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Somerset Birding News

Virtual Talks

The following virtual talks have been arranged by Dan Watson – contact Dan on :-

Daniel Watson - Birding Northern Greece in Winter (29th February 2024 at 19:30)

Dr Alex Lees – Does bird feeding help or hinder avian conservation? (28th March 2024 at 19:30)

Dates to be confirmed:

Rob Williams - TBC (November 2024)

Johnathan Prochera - Birding in Arizona (winter 2024 tbc)

James Spencer - Patchwork Challenge (winter 2024 tbc)

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                                                            First Winter Period 2024



Many members of the SOS will be aware of the recent problems facing the general committee.

During the last year the Society has had no chairman, and the committee has lost, by resignation, the Society's secretary, treasurer and webmaster. By good fortune a chairman has been co-opted and by doubling-up of offices within the general committee (see below) the load has been spread. The Society’s newsletter, the Bittern, has been resurrected and the website is being overhauled professionally.

It is hoped that with the support of the membership the Society will face a more proactive future.


The 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Society

The 2023 AGM was held on November 11th in the Cheddon Fitzpaine Memorial Hall and attended by 35 members. A report on activities, virtual talks and field meetings, was followed by the Treasurer’s report for 2022, outlining the finances that had been affected by reduced numbers of subscriptions and increased costs in production of the Annual Report. Membership had dropped significantly, to less than 400 members, many not renewing, due to the increased cost of subscription; however, the number of applications for membership are still buoyant at around 30 per year.

Election of members of the committee: -

Chairmanship:                       Mat Ridley (co-opted committee meeting February 6th)

Hon. Secretary:                     Alison Everett

Hon. Treasurer:                    J.R.(Dick) Best

County Recorder:                 Brian Gibbs

Assistant Recorder:             Julian Thomas

Membership Secretary:      J.R.(Dick) Best

Field Meeting Secretary:    Alison Everett

Talks Secretary:                   Dan Watson

General Committee:           Dave Dawe


In order to complete the full team of committee members there has been a pro tem sharing of certain offices; Alison Everett will combine Hon. Secretary with Field Meeting Secretary and Dick Best will combine Hon. Treasurer with Membership Secretary. There remains a vacancy in the post of webmaster to monitor and maintain the Society’s website - an appeal has been made for anyone with the necessary time, skill and interest to contact a member of the committee.


The AGM was followed by a Members’ Meeting with presentations; Stephen Moss, on his reminiscences of birding in his new local patch, Roger Ballantine on his new patch, the restored wetland on Stockmoor, Dick Best on the history of Steart’s avocets, a spectacular photographic trip from James Packer recalling recent county rarities and followed by tea  and a general discussion.


Virtual Talks


The following virtual Zoom talks have been arranged by Dan Watson – contact Dan on :-


Daniel Watson - Around the world in 10(ish) birds (29th February 2024)

Dr Ales Lees – Does bird feeding help or hinder avian conservation? (28th March 2024)


Dates to be confirmed:


Rob Williams - TBC (November 2024)

Johnathan Prochera - Birding in Arizona (winter 24 tbc)


Field Meetings

Wader Identification.  A series of wader identification sessions on Wall Common, Steart in January and February 2024. Please contact Alison Everett, the Field Meeting  Secretary, for further details.

Saturday March 23rd:  Shapwick Heath ,Decoy Lake. Meet at 9.30am by the entrance to the reserve on the Shapwick Westhay road. Some parking by the roadside , further parking at the Avalon Marshes Centre. Opportunity to gather at the Avalon Marshes centre cafe afterwards  for social time.  New members are particularly welcome. Leader Alison Everett

April: Goldcliffe . date and details to be arranged Leader Dan Watson

Saturday May 11th: Hodders Combe . Meet at8:15am at the Holford Green Car park ST153410. Please note there are no toilet facilities in the carpark. Leader Dave Dawe

July : Quantocks evening walk for Nightjars date and details to be arranged. Leader Brian Gibbs


News and Notices

Stert Point Hides: Received from NE and WWT Steart Marshes.

Following a structural survey of the Tower Hide and the two hides overlooking the Fenning, it has been decided on safety grounds that the structures are closed until repairs have made them safe for public access. No dates have been made for the work to be completed but there will be a significant delay in their reopening.

In the meantime the “new” hide on the Point, affectionately known as the bungalow, will remain giving good views of the beach, Stert Island and the Fenning.

Pawlett Hams:  EDF Hinkley Point C

EDF Hinkley C have given details of their proposal to create an area of 800 acres of coastal marsh on Pawlett Hams, a large area of predominantly low-lying grassland protected from tidal flooding from the adjacent River Parrett by flood banks. EDF have recently held a open day to describe their proposals, which are outlined on the following link;

The present consultation programme will finish on 29th February with more detail on the Hinkley Point C website.

Curlew Workshop : Received from Alex Morgan-Grenville of Curlew Action

“ I am writing to see if you are interested in contributing to a workshop for Eurasian Curlew fieldworkers next February. We have fieldworkers from your area coming to the event, which will take place over three days and help share cutting-edge curlew fieldwork techniques and knowledge as well as connecting fieldworkers from across the UK and Europe.

Wanted - Group leader : Received from Lorely Vigar.

“We are a group of keen bird watchers, established 20 years ago, and we are looking for a new, experienced leader as our current leader is retiring due to poor mobility. He has undertaken preliminary recees to identify the best seasonal birding opportunities, which has been invaluable. We meet six times a year for full-day and half-day excursions. These have taken us to the Forest of Dean, the New Forest, the Exe estuary and, more locally, to Ham Wall, Shapwick Heath, Clevedon Harbour, Huntspill Sea Wall and various RSPB nature reserves. Several members of the group are based in Wells, others a little further afield. If we are unable to find an experienced person to take over from our current leader, the group will most probably have to fold, which would be a great shame. Is there someone out there who could help to keep the group going? If so, please contact Lorely Vigar on 07539 576589.”



Stockmoor Country Park: 


Situated off the A38 at J24 between the villages of Stockmoor and Wilstock. It is a natural flood plain. Up until April 2023 it was maintained by the developers but is now in the control of the Somerset Council. In March 2023 the Friends of Wilstock and Stockmoor Country Park was formed, of which I am the Chairperson, to have a say in the future development of the Park. We are working with Somerset Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme and are in the process of formulating a 5-year plan. An ecological survey is being carried out by SERC and we are hoping to have that report very soon. The Park is linked to the Bridgwater Blue Heritage Project of creating a corridor around the town for wildlife to use. The Meads Eco-park and Durleigh Reservoir are to the north and west and Screech Owl to the east. The Park has the Stockmoor Rhyne, which flows into the Parrett, running through it. The rhyne is cleared in the autumn by the Environmental Agency. Ditches crisscross the area. 


There are three manmade water areas, two of which have large reed beds surrounding them. The spill from these areas, which consists of peat and clay, has been used to produce two raised areas. None of the water is deep, though they do support fish. Large areas are grassland, which were not managed well by the developers, and there is no immediate plan from the Council to get involved. However, we have a very good relationship with the old Sedgemoor Parks personnel who are on our side. There is a small, detached area completely wild separated by an arable field to the larger area. There is an old hedgerow running east to west and in the northwest a stand of very mature oak trees. Trees were planted by the developers during the summer drought, but many have died. There are several copses of mainly willow scattered around. The northwest boundary is the wettest area. There are several large areas of bramble in the southern and northern parts. New paths have been completed recently, making it easier to get around most of the Park. A separate small area of water and reeds are across the road, and we plan to have this as a restricted wildlife area. It can be viewed from the road. There are no provisions for car parking, but Wilstock Way is a wide road. There are two entrances off this road, and it is the best way to enter the Park. 


I have recorded over 120 species of birds either on or over the Park. We have 2 GWEs as resident now and recently a Bittern was recorded flying around. Little Egrets and Heron are common, Little Grebe breed as do Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, and Mute Swan. Kingfishers are seen throughout the year. Water Rail have been seen. Common, Green and Wood Sandpiper stop in in spring and autumn, as do Snipe. Buzzard, Kestrel, and Sparrowhawk all breed, Hobby regularly appear in the autumn and Red Kite fly over, as have Marsh Harrier. Tawny Owls are regular, Barn Owl irregular and Short-eared recorded. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are regular but Green, uncommon. Occasionally a Jay and Ravens flyover regularly, Crow breed. Cetti’s and Chiffchaffs are present all year. There are always plenty of berries for the winter thrushes as well as our resident Song thrushes. Black Redstart occurs most winters. Stonechats have bred and are seen throughout the winter. Yellowhammers winter not far away from the Park. Large flocks of Linnet and Goldfinch enjoy the available seeds. All the common summer migrants stop or pass through. Of course, you may have visited early in 2023 to see the Penduline Tit, which for most was a chance to see one up close. Many birders turning up had never heard of Stockmoor CP including Bridgwater residents.


                                                                                                                                                   Roger Ballantine

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The Avalon Marshes New Colonists Monitoring Group has published its 2022 report, which covers Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Bittern, Purple Heron and Night Heron. It was another record year for Great White Egrets, with 67 young fledging from 7 sites, and reports coming in of the ringed birds from many locations in England, Wales and (for the first time) Scotland. Cattle egrets also bred in Somerset in 2022, and are now present in significant numbers across the Avalon Marshes throughout the year. Glossy Ibis are being seen regularly too, although as yet they are not known to have bred here. For the report, click here.

A more detailed report on Great White Egret has also been published; click here.

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Somerset Birds 2021 will be sent out to paid up members in the next few weeks. So if you not yet paid your subscription, perhaps you should do so!
The annual subscription is £18.

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Become a Member of Somerset Ornithological Society.