Somerset Birds 2016

The 2016 Somerset Bird Report will be available at the indoor meeting on Thursday 16th November. Members who are unable to collect their copy in person will receive it in due course in the post. Details of price for non-Members can be obtained here.

The Society makes a donation to the Taunton Peregrine Falcon Project | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

The Society makes a donation to the Taunton Peregrine Falcon Project

We are pleased to announce that the Society has made a donation of £1,000 towards the cost of setting up a webcam for the Taunton Peregrine Falcon Project.

This year, a pair of Peregrine falcons arrived at St Mary Magdalene Church in Taunton. Both birds were ringed, the female in Bath in 2015, and the male in Exeter in the same year. The birds appeared to establish a territory; it is hoped they will breed in 2018.

Somerset County Council has agreed to contribute £3,500, half-of the cost, leaving the Project to secure another £3,500. The Society has in recent years made it a policy to contribute to worthy bird-related projects in the County, e.g. the new hide at Shapwick Heath and bird food at Cary Moor, so our General Committee unanimously agreed to make a donation of £1,000, leaving the Project to find £2,500. Individuals can contribute - see

The header photo shows Society Vice-President Brian Hill handing over our cheque to the Revd. Rod Corke, the Vicar of St. Mary's.

We will post further news of the Project as it develops.

Cattle Egrets colonise Ham Wall ...  and Night Herons breed at Westhay Moor! | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Cattle Egrets colonise Ham Wall ...  and Night Herons breed at Westhay Moor!

More exciting news about breeding Herons in Somerset. Cattle Egrets have bred at Ham Wall Reserve and Night Herons in the Westhay Moor area.

For full details, see the latest Bittern Newsletter here.

Photo courtesy of Graham Hall.

Breeding Bird Surveyors urgently required for Shapwick this Spring | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Breeding Bird Surveyors urgently required for Shapwick this Spring

The Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership is trying to organise seven Breeding Bird Survey transects at Shapwick this year. If you are interested in taking on one or more transects, please contact Seb Mepham at the Avalon Marshes Centre through one of the following:

Visit: Avalon Marshes Centre, Shapwick Road, Westhay, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9TT

Telephone: 01458 860556


Web Site:

This is a good opportunity to carry out some valuable work in one of the County's birding hotspots!

SOS Members’ Day 2017 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

SOS Members’ Day 2017

Our first Member's Day will take place on Saturday 8th April, between 1.30 and 5.30 p.m. It will feature the Society's AGM and a variety of interesting talks on aspects of Somerset birds and birdwatching, and will be a good opportunity for Members to socialize. Other societies have been successfully offering something similar for a few years now, and we hope that ours will be as well received and become an annual fixture. So please come along and give us your support. Click here for the Programme. There will be a raffle (which will include books donated by NHBS) and a ringing table. A map showing the location of Cheddon Fitzpaine Village Hall can be found here.

In order to speed up proceedings at the AGM, we are publishing various AGM documents in advance. Please click on the following links for the relevant documents:

AGM 2017 Agenda

Draft Minutes of 2016 AGM

2016 Financial Statement

Membership Report

List of Officers to be elected

Pied Flycatcher Nestbox Monitoring | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Pied Flycatcher Nestbox Monitoring

The Society is seeking someone to monitor Pied Flycatcher nestboxes in Holford Combe in the Quantocks this spring. The essential task is to ascertain when the pulli are ready to be ringed, so more than one visit per box will be needed. A reasonable standard of fitness is required as boxes are on the slopes of the combe. If you are able to help, in the first instance, call Brian Hill on 01823 443504 or e-mail

Request from SWT for Help with Survey Work | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Request from SWT for Help with Survey Work

Somerset Wildlife Trust is asking the SOS for help with the 2017 breeding wader surveys in the Avalon Marshes area. They need coverage for Burtle Moor and Catcott Lows. The survey work is not easy because the terrain is very demanding- deepish wet gutters, dense rush, large sites etc.; but it is an exciting environment to survey!  They use standard methodology, which requires a minimum of 3 visits. It’s a case of starting within 3 hours of sunrise and walking to within 100 metres of every part of a field, recording breeding wader activity. One or two volunteers are required. Instructions for the survey will be provided

SWT would also like someone to do rare duck and Spotted Crake surveys too. There's always Garganey, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon around in the breeding season at Catcott and the possibility of Spotted Crake. This survey requires people to go to the Catcott Lows hide and keep an eye open and record what they see. There is no need to walk across the site. For Spotted Crake, it'sjust a question of  keeping ears open.

If you think you might be suited have a go at either survey, please contact Roger Dickey at

Somerset Bird Report 2015 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Somerset Bird Report 2015

The 2015 Somerset Bird Report will be available at the indoor meeting on Thursday 24th November. Members who are unable to collect their copy in person will receive it in due course in the post. Details of price for non-Members can be obtained here.

The cover photograph in the Report has been credited to the wrong person. It should have been Mike Roberts, to whom we offer our sincerest apologies.

Avon Bird Report 2015 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Avon Bird Report 2015

The 2015 edition of the Avon Bird Report is now available. The cost is £9.50 including postage obtainable from Harvey Rose at Arncliffe, Coast Road, Walton Bay, Clevedon, BS21 7FW.


Advance notice of SOS 2017 Members’ Day | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Advance notice of SOS 2017 Members’ Day

The Society is giving advanced warning of next year's Members' Day, which will be held on the afternoon of Saturday 8th April at Cheddon Fitzpaine Village Hall.

This represents an exciting development for the Society. We are lining up a varied array of speakers from within and outside of the County. The day will include a short AGM. We hope this new format will attract many members.

Full details will be announced as soon as we have them. In the meantime, please note the date in your diary!

Hugh Boyd 1925-2016 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Hugh Boyd 1925-2016

It is with much sadness we report the death of Hugh Boyd.

Hugh was a pioneer of waterbird science and conservation and was the first ornithologist at Slimbridge. His membership of the Society goes back to the 1960s.

We offer our condolences to his family.

For more information on Hugh, click here.

Opening of New Tower Hide at Shapwick Heath | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Opening of New Tower Hide at Shapwick Heath

On 28th April Natural England opened a new tower hide at its Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Somerset providing local nature lovers with spectacular views across the Avalon Marshes landscape.

Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve is one of England's most important wildlife site and home to rare species like Bittern, Bearded Reedling and Marsh Harrier, as well as wildlife spectacles such as the winter starling murmurations. The tower hide is located just a short distance from the Ashcott Corner car park. It offers far reaching, elevated views over the lakes and extensive reed beds of Meare Heath, the opportunity to glimpse some stunning wildlife and brings improved access and visibility for all visitors. The new hide was designed by Shattock Associates of Bridgwater and has been built thanks to the donations from the many supporters of the reserve (including the Society) during a 'crowdfunding' campaign in December 2015. Over £17,000 was raised to build the new hide. Simon Clarke, Senior Reserve Manager for Natural England at Shapwick Heath NNR said, "The public support we received in December was phenomenal and very humbling. It's provided us with the funds to create an incredible new hide that will really enhance the experience for all visitors to the reserve and allow them to enjoy a very special wetland. I'd like to thank everyone that has donated to the project, the really hard work of the contractors who've built the hide, and all those who have made this possible". The opening ceremony was attended by over 40 supporters of the project. The hide was opened by Dr Andy Clements, Director of the BTO (British Trust of Ornithology) and board member for Natural England.


Changes following the 2016 AGM | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Changes following the 2016 AGM

The 2016 AGM was held at Ruishton Village Hall on 14th April.
The most significant change was to create the role of Chairman. Roger Dickey resigned as President and now assumes the role of Chairman. This brings the Society’s structure in line with most other similar organisations, where a Chairman rather than a President heads the committee running the organisation. We are pleased to announce that Stephen Moss, broadcaster, producer and author and our Indoor Meetings Secretary until recently, has accepted the position of President. Stephen will be a huge benefit to us in this largely honorary role.
Other notable changes are Brian Hill becoming Indoor Meetings Secretary, Alison Everett Field Meeting Secretary and Simon Breeze, newly appointed to the Committee, Surveys Secretary.
The revised list of Committee and Contacts is set out here. The new Rules will be posted on the website soon.

Somerset Kingfisher and Little Owl Survey 2016-2019 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Somerset Kingfisher and Little Owl Survey 2016-2019

Somerset Ornithological Society has launched a new public wide survey investigating the abundance and distribution of two well-known but declining birds seen throughout Somerset: the Kingfisher and Little Owl.

Following on from findings of the Somerset Bird Atlas of breeding and wintering birds 2007–12, the survey aims to build a detailed picture from target and casual observational records into possible causes for decline, including climatic effects, habitat degradation and food resource depletion.

For full details, click here.

Launch of Devon Bird Atlas | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Launch of Devon Bird Atlas

We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Devon Bird Atlas 2007-2013 on Friday 29th January.
For more information on the Atlas, click here.

New project to unravel the movements of individual waterbirds on the Severn Estuary | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

New project to unravel the movements of individual waterbirds on the Severn Estuary

The British Trust for Ornithology and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have recently started a project to understand more about the home ranges of three species of waders (Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin) and a range of duck species on the Severn Estuary between Newport and Cardiff. As part of this work the Redshank and Curlew have been colour ringed and Dunlin and some ducks marked with yellow dye. In addition state-of-the-art tracking devices have been put on some of the Curlew, Redshank and Shelduck, which is providing fascinating information about how birds use the estuary through the winter during both the day and the night. Work is ongoing, with the aim to mark more birds of these species and additional duck species during January and February.
The BTO have asked us and other societies to publicise the project. Full details may be obtained by clicking here. This blog also has information on the project.

BTO Waterbirds Survey | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

BTO Waterbirds Survey

The BTO are seeking volunteers for their Non-Estuarine Waterbirds Survey in Somerset. There are some vacant sectors just east of Watchet. All that is required is a single visit before the end of January, to record the birds and mammals that you see. The focus is on the intertidal zone, though you can record birds from adjacent land and sea too. Counts are best made around low tide. If you are interested, please visit or contact Eve Tigwell.

British Birds Magazine - new monthly Newsletter | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

British Birds Magazine - new monthly Newsletter

This item is published at the request of British Birds magazine.
Many members of the Society will already be subscribers to British Birds or may have taken up trial offers. Whether or not, you may like to receive their free e-newsletter every month. This offers a flavour of what has been published recently and what is in the pipeline in areas such as book of the month, news and comment, the rarities section and special offers.
This is a new initiative from one of Britain’s leading birding publications. It covers the UK and Western Palearctic and has been the birdwatchers’ journal of record since 1907. It is read and recommended by many amateur and professional ornithologists, writers and photographers with Simon King stating that ‘British Birds is the gold standard of ornithological literature in the UK’.
To receive the newsletters, just log on to and complete the sign up form at the bottom of the page. Give it a try.

Closure of Main Path at Ham Wall | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Closure of Main Path at Ham Wall

The main path at Ham Wall will be closed again for three weeks in January.
An alternative footpath will be available. For more information, click here.

Launch of New Website | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Launch of New Website

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new website.
Its features include:

  • News from around the county and beyond;
  • Events, which can be sorted by organiser or type;
  • Information on the Society's publications (including The Bittern);
  • Ringing information (including news and recoveries);
  • A detailed section on recording birds, including, a facility for sending records direct to the Recorder and an updated county list;
  • An expanded section on County birding sites, which is still a work in progress (so keep visiting for additions);
  • A photo gallery; and
  • A Forum section that covers not only bird sightings but also ringing news and general discussion. A post in the Forum Guidelines gives information on Forum registration and use.

We will be able to update the site easily and quickly and are confident it will become an excellent source of information for birding in Somerset. The website is responsive and will adapt according to whether it is read on a PC, laptop, tablet or phone.
We welcome any contributions to the website, whether information or photos.
We must thank our web designers, Make Hay, who have produced a website which, in technology terms, moves the Society into the 21st century.

Wader Ringing Starts Again - Soon! | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Wader Ringing Starts Again - Soon!

Denise Wawman has managed to obtain approval to ring waders off Steart. To date the weather has beaten all attempts to get out there but the wind has to reduce at some point.  Managing to combine tides, weather, availability and sheer good luck is the stuff of this activity and we hope to bring better news in the not too distant future.

BTO Surveys Winter 2015-16 | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

BTO Surveys Winter 2015-16

There are two BTO surveys for this winter season, one for shorebirds, the other for Goldfinches. Eve Tigwell has mailled everyone on her BTO list.

For further information, visit our Surveys page.

Devon Bird Atlas | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Devon Bird Atlas

Our friends over the border in Devon are planning to publish the Devon Bird Atlas 2007-13 in January. It will be available at a discount price of £30 (plus £6.99 p & p) until 31st December 2015. It is the second published Atlas of breeding – and for the first time, wintering – birds in Devon. Accounts cover 480 species and subspecies. A flyer will be enclosed with the Somerset Bird Report mailing in November. It will also be possible to order online at

Somerset Atlas Review | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Somerset Atlas Review

The Somerset Atlas of Breeding and Wintering Birds 2007-2012 was published at the end of November 2014. It has been well received by birding press reviewers and sales have now exceeded the 400 mark. It can now be obtained online through the NHBS at

Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC) | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC)

After 2 years of meetings, a Memorandum of Understanding is being drawn up between SERC and the SOS to ensure that there is an exchange of bird data and information between the two organisations.

This is principally to ensure that bird data previously from outside the Society is included in our annual report and that environmental planning takes into account the diversity and distribution of bird life in Somerset. Rarities and confidentiality are a key consideration in the agreement.

Tidal Lagoon in Bridgwater Bay? | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Tidal Lagoon in Bridgwater Bay?

It has all gone rather quiet after the political declarations of green credentials pre-election but we still have relatively little news about the state of progress with the Tidal Lagoons in the Severn Estuary and particularly Bridgwater Bay. Any development will have a direct and significant effect on our bird life and we must all stay alert to opportunities to contribute to the discussion.

New General Committee member | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

New General Committee member

We have already mentioned elsewhere the loss of Bruce Taylor from the Committee. In his place we are delighted to welcome Dave Dawe. Dave is Somerset born and lives in Milverton. While Exmoor is his favourite area, his main passion is seawatching, mainly at Hurlstone Point in the company of another avid seawatcher, Brian Gibbs. Dave confesses that he now eats, sleeps and talks birds, but occasionally stops for a glass of cider. We are sure Dave's enthusiasm will be an asset to the Committee.

Breeding of Avocets at WWT Steart | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Breeding of Avocets at WWT Steart

You may already have heard about the second breeding record of Avocets in Somerset. This year it occurred at the new WWT reserve at Steart, where a pair hatched four chicks. The birds were last seen in late July when both adults and three well-developed juveniles were present. This is a great result for the reserve, which is already proving to be a superb benefit to Somerset birding.

Check out their website at, where there is useful information on the reserve and a Twitter feed with bird news.

Avalon Marshes Centre and Carymoor Environmental Centre Developments | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Avalon Marshes Centre and Carymoor Environmental Centre Developments

The lifeblood of birding and other wildlife organisations is sustained by a regular supply of young people with an interest in nature. Both Avalon and Carymoor are leading organisations in helping to awaken and nurture that interest and it is a concern that both establishments have had to revisit their ideas for redevelopment funding with Viridor Credits. Viridor have, in the past, been champions of green issues such as these and so we will be watching closely how the respective ‘second rounds’ progress.

Bruce Taylor | News | Somerset Ornithological Society

Bruce Taylor

The departure of arguably one of Somerset’s most dedicated and competent naturalists, Bruce Taylor, will leave a huge bird recording hole in the east of the county. From Frome through Stourhead, Torr quarries, Bruton and Castle Cary, Bruce has been a lynchpin with his accurate and detailed daily observations. Our concern is whether we have sufficient birders in the region to fill Bruce’s boots after August. Barra’s gain is definitely Somerset’s loss.

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