With the period of unseasonal wintry sunny days continuing it allowed us to bask in the warm sunshine but be chilled by the frozen ground. Our group of 23 birders began by looking over the salt marsh towards the flock of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers feeding along the water’s edge. We also noticed a small group of Linnets bending the stems of the grasses while feeding on the seed heads, this very motion revealing their presence. Alas, Battery Point was awash with fishermen and not water – so no Purple Sandpiper but the headland made a splendid watch point to observe from.
Up the hill and into East Wood where the common Tit species were all around us, two noisy Nuthatches called to one another and Great Spotted Woodpecker went ‘chip chip’ before flying off. Descending to the jetty and seeing the ongoing work on the new RNLI boat house, I had hoped that the Black Redstart might have put in an appearance but alas not. A further collection of Gulls was counted plus a small flock of Canada Geese waddling their way into the long grass to feed. What disturbed the 30 or so Dunlins was not evident but they showed a pretty turn of speed and agile flight as they flashed in the sunlight before disappearing towards Royal Portbury Dock. The walk along the marina beside the opulent water craft was sparse bird – but not humanity – wise although a further flock of Canada Geese were obviously very used to being fed as they hardly moved as we passed by. Our final birds of the day were; a Buzzard being seen off by Carrion Crows, a distant Song Thrush and a Grey Wagtail up over the roof tops. A total count of 42 species was a fitting end to 2014 for the Tuesday Group. Nick Hawkridge
At the start of this festive week, there is nothing better than to disappear into the woodlands, try and forget the impending jollities and get a good dose of birding. All along the Frome valley we hoped for Siskin but alas none were seen. The Dipper and the Kingfisher were probably also finding their living elsewhere, as the river was so high. At the top of the valley we encountered many corvids; large numbers of raucous Jackdaw, a fair few aggressive Carrion Crows, many cackling Magpies and at least four Ravens. The Blue and Great Tits were starting to show signs of ‘getting friendly’ with some full song from each species, although the Long-tailed Tits were still in big mixed parties with Goldcrest and Blue Tit, – running from tree top to tree top. The playing fields were bare of their normal covering of gulls, in fact, only a few were seen on the wing throughout the whole walk, however we did have splendid views of two Mistle Thrushes on the fields, both standing bolt upright to keep an eye on the marauding dogs. The final section from Frenchay Bridge back to the car park went past a garden with a Jay burying his food stash, a couple of Moorhens fussing around the margins and a dozen hungry Mallards steaming to their feeding station. There was a sighting of a Grey Wagtail and a fine Sparrowhawk, only interested in quitting the area and the unwelcome attentions of Jackdaws. 26 species seen by most of the 20 walkers. Thanks to Dave Body for standing in as leader and for taking us round this lovely walk. Nick Hawkridge
This year’s pre-Christmas Lunch walk was well supported with 37 members setting off from the Fleur de Lis at Pucklechurch. It was a lovely sunny morning with the church’s cockerel weather-vane shining golden and the light frost melting. Through the village various chattering House Sparrows, 15 tuneful Dunnocks, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, and Magpie were busy foraging and there was debate about the identity of a beautiful, small tree absolutely covered in red berries. Before we reached the fields we had a Silver Birch dripping with a large flock of Redwing and Fieldfare plus some Blue Tits and a Raven surveyed the scene from the top of a fir tree. Crossing the fields was quite muddy underfoot but produced seven Meadow Pipits. A member hoped for some early spuds at the nursery we passed. He was disappointed but bulbs and beets were purchased by others, whilst a group of 26 Stock Doves swooped across, beyond the yard. Buzzards were only spotted towards the end of our walk, which was shortened a little to be back for our excellent lunch at the pub, joining those who had not perambulated. We saw 29 species. There were about 60 people who enjoyed the cheery atmosphere and a good meal, well organised again by Peter Holbrook. Mark Watson thanked Peter and the leaders of the 2014 walks. Ed Drewitt then thanked Mark for taking on the role of organiser and said his farewell as Chairman. Thanks to Pat and Duncan Gill for leading.
A grey but still day greeted 23 enthusiasts for a jaunt around Portbury Reserve. Numerous Redwings were feeding on the huge crops of berries in the lane. A Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree but became nervous of the watching throng and made an exit stage left. There were not many birds seen at the first hide as the scrapes were having a makeover. The second hide was much better but the height of the reeds was not easy to see over. (Since cleared) However, many Lapwings were on the island and Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Little Grebe graced the pools. At the third hide good views were had of the resident Reed Buntings. On the warth a flock of Linnets bounced into view and disappeared in the vegetation along with a lone Skylark. A walker’s dog put up a Snipe. Just as we thought we would be denied, a Buzzard too appeared at the end to make a total of 42 species. (Thanks for leading,Roger) Roger Hawley
Seven members met Nigel Milbourne, a voluntary warden for Bristol Water, and our leader for the day. Early morning rain had given way to sunshine and we first spent some time at the fishing lodge looking out over the Lake and then walked down to the dam. The main highlight of the morning for some of group was the good views of Black-necked Grebe at Wood Bay. For me the morning was memorable for the number of species encountered, being sixty-one. Nothing rare, other than the Grebe, but a tribute to Bristol Water for their effective management of the various habitats verging the Lake. Indeed, if the water level had not been so high and we had had more exposed mud I dare say we would have added to the list with more waders. Only Snipe and Lapwing were seen on the day. Four Siskins feeding upside down with a flock of Goldfinches in alders at Hellfire Corner held our attention for a while. Stock Doves in flight were observed and the calls of both Woodpeckers, Water Rail and Bullfinch heard. The sun encouraged some insects to fly which were appreciated by a Chiffchaff darting for its prey. A very enjoyable morning greatly enhanced by Nigel’s considerable knowledge of all aspects of flora and fauna at the Lake. His website Blagdonlakebirds.com is well worth a visit. Mike Johnson