Red Kite - Robin – Song Thrush - Swallow – Swifts - Tree Creeper – Tree Pipit - Whitethroat – Willow Warbler – Wood Pigeon - Garden Warbler - Wren - Yellowhammer.
As a bonus in some of the open areas we saw butterflies and damselflies including wood white, meadow brown, green-veined white, speckled wood, red admiral and beautiful demoiselle.
Those who could stay joined us for a drink, a light lunch and a cool down in the Bishops Castle Hotel bar.
Linda and Nick Pyne
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20 May - Cold Weston Farm
Six of us met at Janice’s farm to car share to the lay-by near Cold Weston Farm but unfortunately Janice couldn’t join us as she had a virus. The low numbers reflected the poor weather forecast and sure enough it was drizzling. We met Dan who used to work at the farm and for 50 years he has promoted wildlife conservation there. During that time, trees and hedges have been planted, ponds dug, 200 nest boxes put up and wildflower seeds sown. He now returns periodically to monitor the nest boxes.
We started off at a wildlife pond on the edge of Cold Weston Wood. A chiffchaff was singing as we went through the gate and Dan pointed out the abundance of wildflowers around the edge of the pond. These were too numerous to list but included common spotted orchid, meadow crane’s-bill, cowslip, St. John’s wort, loosestrife, water avens, ragged-robin and some colourful yellow iris in the water. A blackbird and a song thrush were singing in the trees. Affixed to an old oak tree was a nestbox and, after checking that the parents were not around, Dan lifted the lid to reveal 8 baby blue tits. Crossing the road into the farm the next two nestboxes housed eggs of pied flycatcher and coal tit. These boxes are on trees above a small gully with a stream at the bottom and while a pheasant called in the background a male pied flycatcher flew across the stream.
Crossing the stream on a bridge we entered a field of buttercups and paused by more oak trees. A female mallard flew over and we heard a nuthatch, a willow warbler and a blackcap above us. A great tit flew out of a nestbox and then we had a very clear view of a male pied flycatcher sitting on a branch. We passed another nestbox which Dan said had 7 redstart eggs but there was no sign of the adults. As we crossed the field a crow, a great spotted woodpecker and a woodpigeon flew by and then 2 buzzards flew down from another tree where we could clearly see their nest. At the next nestbox Dan showed us 4 blue eggs belonging to a redstart and then a swallow flew over. It was now raining continuously but we were quite high up on the farm and had good views of the Clee Hills in the distance and as we descended the field a fair number of swallows and house martins were flying around.
We paused for a coffee stop and in the next field a roe deer bounded by. The rain was now very heavy and we sought shelter under a large tree. We were not going to see much more now so we headed back to the cars, thanked Dan for the interesting and enthusiastic way he shared his knowledge with us, and, as we were wet and muddy, decided to skip the usual cafe/pub and head home.
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18 March - Brampton Bryan
The weather forecast at the beginning of the week was less than promising. However all was well on the day, with a mixture of cloud and a little spring sunshine turning to drizzle around midday. There was also some wind.
A happy band of 24 souls, both members and welcome non-members, gathered in the lane by Brampton Bryan church. Here we spotted a red kite, goldcrest and greenfinches to whet our appetites before we set off into the Park. We walked on the drive between the farm buildings, alert to any movement, before encountering several very tired looking rams! The drive continued down a fine avenue of stately oaks. Here a great spotted woodpecker put in an appearance together with a tree creeper and a nuthatch as well as fieldfares and redwings. There were several ponds with a pair of mute swans, coots, a moorhen and a heron flying overhead.
We left the drive and continued on a bridleway, across grassland with great trees on either side, towards the base of the hill. These trees are very ancient and are thought to date back to the 16th century. They are oaks and sweet chestnuts. They are so majestic that, to everyone’s amusement, Janice and Lionel decided to “hug a tree”! The trunks are so huge that the huggers' arms could only reach about a fifth of the way round.
The track climbed up steeply for about 100 metres. So it was slow going with much huffing and puffing, but luckily not too muddy considering that horses had been up the track. At the top we were rewarded with grand, if rather misty views westwards over Wales. We even saw a faint rainbow while sitting enjoying a belated coffee break. The drizzle started so we decided to turn back. The leaders suspect that thoughts were starting to focus on lunch! On the way downhill we glimpsed a stock dove in a tree.
We were lucky enough to see 28 different bird species in this beautiful setting. Twelve of us then headed off to The Lion at Leintwardine for an excellent lunch and a good old chinwag. Mind you there had been quite a bit of that all morning!
Lionel & Beth Bridge
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18 February - Pwll Penarth, Newtown
February can be a very wintry month, but this year we had delightful late winter sunshine with sunny blue skies and lots of bird song. All very encouraging for our trip.
This is a small reserve, just a few miles from Newtown, at one time part of the sewage farm to which it is now adjacent. It is looked after by the Montgomery Wildlife Trust and is situated between the River Severn and the Montgomery Canal. On the short walk along the canal bank to the reserve entrance we identified goldcrests, long-tailed tits and chaffinches. Several people thought they had heard a chiffchaff but others doubted this - it was only February after all.
Pwll Penarth has many different habitats: scrub; birch coppice; boggy areas and of course the river. It has two hides which overlook reed beds, pools and islands. In the first hide we had a good view of a singing male reed bunting. We did think we might have heard a sedge warbler, but could not properly identify it. On the walk along the river we saw a dipper and a pair of goosanders. In the second hide we had a view of snipe, little grebe, coot, mallard and moorhen. A sparrowhawk obligingly flew near to the hide, and as we were leaving a little egret flew on to the pool bank.
On the walk back along the disused canal we saw a very smart pair of reed buntings and two equally dapper bullfinches, and made a positive identification of a chiffchaff. Proof indeed that spring is approaching.
After lunch we decided to visit another reserve - Coed Y Dinas. Close to Welshpool, it has a large hide overlooking a big pool, popular with waders. We were not disappointed, seeing several snipe and teal close by and bringing our overall total for the day up to thirty-nine.
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