The Bittern - Somerset Ornithological Society's Newsletter

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The Bittern Edition 1

March 2012

Welcome to the first issue of the new SOS newsletter, The Bittern. The society is in the middle of a programme of change, described so eloquently by our President, Brian Hill, in the last-ever edition of Bird Notes.

The Bittern Edition 1

The Bittern Edition 2

June 2012

Many thanks for the overwhelmingly positive response to the first issue of The Bittern – though not everything worked exactly as hoped, overall I was very pleased with the result, and even more pleased that other people were too. I hope you agree that issue 2 is equally well-packed with information and features of interest to Somerset birdwatchers.

The Bittern Edition 2

The Bittern Edition 3

September 2012

What a summer! Or should that be ‘What summer?’ Overall it has been pretty awful for wildlife. Commoner breeding birds struggled badly with the weather, and several species of butterfly and dragonfly took a big hit too. Some migrant birds seem to have been either late in arriving or in lower numbers than in recent years, or both. The weather also played havoc with the last fieldwork season for the county Atlas, though perseverance by many observers did reap dividends in the end.

The Bittern Edition 3

The Bittern Edition 4

December 2012

Alongside the regular features, we have news of progress on two very different habitat creation and restoration schemes, a couple of eggers getting their come-uppance, an account of the trials and joys of local patch-watching, details of the WeBS scheme, and an article on what was probably bird of the autumn for many

The Bittern Edition 4

The Bittern Edition 5

March 2013

With lighter evenings and warmer days not too far away we can look forward to the joys of watching spring migrants, and Paul Bowyer’s article, the companion to his on autumn migration in issue 3, should help us to enjoy the spectacle of spring migration all the more. As spring moves to summer, you might want to enhance a birdwatching day out by taking a look at those other winged wonders, the dragonflies and damselflies that often inhabit the same habitats – I hope my article enthuses some of you to do so. John Hansford reveals another little-known but worthwhile birding area in the underwatched east, and we also feature reports on some interesting developments in improving visitor facilities on the Avalon Marshes.

The Bittern Edition 5

The Bittern Edition 6

June 2013

None of us will forget in a hurry the long period of bitterly cold northeasterly winds in March and early April – unpleasant for us, but unsurprisingly it had a more serious effect on our birdlife

The Bittern Edition 6

The Bittern Edition 7

September 2013

We’ve all followed the saga in recent years of the pair of Little Bitterns at Ham Wall, and this year it was made all the more possible to enjoy it by the RSPB taking the decision to release the news of the birds’ return during the breeding season. This attracted birders from far and wide, and while the decision to publicise the birds initially attracted some negative comment, it seems the presence of so many well- behaved observers has acted as an extra volunteer wardening presence, to the benefit of the birds.

The Bittern Edition 7

The Bittern Edition 8

December 2013

Julian Thomas looks back at recent developments in the course of this controversial scheme Back in June this year, the House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee reported that the plans for a £25bn barrage across the Severn Estuary from Brean Down to Lavernock Point in South Wales have ‘yet to provide robust and independently verified evidence of the economic, environmental and technological viability of the project’

The Bittern Edition 8

The Bittern Edition 9

March 2014

Roger Dickey introduces himself and sets out his vision for the future It may sound a little strange, and they may be the sentiments of one or two others, but I was rather saddened when Brian Hill asked me to take over from him as President of the Somerset Ornithological Society. I have always thought that Brian has done a superb job at the helm. His knowledge of Somerset birds and, as importantly, those that take an interest in them, is deeply entrenched and on many occasions, when I have been on the Committee and off, I have listened to his wise judgment and witnessed levels of tact to which I yet aspire. I look forward to more of the same from his new position as Vice President.

The Bittern Edition 9

The Bittern Edition 10

June 2014

Julian Thomas on how the old order is changing For birders of my generation who grew up with field guides showing species in Voous order, the changes in recent years to the sequence of birds on the official lists have been unsettling, to say the least. Still more so for birdwatchers who are older still, and who grew up with the Wetmore order, which had crows at the end, the crown of the evolutionary tree, on the grounds of their intelligence. It’s certainly an exciting time for those with an interest in taxonomy, as the advent of relatively easy and cheap DNA sequencing has thrown up many unexpected results, and has resulted in many changes

The Bittern Edition 10

The Bittern Edition 11

September 2014

After various weather-related delays reported in previous issues of The Bittern , work has continued apace this summer at the new WWT Steart Marshes reserve

The Bittern Edition 11

The Bittern Edition 12

December 2014

The Somerset Atlas of breeding and wintering birds 2007–2012 has now been published. The culmination of five years of fieldwork, and a little over two years of writing, editing, and production, it joins the growing list of county atlases produced on the back of the national Bird Atlas 2007–11.

The Bittern Edition 12

The Bittern Edition 13

March 2015

The Somerset Atlas pointed up not only the successes of recent years but also some species which are noticeably in decline. After a discussion at the recent General Committee meeting on plans for follow - up action, we put our heads together and came up with a list of five priority species . We are asking members to make particular efforts to record these species this year.

The Bittern Edition 13

The Bittern Edition 14

June 2015

There’s no doubt that nationally spring 2015 will be remembered for a long time for the rare vagrants that occurred (and Somerset very much got in on the act, see page 5 ). Some scarce migrants too turned up in unusual numbers – plenty of passage Ring Ouzel s were seen at old haunts on Exmoor, for instance. But throughout May in particular a regular topic of conversation amongst birders across southern England was ‘ Where are the common migrants? ’

The Bittern Edition 14

The Bittern Edition 15

November 2015

Following the successful breeding of a pair of Avocets on a lagoon on Stert Point in May 2012 (the first recorded breeding attempt in Somerset), the hope was that breeding might occur in the following years. However, apart from occasional sightings of Avocets in the summer of the next two years there was no evidence of breeding until this summer when one pair nested on WWT Steart Marshes and two pairs on Stert Point.

The Bittern Edition 15

The Bittern Edition 16

February 2016

Later this year marks the 40th anniversary of the first appearance of the bird for which Somerset is most famous in national birding circles: the Wallcreeper which spent two winters near Cheddar in the late 1970s. A large chunk of this issue is given over to reproducing the article documenting this occurrence, originally published in the Bristol Ornithological Club’s journal Bristol Ornithology in 1978.

The Bittern Edition 16

The Bittern Edition 17

July 2016

Collared Pratincole wows at Ham Wall Julian Thomas on another county first (well, maybe) At about 6pm on 10 July a pratincole sp. was found at Ham Wall, off the second viewing platform, by an unknown couple apparently making their first-ever visit to the reserve!

The Bittern Edition 17

The Bittern Edition 18

November 2016

In an unexpected move, Natural England (NE) and the RSPB announced on 14th October that they will be introducing charges for parking in their car parks at Ashcott Corner (for Shapwick Heath NNR and Ham Wall RSPB reserve respectively) from 15 November. The standard charge in both car parks will be £3.00 per vehicle per day.

The Bittern Edition 18

The Bittern Edition 19

March 2017

SOS is always seeking ways to improve the services it provides to members, including looking at what other county ornithological societies and local bird clubs do. So we’re trying something new this year, a Members’ Day on Saturday 8 April, featuring the Society’s AGM and a variety of interesting talks on aspects of Somerset birds and birdwatching.

The Bittern Edition 19

The Bittern Edition 20

August 2017

On 14 July the RSPB released the news which a few knew but many more had probably guessed – that Cattle Egrets are breeding this year at Ham Wall. What might have taken more people by surprise, though, is that there are five nests, from which nine young have now fledged.

The Bittern Edition 20

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