Saturday, 27 April 2013

Bath City Farm

Spring Natural History Day at Bath City Farm. 27th April 2013.

Sixteen members and guests attended this event on a cool but mostly dry and at times quite sunny day that looked and felt more like March than late April. We gathered at first for an introductory talk by Alan Rayner in the newly built training room, where our display stand used at the recent Lakeside Optics Bird Fair was also set up. Then we set out for a walk around the Farm, to get an overall feeling for the diverse grassland, woodland, scrub, hedgerow, wet ground and pond habitats it contains. We noticed some considerable differences in plant species diversity between grasslands on the upper and lower slopes and spent some while examining woodland flora and fungi on decaying wood. A majestic hollow beech tree within which tiers of fruit bodies of Coriolus versicolor and rarer Coriolus zonatus were growing attracted our attention. This provided Paul Wilkins with a chance to explain what he called ‘angel wings’, forming where adjacent trunks fused, and why the tubular structure of the hollow trunk was mechanically strong enough to support a large, high canopy.  A variety of birds were seen and heard, including lesser whitethroat amongst the latter. We returned to the training room for lunch and conversation, then set out again, as a smaller party, for a more detailed examination of grassland biodiversity, led by Alan Feest, who showed us how to conduct a structured survey using no more than three bamboo canes and a 4 m dog lead. We found this very enjoyable and instructive, demonstrating both how quantitative data  can be gathered in a scientifically useful way, enabling changes in species composition to be detected, and how much more can be found when our attention is carefully focused – as when Andrew Daw picked up a tiny grass snail. Just seven plant species were recorded within a 50 m 2 circle in the upper grassland, whilst nineteen were found in the lower grassland. We hope to do more of this on future Nats field excursions. 

Chew Valley Lake, associated with Bird Fair.

Bath Nats Walk Saturday April 13th 2013 Chew Valley Lake, associated with Bird Fair.  Leader: Terry Doman.

Eight members joined the leader for a walk along the lake margins.  After a safety brief we started the walk by visiting the two main marquees. Representatives of the firms who manufacture telescopes, binoculars and cameras were inviting people to try and buy their equipment. The sides of the marquee were open to allow optical equipment to be tested in ideal conditions.  Alan Rayner was manning the Bath Nats stand in the marquee and on display were fine examples of close-up insect photography by Paul Wilkins, which had been printed for display by John Garrett.  Alan had brought along some specimens of mosses and lichens, so that the public could view them with close-up hand lenses to see the fine detail.  We re-grouped and started off along the perimeter paths of the lake.  Our first treat was a male Reed Bunting in best breeding plumage of black, white and brown, this gave us views of a bird, not rare but not common around the Bath area.  A cold north east wind was blowing and it had started to rain so we made for the shelter of a wooded area where a Willow Warbler was singing but it was too deep in the willows to be seen.  We saw many Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck on our walk to the new hide.  After a rest and views across the lake of Swallows and House Martins we started our return journey.  Buzzard, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot and Mute Swan were seen on the way back through the rain.  We were wet but not down hearted with a total of 23 species seen.      [TD]


I thought you might be interested to see this picture of a Kingfisher with a fish it has just caught. The Kingfisher caught the fish under the Avoncliff aquaduct and was in the process of bashing it to death on a branch when my wife Clea took this shot from one of the benches in the garden of the Cross Guns pub. This was last Saturday (April 20th)

Phil Knight 

click to enlarge

Thank you for sharing with us

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Recording trip to Bath

On one of my occasional recording trips to Bath last week I came across 2 clumps of Scilla mischtschenkoana growing in the wild - albeit near some allotments at Monkton Combe (ST 76749 62281) - see This seems to be a new addition to the area's flora, although of doubtful origins. The leaf mines of the micro moth Ectoedemia heringella are nowite widespread on Holm Oaks in and around the city - this is a relatively new species to the region having been added to the Somerset list in 2012.

Robert Homan, East Gloucsetershire County Moth Recorder

Thank you Robert

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bath Natural History Society Moth Group

Opening the moth trap at High Bannerdown with Elisabeth Allen and Richard Pooley and other Bath NATS members.

Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)
Larval foodplant Oak, Sallow
and other deciduous trees.
Over winters as a pupa
Dotted Chestnut (Conistra rubiginea)
Larval foodplant unknown but
can be reared on Apple,
Plum and Blackthorn.

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)
Larval foodplant Honeysuckle.
Over winters as a pupa

Oak Beauty (Biston strataria) 

Larval foodplant Oak, Elm, Hazel
and other deciduous trees.

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)

Larval foodplant Oak, Sallow,
 and other deciduous trees
 Over winters as a pupa
Oak Beauty (Biston strataria)

Larval foodplant Oak, Elm, Hazel
and other deciduous trees.

Twin-Spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)
Larval foodplant Sallow,
Elm, Oak and other deciduous
trees. Over winters as a pupa

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lesser Redpoll

Thanks Mark for the Photo
Mark Turnbull and myself went to take a look at the Golden Plover on Bannerdown, I think they may have left, we finished up at Bradford Leigh were we had a brilliant view of a Lesser Redpoll, nice to see inside the nats recording area.

All the best Steve

Near Bradford On Avon

Near Bradford On Avon yesterday: several Brimstone butterflies seen. In the evening, on the Two Tunnels Greenway, near Midford, a Willow Warbler was singing. At Middlehill, near Box, four Swallows were seen on passage.

Thank you Chris Phillips

Monday, 15 April 2013

Golden Plover still around Bannerdown

 There has been a small flock (approx. 40-50) of Golden Plover both yesterday and today in the field on the right hand side of the road at the top of Bannerdown Hill.  See 'record shot' attached. (Poor light and quite a long way off)

Hi Paul,
 thank you for the post great result, I know the fields well and have tried to photograph them myself over the years with next to no results.

All the best Steve

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Bath Nats stand

click on photos to enlarge

On friday 12th and saturday 13th April, Bath Nats participated once again in the annual Bird Fair at Chew Valley Lake, organised by 'Lakeside Optics'. Our display was assembled by Alan Rayner, making use of material from our 70th anniversary exhibition supplied by Mark Turnbull, photographs supplied by Paul Wilkins and laminated by John Garrett, panels ordered by Marion Rayner, copies of magazines and membership leaflets supplied by Gillian Barrett and samples of lichens and mosses supplied by the woods fringing the car park. We also received a selection of second-hand books, pamphlets and greeting cards etc for sale from Alan Barrett, Mark Turnbull and Paul Wilkins. The weather wasn't brilliant, to put it mildly, turning the marquee into a wind tunnel on day 1 and a damp chamber on day 2. Nonetheless, our stand attracted much interest and favourable comment and we even sold a few items! On day 1 our stand was manned by Alan Rayner and Paul Wilkins, and on day 2 by Alan Rayner assisted by visits from John Garrett and Terry Doman, as well as the group of Bath Nats attending our 'lakeside walk'. Overall, it was a very worthwhile occasion, keeping Bath Nats in the public eye alongside our friends in the RSPB, Hawk & Owl Trust etc, and leading to some significant conversations and encounters. We are very grateful to Lakeside Optics for including us and providing facilities.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Scandinavian Wildlife: Speaker James Lees.

Tuesday, 2nd April 2013.

James is a warden at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and leads wildlife tours for Naturetrek. In his superbly illustrated account of a Scandinavia tour last year he explained why the area attracts so many birds to breed and so many keen bird watchers. For the birds, the draw in the late spring and summer is 24 hours of daylight and a plentiful supply of insects, especially mosquitoes. A typical example is the Bluethroat which mainly winters in NE Africa but flies as far north as the birch forests in the north of the region to breed.

Scandinavia offers vast unspoilt and unpolluted habitats – mature woodlands, vast pine forests, a rich woodland under-storey of wild berries, lakes, farmland and pasture, and further north, Taiga forest, birch and tundra. There is more water than landmass in Scandinavia. Woodpeckers are abundant and you could see some 10 species if you were very lucky, so extensive is their favoured habitat in comparison with the UK. Watching and feeding garden birds appears to be national pastime, attracting huge numbers of birds for example perhaps 100 northern race Bullfinches to single garden.

In Scandinavia many birds such as Redwing, Fieldfare, Waxwing, Velvet Scoter, Slavonian Grebe and Long Tailed Skua, that may be encountered in Britain are experienced in a very different context on their breeding grounds. Many wading birds will be in full breeding plumage and males on territory will be singing and displaying there. James showed us a number of photographs of Ruff, with ruffs, all of different colours.

Birders are attracted to Scandinavia for a number of particular families of birds such as the woodpeckers and owls and also particular species such as Gyr Falcon, Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay. Siberian Jays are inquisitive, seeking out human company, especially when there is food on offer and they will take food from the hand! James has, literally, come face to face with this bird! There is usually plenty of opportunity to see owl species such as the Great Grey Owl, although numbers fluctuate over the years with the vole and lemming population upon which the owls feed.

There are mammals to see here as well. James showed us pictures of Moose, Reindeer, Red Squirrel and Beaver and talked about their different interactions with their respective habitats and the human population. Moose are enormous and very heavy animals, considerably bigger and taller than a deer. They are both very dangerous and involved in many traffic accidents, hence the numerous roadside warning signs to drivers. The animals are attracted to lick salt off the roads and collisions are invariably fatal.  Probably the most unexpected and  memorable series of pictures were of Brown Bear, including a mother bear and cubs, taken from a hide. There are now a number of bear watching hides where the public can pay for the privilege of some safe bear encounters in close proximity with the animal. White Tailed Sea Eagles can also be seen from these hides.

James’ entertaining and informative commentary and excellent photographs gave us a wonderful taste of Scandinavia, its wild and unpopulated natural habits, its varied and extensive bird life, all of which can be enjoyed on a full stomach from wild berry foraging to eating deliciously cooked reindeer meat and salmon.  Here there aremany species we might struggle to find in the UK, such as Red Breasted Flycatcher, Wood Sandpiper, Black Grouse and Capercaille. James is clearly totally enthralled by all that Scandinavia has to offer by way of natural history, culture and cuisine and for the visitor a fortnight’s holiday in 24 hours of daylight affords maximum opportunities in the field and a true feast for the eye and ear.

Lucy Delve

Author’s Note – The talk brought back very happy and vivid memories of my trip to Finland and Norway, now over 10 years ago. I caught up on the sleepless nights when I got home!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

6th April Birdsong skills improvement

It was a sunny but cold morning for the birdsong skills improvement course on 6th April. The cold winds had dropped to make it a perfect day for seeing & hearing birds. Lucy led a group of 6 along national cycle route 24. We were quickly treated to the calls of siskins & goldfinches, as well as chiff chaffs and chaffinches. We were lucky to get good views too in the trees along the path. A pair of bullfinches were calling,and displayed their lovely plumage above. As we came to a clearing in the trees, Lucy noted the call of a yellowhammer, and we quickly spotted a pair, who kindly perched in a near by tree.
Coffee next to the sewerage works may not sound overly appealing but it rewarded us with lovely views of chiffchaff and  goldcrest in the conifers,  pied wagtails & a pair of raven overhead. Lucy heard a marsh tit calling here & we saw it flit between the trees up on the path.
The return leg through the fields along the river bank was lovely, as there was some warmth in the sun. A buzzard rode the thermals, and Lucy picked out the song of a tree creeper.  Philip was able to pick this lovely little bird out creeping up a near by tree, and we were all fortunate to see & hear it.
As we returned back on to the cycle path, nearing the end of the walk, Lucy stopped suddenly thinking she had heard a redpoll. After a few minutes of listening intently, she did indeed identify the sound as a redpoll, and to our real surprise, we were able to watch a pair in the trees in front. This was a first for some of us, and it felt like a real privilidge.  To top this off, we then spotted a peregrine falcon circling high above.
This was an excellent morning, a chance to enjoy some uninterrupted time watching & listening to birds, on a spring day.  Many thanks to Lucy for picking out so many lovely birds for us to enjoy; we felt that we were able to improve our aural identification skills, and will be able to build upon this each time we are in the great outdoors.

Louise Wardle & Angela Humphries

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Spring is almost about here

Green Sheild Bug Combe Down 2-4-2013

I think spring is almost about here as there 
has been some wildlife activity in the garden this week.

click photos to enlarge

Ivy-leaved Speedwell - Veronica hederifolia
So nice to see some of the first wild flowers.
Taken in my garden at Combe Down Bath 2-4-2013
Male Wolf Spider - Pardosa amentata
Taken at Combe Down yesterday 2-4-2013

                                                            click photos to enlarge

Great Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)
Lymnaea stagnalis photo taken
2-4-2013 Combe Down Bath
Female flower of Hazel
The female flower of the
Hazel is beautiful if you look at it closely!
 Combe Down 2-4-2103

Thank you Paul Wilkins

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Otter in bath

Hello ,I just wanted to let you know my daughter and I were thrilled this afternoon to watch an otter diving and swimming in the stretch of river below st John's- where the peregrines nest-. We walk this way daily and have never seen one before- so exciting!