(Many thanks to Paul for  keeping the list, and for writing up the report)

Val and Paul  got the Bash underway, covering the West End. Starting from the Downslink car park we headed up towards Betley bridge quickly ticking off the more common species including a singing Goldcrest. At the Bridge a Yellowhammer appeared, the first of five along the river bank. Reed Warblers were also in good numbers with singing males seemingly in almost every patch of reeds. Just before New Inn farm a Cetti’s Warbler obligingly sang out – of course heard and not seen. On the way back to the car park  Swift and Great Spotted Woodpecker were added, and after a tot up there were 40 species on the list. A solid start to the Bash .

Simultaneously Nigel, joined by two members, went out on his Wantley patch. He too soon racked up the common stuff and added some birds that Paul & Val missed. With Kestrel, Green Woodpecker, House Martin, Nuthatch and Jay all seen, the running total was then up to 46.

Will was the next to go out on the Sunday morning, but unfortunately the half-decent weather of the previous day was  replaced by rain. Despite this Will, who was also joined by Nigel, Val, Dave and Terry, managed to find 32 species including those that can often be tricky to find on these events: Stock Dove, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch. This moved the overall total on to 50, the half-century had been reached by Sunday lunchtime! A decent tally now looked on the cards.

The weather had improved somewhat by the time Mike, Lesley, the Colgates and three other members ventured up the mill stream and back on Sunday evening. Quality was the hallmark here with Nightingale heard and both Barn Owl and Turtle Dove seen. Also on the list of 41 species were Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing and Long-tailed Tit. The running total was now up to 57; could we now make it to sixty by the end of the Bash?

That would have been Val’s intention as she headed on Monday, joined by no fewer than nine companions (and that was after two people dropped out!). Going out last was always going to make it tricky to find species that hadn’t yet been seen by others so two was a good return from the overall total of 41. A heard Coal Tit and a family of Coots would mean that the final total would be 59, just one short of the magic 60….

But with the “rules” (that we’d just invented!) saying that any bird seen by anyone over the weekend could be included, the Hobby seen by Debbie and Nigel over their garden could be included: the 60th species! And then both Val and Mike both reported that they had heard Tawny Owl which gave us our last species and therefore a final Big Bash total of 61. An excellent score and congratulations to all that took part.

Mike found the most species. He had 41 from his walk and added a further 9 from his garden making 50 in total. He also had the most unique species, five, which were Lapwing, Turtle Dove, Barn Owl, Nightingale and Long-tailed Tit. Will had Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch whilst Val also had two with Coot and Coal Tit. Sadly Nigel and me had none!

Seen by all were the following: Buzzard, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow and Goldfinch. Interesting that Buzzard is there, that wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago, and it also shows the rise of the Goldfinch recently. And good to see that we all still manage to see Skylark and Song Thrush despite their recent declines.

Missing species were perhaps Cormorant (despite Val’s best efforts), Red Kite (there’s normally one around somewhere these days), Treecreeper, Cuckoo and Lesser Whitethroat. We were possibly rather late in the season for the last two though.