For information about the Group please contact Kay Williamson on 01458 448694.
Have you ever wondered what that strange bird is at the bottom of your garden? Would you like to be able to identify birds by their songs and calls? If the answer to either of these questions is YES, then the Birdwatching Group might be just what you are looking for. It meets on the first and third Mondays of the month, usually in the mornings, commencing at 10.00am. Nearly all of the meetings take place out in the countryside around Somerton and involve a gentle stroll along quiet lanes, tracks and footpaths, quite often visiting local nature reserves in the process. A few meetings are held indoors to discuss various aspects of birdwatching (how to identify birds, which are the best binoculars and field guides, local and national bird clubs you can join, how we monitor bird populations, why some species are in decline, etc.) and there are also evening meetings to see and hear nocturnal birds. But it’s not just about birds, other forms of wildlife such as butterflies, plants, mammals and dragonflies will also be encountered and pointed out on our walks, so there should be plenty of interest for everyone.
On a cold, misty, morning the Group were at Shapwick Heath. In the time they were there they were able to see Marsh Harriers, Cormourants, various waders and ducks and a Bittern Not only did Dick Carlyon manage to photograph the Bittern in flight but he managed to photograph it landing as well! To see Dick's photos please visit the Flickr site by following the Link to 'Birdwatching Group Photos' on this page.
The Group have been meeting in small numbers and a local sites when permitted by Govt. guidelines but for the first outing in August the visit was to Steart Marshes. Dick Carlyon took some lovely photographs of some of their sightings. His pictures can be seen by following the Link to our Flick'r site.
February 2020 Trip
(Sadly, the last 'big' trip the Group could make before Govt. restrictions - but fingers crossed for some this year.)
For the February outing the Bird Group took the RSPB boat trip on the River Exe, with Dereck, an excellent RSPB commentator on board. He explained that the estuary is a Ramsar Site, that is, one of International importance on account of it’s winter visitor population and summer breeding species - so we looked forward to seeing many species and were not disappointed. It was explained that the reason for the variety and number of birds relates to the variety of food found in the differing sandbanks, mudflats, and waters – salt and fresh, and these were pointed out en voyage. It is not only birds that benefit from this habitat and three grey seals allowed us to visit them, showing the fish population can support them there as well.
The trip began at Exmouth marina and first visited the sand banks guarding the mouth of the river where gulls and shags were seen. Moving up the river a large variety of waders were encountered (14) as we passed through the changing habitats. Some fed on the sand, e.g. Oystercatchers, and ascending the estuary, some on the mud - Curlew, etc. whilst others fed where streams brought different food into the estuary. The Sanderling was seen rushing into and out of the wavelets taking dinner, and the difference between Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits could be seen each eating in its preferred café. We passed Redshanks and a solitary Greenshank.
The Common Seal brought an interlude, as did the Geese, Dark Bellied Brent and Canada, together with the Red-Breasted Mergansers and Grebes, including the rare Slavonian female, quite different from the Great Crested Grebe that we often see on the Levels. At the top of the estuary the water is nearly fresh and several species of duck were seen, Wigeon, Teal, etc. The avocet flock were busy sieving small invertebrates, but several hundred yards further down-stream than normal as a result of extra silt muddying the water caused by Storm Dennis. The Total number of species seen during the day was 34, but your scribe only saw 32 of them, perhaps his Giant pasty distracted him.
PHOTO'S ON FLICK'R
We are building up a collection of photos from our birding trips and sightings (not always just of birds) on the U3A Flick'r site. Please click on the LINK at the side of this page and select the 'Birdwatching Group' album.
Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.