WWT Slimbridge – 12th December 2021 – report by Sue Brealey
On a day where the first coach trip for 2 years was looked forward to by the 21 participants who were willing and able to attend. Being at the start of the Omicron spike in the pandemic, and those who came spread out around the coach and masks were worn as required. The journey to Slimbridge was straight forward although there was a sharp shower, which was of concern for the day. However, the weather proved good, clear, with light cloud with the temperature being around 13ºC.
After the members had walked through a disinfectant-soaked pad, to help prevent against avian flu, and paid their way into the reserve, the group separated into different groups. It was unfortunate that the restaurant was closed for an event, picnics had as usual been brought, so members started to move off to see what they could.
One group started off towards the northern arm of the hides to observe the wildlife. A first stop at the Martin Smith hide, proved useful with sightings of a great many Wigeon, & Teal, plus a few Mallard, Black headed Gull. Also, there a number of Berwick Swan, together with a couple of Common Crane, were feeding in the pasture. Some Carrion Crow and Jackdaw were around as well. Then the group moved up the northern arm, stopping at Willow Hide, where a feeding station was in use, by Blue Tit, Great Tit, House Sparrow, and Robin. At the end of a brook to the right, a Water Rail was noted, which gradually moved up in order to feed where seed had dropped to the ground. But then a couple of Brown Rats, one significantly smaller than the other, scared the Rail off what they considered their territory, but then they were distracted by Grey Squirrel, which they chased off, leaving the area open for the Water Rail, plus a second one, to return. It was quite a comical piece of behaviour to observe.
After this encounter, the group went to end of the north arm, where it was found that the old Tower Hide had been replaced by the new Estuary Hide. This has two higher floors for observation which are reached not only by stairs but a lift as well. The top observation area is open, secured by glass guards, with fantastic views of the estuary and surrounding fields. For someone with vertigo issues, the writer felt safe and really enjoyed the views and also the birds found. These included Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, some Moorhen, and distantly a Peregrine sitting on a log (definitely a scope job). While scanning for the Peregrine, a fence was looked over and a couple of Roe Deer were noted. After this the second floor was gained by going down the stairs, which proved to be as good in access as the top floor, although closed against the weather. It was felt to be an excellent addition to the reserve’s hides.
The group then walked to the Robbie Garnet Hide, where it was decided to have lunch. During this period, Blackbird were seen flying along the hedgerow. In the water were seen a group of Dunlin, and then a Little Stint was noted amongst them. A group of Lapwing entertained by flying about intermittently, together with some Golden Plover. In the distance a flock of Curlew were seen, and then nearer to the hide where Redshank was seen, and then a couple of Snipe flew past. A white bird flew in, and initially it was thought to be an Egret, but in fact when it turned round it proved to a Spoonbill. A Pied Wagtail was seen on the shoreline, with some Pintail and Shoveler swimming on the pond.. A Kingfisher flew past in a flash of turquoise. Mute Swan were also present.
After this the group moved onto the Zeiss Hide, coming to it after going through the captive bird area, where Eider Duck, Goldeneye, & Smew were seen, but were included in the count, but enjoyed just the same. However, on the way, Coot & Moorhen were noted. On arrival at the hide, Cormorant were seen drying their wings while Herring Gull flew over, with a group of Starling were seen feeding in the field. Looking south towards the Kingfisher Hide, on a distant pool quite a number birds were noted. Using the scope, Barnacle Goose were seen and amongst them there were strange goose like birds. On a closer look it was seen that there was a Ross’s Goose, and also a Bar-headed Goose/Snow Goose Hybrid. Following a conversation with a local birder it was concluded that these were feral birds, so not included in the count, but interesting. A couple of Gadwall were seen with some Shelduck, and a Marsh Harrier flew over. Time was marching on, so it was decided to return to the Reception Centre, but before the walk had started, a Stonechat was seen moving along the posts of a fence. Once on the walk back, Rooks and Magpies were seen.
Once back at the Centre, members divided between going to the Peng Observatory to see the feeding of the waterfowl and returning to the coach for the homeward journey. A request was made for members to send in their lists, and from these the following birds were noted to have been seen: – Avocet, Buzzard, Common Gull, Fieldfare, Goosander, Great White Egret, Greater black backed Gull, Lesser black backed Gull, Little Egret, Raven, Redwing, Ruff, Tufted Duck. So, in the end the whole group appeared to have seen about a total of 55, a good number for a day which had been enjoyed by all.
Pennington Flash Country Park – Sunday, 21st November 2021 – report by Sue Brealey
A group of eight members arrived at Pennington Flash hoping for a good day’s birding. The weather was a lovely sunny morning with clear skies, but as a result the temperature was only 4ºC, and later in the walk the wind started to rise, but not by much.
An initial scan of the Flash itself, produced good numbers of Black headed Gull, Mallard, Canada Goose, several Mute Swan, and Coot near the car park. To the back of the Flash, Tufted Duck and Gadwall were seen. The group started out on the circular route, arriving first at Horrocks Hide. From here, a Carrion Crow and Moorhen were seen near the hide and further away several Cormorant roosting together. A group of about 12 or more Great crested Grebe were swimming together, and then a couple of female Goldeneye were seen diving and feeding, and then a male Goldeneye was seen preening. Great black backed Gull, Lesser black backed Gull and Herring Gull were seen, together with a goodly flock of Lapwing, and a Grey Heron.
Another short walk brought the group to Tom Edmondson’s Hide over looking a lake, with a screen opposite which overlooks the Flash. A few members heard a Water Rail from the screen, while from the hide, more Gadwall were seen as well as Teal, Tufted Duck and Shoveler. A Kingfisher flew along the lake a few times without stopping, a Grey Heron was noted and then a Rode Deer was seen amongst the trees. Just below a snipe was seen, with difficulty when still. Once feeding its movement could be seen, and then it moved position, stretching itself up and looking like a different bird altogether for a minute, and then disappeared amongst the foliage! A further walk brought the group to Ramsdale’s Hide, where a couple more Snipe were seen on the far side of the scrape. Another Kingfisher flew in and perched briefly on a log, and other birds mainly included Black headed Gull, Mallard, Shoveler & Teal.
After this the group resumed walking along the circular route, walking through a very muddy section which led onto an open area where people walking to the rear saw a male Sparrowhawk fly through the area fast. The route took the way past an area to go up to see the Leeds-Liverpool canal, but was left as past experience had found very few new birds there. The path carried on for about ½ mile or so, going through a wooded area, where Blackbird, Dunnock, Blue Tit, and Robin were noted. Then the group arrived at Teal Hide, when the scrape offered the usual ducks, and a Kingfisher came to perch at one of several angled log perches. Having stayed on an initial perch, the Kingfisher moved to another one, and flew up and hovered over the water looking for prey, before returning to the perch. A real highlight.
After a further walk, the Lapwing Screen came into sight. Initially there didn’t appear to be anything around, but then a Redwing was seen, and then the distinctive call of Willow Tit was heard, and just as quickly a couple were seen fliting around the trees. Definitely another highlight. After this the group moved onto the Bunting Hide, which is a feeding station. However before actually going into the hide it was noted that seed had been placed on the top of fence post, and groups of Long tailed Tit and Coal Tit came to feed there. Once in the hide, there were about five Grey Squirrels feeding and squabbling around the area. Amongst the birds seen were Great Tit, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Dunnock and about 4 Stock Dove were seen. After this a brief visit was made to Pengy’s Hide, the last one, but no further birds were noted.
Having had a good morning’s walk, the group sat down for a well-earned picnic, and to reflect on what had been seen. Approximately 37 species had been seen on a visit that was enjoyed by all who had come.
RSPB Conwy – 19th September 2021 – report by Sue Brealey
After 17 months with no field trips due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, 8 members arrived at RSPB Conwy hoping for a good day’s birding after such a long period. The weather initially was cloudy, with a slight wind with a temperature of 14ºC, drizzling part of the way, then the sun came out leaving blue skies with white clouds.
While going through the new entry point, House Sparrows were found in the nearby shrubs. After using the facilities, the group started on the walk around the reserve. This had been marked out as one-way as part of the precautions as part of dealing with Covid-19 risks, and indicated to go along the boardwalk amongst the reedbed. Herring Gull and Black headed Gulls were seen flying overhead, as the group moved along turning towards a viewpoint. From this point, Teal and Shoveler, in eclipse as other ducks were when seen later, were noted, in lagoons which showed a low level of water. Later it was established this was a deliberate move in order to prepare the ground for maintenance. Due to the lack of water, there were not many birds in this section, so the group moved onto the Tal-y-fan hide. Along the way, Blackbird were noted, and Goldfinch and Starling few over. At the hide, more Teal & Shoveler, with Mallard were seen feeding away, Curlew flew over. There was a group of at least 12 Little Egret roosting amongst a Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Moorhen, a couple of Coot, a Black-tailed Godwit, Little Grebe, Pied Wagtail and Grey Heron. Then a wader was noted to be feeding voraciously in the deeper water so that its legs were not visible. Initially it was uncertain as to what it was, but after further study it was concluded to be a Spotted Redshank, probably a juvenile going into winter plumage and difficult to identify. A couple of Jackdaw were noted.
A further walk brought the group to the Carneddau hide, where the wearing of masks was strongly advised. A scan over the islands which were being viewed from a different angle found a few more different species. A group of about 4 Cormorant were drying their wings on some rocks. On scanning forward from the cormorants were a couple of Egrets, a couple of Curlew and then between a couple of Lapwing were 2 grey looking waders roosting but eventually it was concluded that they were Greenshank which were really well disguised. Then in front of the Greenshanks a couple of Snipe and Dunlin were noted. At the other end of the island a Bar tailed Godwit was seen, again roosting, as well as a Knot amongst plenty of Gulls which included a Common Gull and a Great Black backed Gull plus some Oystercatcher. Some Carrion Crow were seen.
At this point, the group split up, with the majority moving on to finish the circuit including along Estuary where the tide was at its best. The majority of birds seen were more of those already seen but in more numbers. There was a distant of view of a Great White Egret, with Raven, Reed Bunting being added to the list. The other group saw Blue Tit and Robin on the way back at a feeding station, then while resting near the Visitor’s Centre some Magpie and Buzzard were noted.
Everyone collected at the picnic area, and discussed this first field trip since the opening up of the country after the main part of the Pandemic, and it was concluded that everyone had enjoyed themselves. Approximately 43 species had been seen.
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