The Quantocks

Holford Combe, Somerset

Holford is less than an hour from Gibb Towers. This makes it an easy day out and, compared with the Brecon Beacons, say, one gets straight into stunning woodland. That’s the stuff that should clothe far more of Britain.

This stretch of Somerset has the added attraction of a climb into gorse-clad hills. Two habitats for the price of one journey, and such productive habitats too. I may have been a bit late for the stars of the hilltop show but my return to the area the next day fixed that.

On this beautiful Thursday morning I dropped back into the oaks and birch of Hodder’s Combe for an immediate reward. At first I dismissed the two-tone whistle as yet another great tit call but as I neared it, notes tagged on to the end put me on high alert. A song I’ve never heard, which meant it could only be one species. A few moments with the bins brought a chirpy pied flycatcher into view.

Only my sixth record, of which three have been in the last three years so it’s becoming a regular. Also becoming regular is wood warbler, another deciduous specialist, and the Combe provided plenty of them. My Somerset list pushed on to 157. The year list was doing well too with a highly probable garden warbler earlier in the walk.
Tawny Owl

That section also provided my third calling cuckoo this year and several more would join the trip list next day. I’ve also been doing well for tawny owls. Two in a year counts as magnificent, in fact. Actually they must always be around; one just rarely sees them. And when one does, it’s such a surprise. So it was that I happened to be looking up, probably for another wood warbler, when I spied this chap.

That was just the morning. I pushed on to the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate, near to Porlock – a quick return to Exmoor, about which you shall hear.

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