Friday, 25 June 2021

Reading RSPB Group

FULMARS glided majestically across the vivid blue of the Atlantic Ocean while on the cliffs more

FULMARS glided majestically across the vivid blue of the Atlantic Ocean while on the cliffs more than 1,000 guillemots produced a cacophony of sound.

The scene at Berry Head provided a fitting climax to the group’s weekend in South Devon.

Based at the superbly located Berry Head Hotel, a stone’s throw from the spectacular seabird colony, the outing had begun just outside Exeter with a visit to the RSPB reserves of Darts Farm and Bowling Green Marsh where waders were top of the bill with good numbers of black-tailed godwit and curlew, a handful of redshank and greenshank and a solitary knot in attendance.

On the ponds a solitary pair of wigeon, still to return to their northern breeding grounds, reminded us that winter was not long gone.

Yet from the bushes the shrilling call of blackcap newly arrived from southern climes reminded us that summer was just around the corner. Indeed the air thronged with hirundines, including the first swift and house martin any of us had seen this year.

Although we were greeted with cold drizzle, the next morning the group headed for the RSPB Labrador Bay reserve, home to a bird unique in Britain and only in South Devon — the cirl bunting.

It was worth braving the elements as two or three elegant males were soon espied singing from the treetops. A lunchtime sortie to the pub for warmth and shelter was well deserved and the afternoon was spent at Dawlish Warren nature reserve where a flock of 50 whimbrel and summer visitors in the form of whitethroat and reed warbler provided the highlights.

The sun was kinder the next day at Yarner Wood where migrants were again on the menu.

A handsome male pied flycatcher, resplendent in black and white, obliged by appearing within minutes of our arrival and half a dozen were seen throughout the day — but no females, which tend to arrive a couple of weeks later.

Towards mid-afternoon, after much trekking, a brilliant coloured male redstart with female in tow were found and soon after there were good views of an acrobatic wood warbler high in the trees. Of our target migrants. only the tree pipit eluded us.

The next indoor meeting will take place at Pangbourne village hall on Tuesday, May 10 at 8pm.

Following a brief annual meeting, there will be an illustrated talk by Ken White entitled “Migration over the Straits of Gibraltar”. Visitors are always warmly welcomed.

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