Merlin, Sand Point

Sand Bay, Somerset

Between Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare this National Trust site juts out into the Bristol Channel with the mud of Sand Bay on one side and exposed rocks on both flanks. Best of all it keeps the birder above good areas of scrub and gorse. You can’t beat the opportunity to look down in a hobby that has you looking up most of the time.

So it was that I picked up a dark falcon, with prey, as it shifted from one outcrop to another. I didn’t even consider the default species of kestrel until I got a little confused by moustachial stripes but merlins have those too and all was well. The clincher is always the lack of colour: kestrels of both sexes and all ages show a rich brown.

Sand Point, Somerset

On a beautiful day with the promised north wind never troubling me, one summer bird popped up – a very pale chiffchaff, almost pure white underneath. It may be worth an expert checking that one. The gorse also provided a pair of stonechats, which I haven’t noted since February, at Portbury Wharf.

Predictable then that another should show at Wavering Down, the next hill in from where Crook Peak overlooks the M5. I was actually trying to get to the latter but found a car park by King’s Wood instead and climbed up from there. What a fine walk that was. The trees entertained me with nuthatches, treecreeper, jays, great spotted woodpecker, a marsh tit and a singing song thrush. That’s the second one this month. Has anyone else noticed this?

Then the habitat changed to scrub and gorse, again, all managed by some very sociable calves. The view was sponditious too. I keep saying it: I’m so lucky to be back in Somerset.

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