Ham Wall RSPB & Shapwick Heath 11th Jun 2022

Thirteen Club members headed down to this famous reserve in the Somerset Levels, on a nice sunny but sometimes a little blustery day. At the top of the list of target birds were Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, and Hobby. We weren’t disappointed. A good number of Bitterns were seen – all fly-bys and difficult to get a good photo of. Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets were everywhere, the former never coming very close but great to watch as they quartered the vast expanses of reed, the smart adult males being particularly attractive. In the afternoon at the Shapwick Heath reserve we had nice views of two immature Marsh Harriers sitting atop a bush in the reeds. Inital sightings of Hobby were very distant from the first Ham Wall view point. Alan Rosney initially picked up a couple hunting quite high in the far distance, picked up in his ‘scope whilst scanning. In the afternoon at the Meare Heath hide in the Shapwick section we were eventually rewarded with a few excellent fly-bys low over the reeds in front of us. Warblers were represented by Reed, Garden [heard briefly], Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Cetti’s. The main wildfowl were Gadwall, all in eclipse plumage, but we did spot a single drake Pochard in flight, and several pairs of Great Crested Grebe had young ‘humbugs’. A Cuckoo was seen in flight and indeed heard. Insects provided additional interest with Red-eyed Damselflies in the Shapwick section, and an incredible number of dragonflies settling on reed stems in front of the Meare Heath hide – 20 or more 4-Spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers in one small area. A Wasp Beetle resting on the window of my vehicle in the car park, was very impressive. All in all a good day. John Wilson

Llanwonno Weds 1st June

GBC evening trip to Llanwonno – Weds 1st Jun 2022

Seventeen souls braved the midges and met up in the car park of the Brynffynon Hotel, for our annual foray to hear and hopefully see, Nightjars. We were pleased to welcome along Vikki Howells, MS for the Cynon Valley, who is the Senedd ‘Nightjar Champion’. We headed up the road to the west of the hotel and then took a track up the hill to the south of the road, eventually meeting a forestry track which we gradually walked along. It was pretty quiet compared to some previous years when Song Thrushes had continued singing until well after dusk. We had views of a few Tree Pipits sitting atop small saplings, and a few Willow Warblers were singing out of view. One of the Tree Pipits [the one in the photo] was pestered by a Jay. As the light began to fade it was just a case of patient waiting, watching and listening. At last some churring was detected so at least we knew there were bird[s] present. A movement was detected on the slope below us and eventually a few folk had a brief view of a male, flying into view and then disappearing behind a plantation, flashing its white wing and tail patches. Up to three birds were heard churring, then a sudden fly-by through the trees up the slope caused some excitement until I declared it a fly-by Cuckoo, albeit a brief one. Gareth Jenkins then spotted a Nightjar sitting atop a tall conifer some distance away. I hurriedly started to set up my ‘scope, which turned out to be the kiss of death and the bird flew off out of view. Others of the group then had a view of another bird flying between the trees up-slope from us. Some folk also hard a calling Tawny Owl. As always, it’s a bit hit & miss with Nightjars but at least we heard and saw some. Overall we thought there were 4-5 birds present in that area. John Wilson
Vikki Howells is to my right in the photo below.

RSPB Dinas 22 May 2022

We had a GBC trip to RSPB Dinas yesterday with a group of 13 members, to whom thanks for coming. I left Penarth in nice sunshine and arrived at Dinas to be greeted by low grey cloud, drizzle and a temp of 12 deg C! Hence birds v quiet until about 2 p.m. and light in the woods was very low. Some seed was put down on the feeding log and table by the car park but we only attracted a Nuthatch and some House Sparrows. Walking through the initial damp woodland on the boardwalk produced very few birds, although there were glimpses of Pied Fly and Redstart by some and Willow Warblers and Backcaps were singing well. At the end of the boardwalk we headed left round the south edge of the wooded hill that comprises the main part of the reserve. The Bluebells were very attractive. We had a good view of a Tree Pipit perched up and more view of Pied Fly and Redstart but none really ‘crippling’. At one point a Cuckoo was heard calling and some of the party managed to find it on an adjacent hillside. We had our picnic lunches about half way round and continued until we reached the section with the steep rocky path that follows the river. I for one didn’t fancy tackling that section, so we backtracked and then dropped down to the riverside, where two Dippers were feeding, and a pair of Grey Wagtails were taking food to a juvenile sheltering under the riverbank from the the stiff cold breeze. Walking back along the boardwalk we then got some good views of Pied Flycatchers and two Spotted Flycatchers, and plenty of common species. The temperature had increased a little by this time. At the feeding log there was a constant stream of Siskin, mostly males, a juv Nuthatch and eventually a female Yellowhammer. Some folk left at this time and the few left drove up to the road above Llynn Brianne and we added 2 Wheatear, 3 Stonechat, Skylarks, Meadow Pipit and a very brief Whinchat. We eventually logged 46 species. No prize winners in the photos – v poor conditions for photography! All target species were logged in the reserve although Wood Warblers were only heard. See the full list here.