Session 3 started at Saul Junction taking in canal and river, meadow and old orchard, lake and reedbed, mud and tidal sand.
With this range of habitats we had high expectations of a walk around Framilode & Fretherne and with fine weather the visibility was excellent. We started well – while still in the canal-side car park at Saul Junction we were treated to a good view of curlews feeding in the adjacent field.
Some old abandoned straw bales looked like a promising home for small mammals and there were a good few intriguing pathways through grass and reeds to the Frome riverbank, but despite mud that promised good tracks we saw nothing conclusive. Otters would have been particularly nice and they have recently been seen the other side of the Sharpness Canal, but no joy this day. Passing The Ship pub at Framilode on the canal bank we saw that progress on refurbishment was well advanced and we can hope to see it reopen soon.
Birders were well treated though, seeing a flock of Redwings at rest after (probably) feeding on mistletoe which was very prolific on the old trees. Coming to the Severn Horseshoe we had good sight of a Cormorant flying up-river in breeding plumage (three experts were on hand to point these things out to non-birders). On a downriver sandbank was a group of 75 lapwings all facing the water – sadly nothing happened to make them take flight, which would have been a grand sight.
Medieval ridge & furrow in the fields was very prominent and appreciated by Skylarks. On to the lakes and we were rewarded with a view of Little Egrets. Martin, always keen to do a bit more, went out into the field for a closer look and was excited to see that two of the birds were actually Cattle Egrets (only 100 of these over-winter in Britain which makes this an important sighting).
We saw a total of 35 bird species and innumerable interesting things of Canal, Boater & General interest not mentioned above. We saw an ‘Albatross’ and a ‘Pelican’ but they were boats on the canal. The finest ‘feathers’ we saw were on a light draught horse – one of two handsome beasts being ridden through Saul Village – possibly descendants of barge horses! The figures pictured above the door of a house in Saul are said to represent twin brothers who married a pair of sisters, but who both drowned in the Severn. The cottage is named after the Doves which presumably represent the souls of the brothers.
Thanks to Elspeth who planned a route with minimal stiles and mud.
Light lunches and coffees at The Stables Cafe rounded off the morning and of course the Cotswold Canals Trust Visitor Centre is always worth a visit.
Our next outing is on 27th February at Coombe Hill Nature Reserve, which has a proper hide with seats, and starts at 10am.
Contact Martin to take part in car-sharing from the Stroud area.
Please click on the link below for a full list of Wildlife Watch Sessions.