Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Trip report Portland and Weymouth

Sunday, 10 May 2015:

Portland and Weymouth (Leaders: Lucy & Phillip Delve)

This was a joint coach excursion with Bath Nats and Bath RSPB local group. We arrived at Ferrybridge at 10.30, in time for the1.5 metre high tide, intent on viewing wading birds from the Visitor Centre. In the distance, veiled by light mist there were both Little and Sandwich Terns. On the harbour shore, a wreck of jellyfish and in all directions beautiful swaths of pink Thirft, but no wading birds on the shoreline! However those people who ventured along the Chesil bank, towards the Little Tern colony, were rewarded with reasonable views of Wheatear, Linnet, Skylarks, Little Tern, along with some 60 Dunlin and 10 Ringed Plover at roost on the shingle.

Gannet. photo by Tim Lock
The coach parked at Portland Bill at 12.30 and while a few people chose to eat their lunch on the coach, most joined us on nearby rocky ledges from which we could view the seabird colony on West Cliff and the sea below.  Bird species seen included Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Rock Pipit, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. A few lucky people also saw a Puffin on the sea, a scarce breeding bird along the Dorset coast. 

Our party of 34 formed two groups, which proceeded in opposite directions on a circular route. Those who walked to the Upper Lighthouse on West Cliff saw Stonechat, Peregrine Falcon, Raven and Fulmar. The other group walked down to the Obelisk where Peter Basterfield, who had spent 30 minutes sea watching with a telescope, had seen a Great Skua well out to sea. All afternoon we could see the steady passage of Swallows and Martins moving inland off the sea.

At the Observatory we were permitted to examine moths caught the previous night in the warden’s light trap and held back for release later that evening. Species included, Knot Grass, Flame Shoulder, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Heart & Dart and Rustic Shoulder-knot. The bird ringers were also busy processing migrants caught in mist-nets, prior to release. Some of us were shown a Garden Warbler in the hand, while those arriving later were shown a Common Whitethroat.

Little Owl, photo by Tim Lock
Both groups were treated to good views of the Little Owl, which lives in the quarry near the Observatory.  Birds in nearby fields included Kestrel, Skylark,
Stock Dove, Wheatear, Whinchat, Tree Pipit and Turtle Dove. 

Leaving the Bill at 3.30 we headed back to Weymouth where we spent 45 minutes at Radipole Lake. While on the lake there were typical waterfowl and gulls, the reed bed was alive with the song of Reed and Cetti’s Warblers. Overhead there were Martins and Swallows. Further along the reserve path a distant Marsh Harrier was seen by a lucky few.

It is inevitable that by taking varying routes at different times, each personal experience would differ, but hopefully everyone enjoyed their day by the sea.
Between us, we encountered a total of 61 bird species, enjoyed sunshine, magnificent scenery and a few interesting Moths!

Phillip Delve

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Trip report Natural Neighbourhood Watch

Bath Natural History Society’s Natural Neighbourhood Watch meeting on Bank Holiday 4 May 2015
Despite competing with the Christchurch Primary School’s May Fayre, a steady stream of over 25 punters joined Alan and Marion Rayner, Andy Daw and me outside the Village Hall. 
We started by examining the frankly beautiful coloured lichens growing on a nearby dry stone wall.   Marion handed out powerful hand lenses so that we could appreciate their beauty.  We then headed through the narrow pathway between two tall walls and noticed how no vegetation grew in the more shaded areas, whilst in other places there was much to admire and talk about – including Herb-Robert and Shining Crane’s-bill sprouting up from the base of the wall.
As the path opened up we dropped down into the idyllic hamlet of Murhill with its staggeringly beautiful views of the Limpley Stoke Valley.  Alan found a Stinking Iris and broke off a section of its leaf offering it to us to smell – urghhhh – cat pee stink!  Next up we wondered at the astonishing array of mosses that proliferate on the dry stone walls.  Marion got out her little spray bottle of water and misted the Rambling Tail-moss.  It immediately sprang to life and expanded to twice the size before our eyes – WOW!
We winded our way uphill through some woods, towards the Murhill Conservation Area, noticing the Murhill Stone Quarry along the way – a protected habitat for bats.  This conservation area is managed by one of our members, John Presland and its success is a testimony to his dedication to wildlife.  Back at Winsley village we walked alongside Dorothy House back to the village hall for tea and cake. 
Asked what was the highlight of the walk, 9 year old Joseph said “my Dad and I really liked finding the wild garlic – we want to make garlic bread with it”.  My lasting memory will be enjoying a gentle walk in the most idyllic countryside (on my doorstep!) in the company of new friends young and old, oh and that “sedges have edges” – thanks Alan!

Noeline Beesley

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Saturday, 16th May 2015 Oakley Wood

 ( Leaders: Chris Tracey of Glos BC Branch & Geoff Hiscocks)

This was arranged as a joint meeting with the Wilts Branch of Butterfly Conservation, the primary focus being butterflies,moths and the flora and fauna associated with woodland. On a fine day 15 members and friends (other than the leaders) met at the car park for the wood, part of the Bathurst estate. Oakley Wood, together with Hailey Wood to the south is the nearest site to Bath where the scarce Pearl-bordered Fritillary can be seen flying in late April and May and it was not long into the walk before this target species was spotted nectaring on the many Bugle flowers.

Click photos to enlarge

Chris then took us on to several other compartments in the wood which the butterfly is known to frequent: in total we must have seen close to a dozen, providing plenty of opportunities for the photographers. Other species spotted were Orange Tip, Large White,
Dingy Skipper
Dingy Skipp
er, and a Painted Lady flying low and providing good views, the first this year for many members. Two or three of the attractive Scarlet Tiger moth caterpillar were found and the very small and pale Hemp Agrimony Plume moth spotted by Chris provided interest for the moth-ers in the group.

Apart from Bugle and the many bluebells, other plants of note were 
Early Purple Orchid, Woodruff and Wood Spurge…but we only had a fleeting possible glimpse of the Drab Looper moth known to be present in the wood which uses it as its foodplant.

Marsh Fritillary
After lunch back at the car park some of us accompanied Chris Tracey to nearby Westley Farm where she has been asked to survey for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. We eventually found two, one of which posed obligingly for photos, and also several species not seen in the wood: Green Hairstreak, Small Heath (a year first for many), Common Blue, Holly Blue, Peacock and Small White. Sanicle was flowering by the side of the path down to the grassy bank where we saw the butterflies.

Birds seen/heard during the day were Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, Siskin, and Linnet. Finally Small Tortoiseshells were seen beside the track back to the cars where Lucy heard a Whitethroat to complete the bird list. It was generally agreed to have been a very pleasant and rewarding day.

Geoff Hiscocks