Thursday, 26 February 2015

Field Trip Report Corsham Park Estate

Bath Natural History Society  on We]dnesday 18th
February 2015.
Leader: Paul Wilkins.

Twenty six of us, including three members of the public who’d read the article about Bath
Nats in BBC Wildlife Magazine, met on a very pleasant bright and sunny morning in the
dedicated car park off Lacock Road. On entering the estate Paul gave a very brief history of
the park telling us that it was acquired by Paul Methuen in 1745 and is still in the ownership
of the Methuen family today. The original landscape was designed by Lancelot Brown in
circa 1759 in-keeping with the 'pastoral' fashion of the day. It was later improved and
redesigned by Humphry Repton in 1778, this included the planting of several thousand trees
and the construction of the existing lake.

Walking across to the lake we were treated to a number of winter visitors including a pair of
very shy Goosander who remained on the far side of the lake. There were better views of two
or three pairs of Shoveler duck along with a pair of Great Crested Grebe who briefly showed
us a preview of their unusual courtship display. Canada Geese, Mallard, Coot and a few
hybrid ducks made up the rest of the waterfowl. There were also a number of gulls on the
lake, mostly Black-headed Gulls with the odd juvenile Herring and Lesser Black-back Gull
dotted amongst them.

Paul then turned our attention to the magnificent mature Oak trees and suggested that these
were probably part of the original planting from the late seventeenth century. A number of
these had started to become 'stag-headed' and produce epicormic growth on the trunk and
lower branches – a natural process as the tree ages, which in time will form a lower crown as
the tree diminishes in height. Paul also informed us that a number of species of moths and
other insects lay their eggs on or close to the buds so that the young larvae can take advantage
of the early food supply as soon as the bud begins to open, giving them an early advantage
over later emerging species. However, despite a short time searching no insect eggs were

Our walk then continued northwards toward a narrow strip of woodland which formed part of
the so called 'North Walk' originally designed by Lancelot Brown. The landscape here was in-
keeping with the rest of the estate and was dominated by fully mature and over mature Oaks
punctuated here and there with the mature European Lime and Horse Chestnuts and it was
high up in one of these trees that someone spotted a single Stock Dove and with the aid of a
telescope we were given a reasonable view of this very shy member of the pigeon family.

Bird activity was unusually quiet for the time of year and our hope of seeing a Little Owl in
this almost perfect habitat for them was not forthcoming despite many pairs of binoculars
searching the branches of the distant Oaks. Other species of birds that were seen included a
Common Buzzard flying overhead, a number of Redwings feeding in the distant grassland
and singletons of Carrion Crow, Rook, Magpie and Jackdaw. Later on a Green Woodpecker
was disturbed and flew off low towards the adjoining woodland where both Nuthatch and
Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard but not seen.

Alan Rayner pointed out the mosaic of many different species of Lichen growing on the
trunks and branches of many trees as well as the fruiting bodies of tree-inhabiting fungi such
as Southern Bracket (Ganoderma austral) and Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme).

On our return to the car park a number of members were lucky enough to spot a Mistle
Thrush to round off the still bright and sunny morning.

Paul Wilkins

Sunday, 15 February 2015

8th February 2015: Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve.

Lead by Mike Hawken, Terry Doman, Tom Pinckheard
We left Bath in heavy fog with a forecast of cloudy, cold weather. During the journey the sun broke through and we arrived at 9.45 to cold but sunny conditions, that persisted throughout our stay.
This was a joint coach meeting of Bath NATS with the Bath RSPB members group. Our large coach party of 41, was met by 3 more that came by car.  While some made their own way around the site the rest were divided into three groups and set out in different directions in order to reduce the crush in hides and the impact elsewhere on the site. For this reason  individual experience of the day will differ. Below are my significant bird sightings by location.


Here a maze of paths lead through lichen and moss swathed, bare Ash, Birch, and Oaks. The small woodland between the coach park and Ellingham Drive was particularly eye-catching with evergreen Ivy and Holly Tees. An elusive Firecrest was seen here on and off throughout the day. With some help, I was lucky to see this bird on my third attempt. A little further along this path, there were Siskins feeding on Alder cones.

Ivy Lake

From the north hide several people enjoyed close views of Snipe.
From the south hide, below a significant Cormorant roost, there were Teal sheltering on an embankment. Close by, with white vent and eyes, glistening in shades of mahogany red and maroon, a drake Ferruginous Duck showed very well much of the day. Also seen here a Green Sandpiper and Kingfisher.

Rockford Lake

Here there were large numbers of waterfowl, mainly Wigeon and Gadwall with Tufted Ducks and Pochard in smaller numbers. Curiously many of these birds congregated in tight mixed flocks, all milling round in close proximity. I have seen this during icy conditions, where churning of water prevents the water to freeze over; but another explanation is more probable as there appeared to be no ice. Swimming in one of these milling flocks, I was surprised to see briefly an elusive, winter plumage male Long-tailed Duck.

Ibsley Lake

Can be viewed from one of three hides along the south and eastern edge of this large and open lake.
From Tern Hide apart from a close Lapwing most birds were quite distant. However, from here I saw
a single male Pintail, several beautiful Goosanders, and a single Black-necked Grebe.
Finally returning to this hide minutes before our 4pm coach departure, I found a winter adult Mediterranean Gull in the growing gull roost.

I hope all participants had an equally pleasant day out at this fabulous nature reserve.

A list of bird species recorded by the group at Blashford Lakes. Total 72
Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Teal, Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Ferruginous Duck, Long tailed Duck, Goosander, Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, Great spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Siskin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long tailed Tit, Grey Wagtail, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Tree Creeper, Rook, Jay, Jackdaw, Magpie, Carrion Crow.

In addition seen on the coach journey: Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge. Several Hares and Roe Deer


Phillip Delve